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Climate Policy in the Age of Obama

The global economic decline has tempered hopes of swift international action on climate change, yet many climate advocates do expect the Obama administration to help boost long-stalled international climate talks (PDF). The announcement of the president-elect's energy and environment team (WSJ) last month reinforced this belief. Among the nominees is Energy Secretary-designate Steven Chu, a Nobel-winning physicist and advocate for alternative energy. Chu underscored his concern about climate change and the need for energy efficiency in Senate testimony on January 13. Yet some advocates are worried. "All is well on the climate front, it seems. Except that it's not," write Teryn Norris and Jesse Jenkins of the Breakthrough Institute, a progressive think tank. They warn that President-elect Barack Obama could take the "politically expedient route of short-term green stimulus while ignoring serious climate policy." During the campaign, Obama pledged to use green technologies and renewable energy as a jobs engine, but he also has pledged to mandate a cap-and-trade program.

The president-elect's stimulus plan has already come under attack fromcongressional Democrats (SFChron) and some environmental advocatesfor not going far enough to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Various experts argue that the stimulus package should include a large investment in green technologies and infrastructure, which could create new, possibly well-paying jobs (PDF), especially in the flagging U.S. manufacturing sector (LAT).An $825 billion House stimulus proposal, unveiled January 16, includes $54 billion to increase renewable energy production (NY Times), weatherize buildings, and improve the electricity transmission grid.

Advocates hope the stimulus package will be used for energy efficiency, which, as TIME magazine notes, is "often ignored in the hubbub...

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