Today, President Barack Obama announced that “the federal government will reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 28 percent by 2020.” These cuts are long overdue, and promise a sea change in government procurement and practices, with the promise of major savings from energy efficiency. In a statement, Obama emphasized the goal of shifting “federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy”:
As the largest energy consumer in the United States, we have a responsibility to American citizens to reduce our energy use and become more efficient. Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy.
Putting Obama’s State of the Union “dirty fuels are clean” gaffe behind them, the White House made it clear that “clean energy” means renewable sources like “solar, wind, and geothermal,” not oil, coal and nuclear.
The 28 percent target is a compilation of commitments from 35 departments and agencies, submitted to the White House by January 4, in accordance with Obama’s October 5 executive order 13514. The Treasury Department “is hoping to cut its emissions by a third,” Daniel Tangherlini, assistant secretary for management and chief financial officer, told reporters.
The scale of this commitment is immense. The federal government “runs 600,000 vehicles and 500,000 buildings” — 160,000 vehicles and 300,000 buildings in the Defense Department alone. Defense is committing to cutting emissions in non-combat areas by 34%. These non-combat installations and fleet “account for around a quarter of Defense’s energy consumption and roughly 40% of its emissions,” according to Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary for installations and the environment:
In 2008, the department spent $20 billion on its energy bill, and another $14 billion in 2009 after oil prices slipped. While the department will report energy use from its combat, or operational activities, Robyn said the sector would not be subject to a reduction target.
Today’s announcement is a key first step for the government, especially in the realm of national security — so we won’t be sending money to terrorist havens even as our military are fighting there.