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Federal Government and Military to Reduce Own Emissions 28% by 2020

President's Announcement Leads the Charge in the Face of Congressional Gridlock

By Matthew Berger

Jan 29, 2010

After formally committing the nation as a whole to a 17 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2020 via the Copenhagen Accord, President Barack Obama Friday morning that the federal government itself would seek to cut its emissions even more — by 28 percent over that same time period.

The federal government's agencies and departments, taken together, are the single largest energy user in the country. By pursuing the announced targets, which use 2008 emissions as a baseline year, it will lead the charge on the U.S.'s progress toward lowering the country's emissions.

The White House expects these targets will eventually create jobs in the private sector by stimulating growth in the clean energy sector. The announcement builds on goals Obama laid out in Wednesday's address, a main focus of which was job creation.

The targets embody the increased role for the government in both promoting a shift to cleaner energy and creating jobs.

“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,” the president said in announcing the goals today.

It came in the face of criticism from some climate action advocates who had been critical of the president for categorizing "clean" coal, expanded nuclear and offshore drilling as “clean energy” solutions in his address to the nation earlier this week.

"A clean-energy economy does not include continued reliance on dirty coal and further risky drilling for oil in fragile offshore areas,” Center for Biological Diversity Executive Director Kierán Suckling . “The president failed tonight, as he has failed over the past 12 months, to use his bully pulpit to advocate a bright line goal for greenhouse gas reductions."

In addition, Friday have an administration official saying the president is planning on proposing a tripling of loan guarantees for the construction of new nuclear reactors.

But in the emissions target announcement, Obama seemed to return to a focus on moving away from fossil fuels.

“Our goal is to lower costs, reduce pollution, and shift Federal energy expenses away from oil and towards local, clean energy,” the president said in a statement.

The announcement also follows on the president's appearance Thursday in Florida, where he announced billions of dollars in funding for several high-speed rail projects that, like the federal government emissions reduction targets, his administration hopes will both promote a clean energy future and create jobs.

Friday, environmental groups also pointed out the potential cost-saving benefits of the government's emissions cuts and saw it as the government taking a much-needed leadership role in moving the country along the path toward clean energy.

Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke the reductions a "bold target and real leadership," saying they "will save taxpayers money and send a signal that the market for clean energy technology in the United States is growing rapidly.”

If the government "can achieve reductions on this scale, there's no reason that the rest of the country cannot do the same," the Sierra Club's Carl Pope.

"It's a perfect illustration of the fact that making investments in greater efficiency and reducing emissions will actually cut energy costs," he said, calling the announced actions a possible "model for businesses, as well as state and local governments."

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