President Obama has just signed an Executive Order that compels the largest consumer of energy in the US economy to invest in energy efficiency improvements to get to huge reductions in energy use by 2020.
Every Federal agency must measure, manage, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet specific targets by 2020. They have just 90 days to lay out a plan to meet these targets:
1. Use 30% less gas by 2020. Federal agencies buy 750,000 new vehicles every year. In normal times that's almost 1 in every 17 vehicles sold per year. This Executive Order creates a rock-solid certain market for fuel-efficient vehicles every year from now till 2020.
2. Immediately implement net-zero energy for all new government buildings. Wow! Jimmy Carter might have gotten just a few solar panels up on merely one government building; The White House. But this means every new government building goes solar to cut fossil energy use to zero.
And they won't just want solar power. They'll need efficient windows, geothermal ground heat exchanges, efficient air conditioning, solar hot water heating, radiant flooring, tankless water heaters, great insulation… (and all this will take retrained architects, and doing that will take new classes, and those will need new instructors, who'll need new suits…this is going to be a green jobs boom!)
How huge is this? Between all the Federal Agencies, from the Department of Defense to the Department of Justice, this involves almost 2 million Americans who collectively spend $500 billion every year.
While there's not much even a president can do to force knuckledragging Senators to vote the way renewable energy voters might like them to on climate and energy, there are some powers available to the presidency, and President Obama uses them. Steven Chu at the DOE is one. He has turned the DOE into a renewable energy powerhouse. Lisa Jackson at the EPA is another. She seems to be shutting down dangerous polluters weekly.
Apparently the Executive Order can be a power for Good too.