Yes, Barack Obama gets energy efficiency

If I could know only one thing about a presidential candidate’s understanding of energy, it is whether they get that energy efficiency is the “first fuel.” If efficiency is not the cornerstone of their energy independence and climate strategy, they will fail. It’s that simple (see “Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution, Part 1: The biggest low-carbon resource by far“).

How delightful, then, to see Obama use valuable time in his expensive half-hour political infomercial — his closing economic argument to millions of Americans — to tout McKinstry, a company that does energy efficiency retrofits.

Barack Obama at McKinstry CompanyNow efficiency is far less visually sexy than wind turbines or solar panels. That’s why anti-cleantech greenwashers from, oh, I don’t know, say Arizona and Alaska, invariably use renewable energy company backdrops — the visuals overwhelm any factual debunking of their policies that the media might do (assuming for the moment we had a media that actually ever did that kind of debunking).

So you know the candidate is serious about energy in general and efficiency in particular when they visit an energy efficiency company and then tell the nation about it:

All across America I’ve seen entrepreneurs and innovators who point the way to a better future, starting with energy independence. Recently, I visited the McKinstry Company, in Seattle. They’re retrofitting schools and office buildings to make them energy efficient, creating jobs, saving their customers money, reducing carbon emissions, and helping to end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. As president, I’ll use companies like McKinstry as a model for the nation. I’ll invest $15 billion a year in energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy, like wind, solar, and biofuels, creating five million clean energy jobs over the next decade — jobs that pay well and can never be outsourced.

The irony is that some people accuse Obama of focusing on style over substance. The decision to talk about McKinstry, rather than a solar company — or a foreign (!) wind company like Vestas — gives the lie to that claim.

Sadly, in this election cycle, Republicans have not only failed to endorse energy efficiency as a core strategy, they have actually mocked efficiency and conservation measures, such as tuning up your car or checking your tire pressure (see “Will the GOP’s cynical lies destroy the chance for serious energy and climate policy?“).

Kudos to Obama and his energy team.

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4 Responses to Yes, Barack Obama gets energy efficiency

  1. Hank Ryan says:


    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Small business also often gets mentioned in the political discourse more in an effort to simply wave that flag for votes than to address specific concerns or opportunities.

    The “solar and wind” mantra is, as you write, used much the same way…a talking point aimed at a quick applause line.

    Your “style over substance” line says a lot. I was thrilled to hear energy in focus front and center in that 30 minute presentation, but more importantly, Obama leading with energy efficiency gives me hope.

  2. MikeB says:

    Some people have attacked Obama as an idealist, but he’s actually a ruthless pragmatic. His focus on green jobs and energy efficiency actually packs a triple benefit: it generates a focused economic stimulus by creating new jobs, creates a net reduction in energy costs (including military action to protect our energy sources), and reduces our global warming impact at the same time.

    Even the global warming deniers will have trouble blocking this effort, due to the other 2 benefits. Only those who are paid flacks for the energy industry would oppose this, and they won’t last long in this battle.

    There is not only strong substance here, but also a sharp political mind that can really make things happen.

  3. David B. Benson says:

    Off-topic, but is being paid to park and plugin your PHEV:

    Provides what is called ‘regulatory power’.

  4. Carol Werner says:

    Very much agree, Joe. Efficiency is key if we are ever going to be able to run our economy on renewables — otherwise we are wasting renewable energy resources. Now to find all the ways to squeeze every BTU for what it is worth — and to help lots of small and large businesses and households in the process — let alone all the innovation, technology development and climate protection that it can spur at the same time.