With all eco-eyes focused on the action (or, more properly, inaction) on a climate bill, other critical components of a clean energy economy can be overlooked. That was the case on Monday as the dominant news story concerned speculation about whether Republican members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Public Works would show up for Tuesday’s climate bill markup session (they didn’t).
While that tragicomedy played out, a forum at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House went largely unnoticed. The “Clean Energy Economy Forum” was hosted by the Department of the Interior, which manages one-fifth of all land in the nation (and 1.7 billion acres on the outer continental shelf). Given the sheer immensity of these lands, DOI policies play an enormous role in GHG emissions and in shaping what our nation’s energy future will look like.
The forum was only the latest of DOI Secretary Ken Salazar’s efforts to make DOI policies conform to the realities of climate change and the parallel need to develop renewable sources of energy.
In his second month in office (March), Salazar issued an order making renewable energy development a top DOI priority.
More recently, in mid-September, Salazar signed a secretarial order establishing a framework to coordinate climate change efforts throughout the vast DOI bureaucracy. Policy, data gathering and public education will all be coordinated by the newly formed Climate Change Response Council.
Order 3289 calls for the DOI to:
- Adapt its water management strategies to address the possibility of shrinking water supplies and more frequent and extended droughts.
- Conserve and manage fish and wildlife resources.
- Protect cultural resources that may be affected by climate change.
- Address the impacts of climate change on American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- Provide state-of-the-art science to understand and adapt to climate change.
- Quantify carbon stored in forests, wetlands and grasslands.
- Identify areas where CO2 can be safely stored underground.
- Identify ways to reduce the DOI carbon footprint
Stakeholders from 39 states were scheduled to attend Monday’s event, according to a DOI press release sent on October 30th.
Moral of the story
Not to put too fine a point on it, but…the DOI’s actions are a reminder that the Legislative branch is only one of three on our governmental tree. The Executive can flex its muscles in other ways if Congress isn’t up to the task. The EPA — another part of the Executive — has already signaled it’s willingness to regulate CO2 under provisions of the Clean Air Act. Perhaps EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will step up to the plate with a regulatory solution to climate change if a legislative one fails.
In the end, we do need a comprehensive climate change bill from Congress. But Republican obstructionism combined with the Democratic failure to govern as a majority party on the most important issue of they day, may force President Obama to bravely go where no Congress has gone before — or appears to be going anytime soon, for that matter. That would require bold action, measures carrying significant political risks. But isn’t that the platform on which Obama was elected in the first place?
We’ve requested from DOI a list of forum speakers and of major stakeholder groups in attendance, but haven’t received it yet. We’ll post it here as an update when it arrives.
Video of the forum is broken into three parts. Part one is above and the two last segments are below.