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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sierra Club pleased with the Stimulus Bill, President Obama's first month in office

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope hailed the passing of the Stimulus Bill as the "biggest victory" by an American President in his first month in office. I'm sure his comment there is debatable, but one thing that is certain of President Obama's first month is that White House policy on clean energy and the environment is a complete 180 from the previous administration. If the Obama EPA, the Department of Energy, and the Department of the Interior can continue to make the kinds of changes they have made this first month over the next 11 months, this will indeed be the green-energy revolution, and the change, that we need and have been waiting for.

A recent Sierra Club email touted The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which contains approximately $80 billion in funding for promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, and higher-mileage cars. This includes:

  • $25 billion for energy efficiency
  • $20 billion for renewable energy incentives
  • $11 billion in grants and $6 billion in loans to modernize the electric grid and increase its capacity to deliver power generated by renewable sources, and
  • $17.7 billion for mass transit, Amtrak, and high-speed rail.
Here are Carl Pope's Stimulus Package highlights, which are listed on his blog:

The signing a day earlier of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is, as far as I can recall, by far the biggest victory mustered by an American President in his first month in office. Environmentally, the bill is the most important piece of legislative support for clean energy ever adopted. Its provisions include $80 billion for a wide variety of environmental programs. The President, before he signed it in Denver, visited a solar-energy manufacturing facility. It was a nice bookend to the visit he made to a Ohio wind-turbine factory last month, when he launched his campaign to get Congress to pass the bill.

In addition to directly funded investments, the bill also contains important, if little commented on, incentives to industry, states, and local government to go even further. Some of the second-year funding for energy efficiency, for example, is contingent on states following California's lead in giving their public utilities as much incentive to save energy as to increase electricity generation.

Live Webcast: The Stimulus Package and what it means for Pittsburgh

Tune in to VivoLive.com this Wednesday at 5:30pm for a live webcast of a discussion of the Stimulus Package and what it means for Pittsburgh. Yours truly will be in attendance to hear from Pittsburgh's green champion, Councilman Bill Peduto, and the rest of the panel which will consist of representatives from the offices of Arlen Specter, Mike Doyle, Ed Rendell and Jane Orie; State Representative Chelsa Wagner; Eve Picker, and an official from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. The PG's Early Returns blog has more on what this blogger hopes will turn into the unveiling of the Pennsylvania High Speed Rail project (wishful thinking, I know).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Health, Education, Poverty and the Environment

I attended the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Austin, Texas this weekend in connection with my day job with Nourish International. The conference is based on Clinton's Global Initiative which brings world leaders together to discuss, what else, but pressing global issues, except the University version features college students.

Bill Clinton's tie aside, the most interesting thing I saw at a conference was a blurring of the lines between four of the major issues the world faces today: Health, Education, Poverty and the Environment. At the conference, it was taken as self-evident that these for issues were not just interconnected, but meant to be addressed in tandem.

This might seem obvious; after all, each of the four issues have to do with resource scarcity. What surprised (and encouraged) me was how frequently specific discussions on one issue drifted towards the others. A seminar on Global Health focused almost entirely on the environmental, education and economic factors that lead to the health problems in the first place. A discussion on the future of food seamlessly blended the need for more effective work in all four issues.

What excites me about this is that, several years ago, it wasn't that way. I distinctly remember discussing the Nourish business plan (necessary background: Nourish focuses on global poverty) with a professional who asked us when we were going to focus on the environment.

The problem with viewing each of these issues in a vacuum is that it limits the effectiveness of each potential solution. This can be seen clearly in the development of India and China, which, having begun to address their poverty problems, face a looming environmental problem -- one which threatens the health and long term economic security of their populations.

Good to see then, the "best and the brightest" of America attempting at least a more holistic approach.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Councilman Bill Peduto announces the Pittsburgh model of 21st century urban lighting

PITTSBURGH This morning, City Council will hold a national conversation on urban lighting. The hearing was set as a result of Councilman Peduto’s proposal to convert all 40,000 street lights in Pittsburgh to LEDs. Councilman Peduto now intends to create the Pittsburgh model of 21st century urban lighting, a model that other cities will follow worldwide.

Representatives from the William J. Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative, Carnegie Mellon University, and national innovators from Philips, Johnson Controls, Leotek, Lightolier, Ceramtec, Appalachian Lighting Systems, Condor Manufacturing, and Beta Lighting will be in attendance

“LED lighting has proven to cut energy use by as much as 80%, saving energy and taxpayers millions of dollars,” said Councilman Peduto. “This is one of the greatest ways we can reduce our carbon footprint and make Pittsburgh a worldwide leader.”

WHAT: City Council Hearing on Urban Lighting

WHEN: Monday, February 9, 2009 @ 10:00 AM

WHERE: City Council Chambers, 5th Floor, City-County Bldg