Climate

The White House Just Announced $68 Million To Boost Solar And Cut Greenhouse Gases

CREDIT: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson

President Barack Obama speaks after touring Sempra's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility, Wednesday, March 21, 2012, in Boulder City, Nev.

In its newest effort to combat climate change, the Obama administration on Thursday announced that it would dedicate nearly $70 million in funding toward bringing more solar power to homes and businesses, and improving energy efficiency in rural areas.

The $68 million in federal funds will go to 540 energy efficiency projects in rural areas across the country, 240 of which will be for solar power, the White House said in a press release. Along with the funding, the White House also announced a slew of executive actions, private and public sector commitments, and initiatives from different federal agencies, including one from the Department of Energy to train at least 50,000 veterans to become solar panel installers in the next six years.

Another newly announced program seeks to get more clean energy in low-income communities, by clarifying that Department of Housing and Urban Development’s funding programs for economic development can be used for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Cities in Oregon, Maryland, and Virginia have committed to installing more solar power by 2016, and one winery in California has promised to have 60 percent of its electricity usage come from renewable power by 2016, the White House said.

Taken together, the White House estimates that all of the new programs will cut carbon pollution by more than 60 million metric tons every year, the equivalent of taking about 12 million cars off the road annually. By 2030, the programs would result in carbon pollution cuts of approximately 300 million metric tons, the equivalent of 63 million cars, the White House said.

The list of new programs also include some actions taken earlier this week, including the U.S. Department of Energy’s new energy efficiency standards for packaged terminal air conditioners, called PTACs, and packaged terminal heat pumps, called PTHPs. These standards are designed to require companies like hotels and motels to make sure their heating and cooling systems run more efficiently.

The list also includes a major promise from more than a dozen major U.S. manufacturers — including Target, Coca-Cola, and DuPont — to phase out the production and use of a popular coolant called R-134a, a potent hydrofluorocarbon that contributes to global warming. The commitment was reported by the Washington Post last week.

All these federal actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions come just a little more than a week before the U.N. climate summit in New York City on September 23. While not an official U.N. negotiating session, many hope the event will be something of a motivator for the 125 international leaders expected to attend, to develop some real ideas to fight climate change before the “potentially game-changing” international climate conference in Paris next year.

A comprehensive list of the new programs announced Thursday can be found here.