What’s Next, Obama?

***Please reply to this posting with ideas for how we can creatively message these demands on Thursday evening, or other ideas for getting vocal.***

This past Monday, I was invited to join a youth environmental leader’s call hosted by the White House, geared toward energizing young voters around Obama’s environmental agenda. At the end of the call, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson fielded a few questions, including one from me; I asked her what Obama would do to make up for a lack of congressional action on climate change, both here in the U.S and in the lead-up to the U.N international climate negotiations in Cancun this November. Not surprisingly, her answer was vague and indirect.

The next day, I received exciting news from the White House. After a month of pressure from grassroots groups, President Obama made a symbolic step toward committing to clean energy leadership, by agreeing to outfit his home with solar panels and a solar water heating system. Despite the pride I feel for this movement victory, I am still left wanting.


After a long hiatus, Obama has given the green light to have solar power reinstated on the roof of the White House



Our country is lagging behind when it comes to building the clean energy future. Our largest clean tech investment thus far came from the stimulus package, and our federal government still insists on funneling money into destructive dirty energy projects. In the U.S oil industry alone, federal subsidies range from roughly $6 billion to a staggering $39 billion annually.

Meanwhile, our leaders’ lack of action has obstructed any meaningful progress on the international front. Not only has Congress failed to produce climate legislation, but this week at the U.N intercessional climate negotiations in Tianjin, China, instead of making headway in the lead-up to Cancun, U.S negotiators insisted on pointing the finger at developing countries for not taking enough action.

Youth in other countries are noticing this hypocrisy too. The day before Obama’s announcement to install solar on his roof, youth around the U.S circulated a letter written from Chinese youth and their university professors, addressed to U.S Special Envoy on Climate Change, Todd Stern, calling on the U.S to follow China’s example and make real strides toward clean energy development; by doubling domestic wind capacity and matching China’s solar growth rate within one year.

Tianjin is not the only place where decision-makers are gathering to negotiate the clean energy future and set the stage for Cancun. Today, delegates are arriving in Washington D.C for the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group meeting to discuss major issues in the global economy. High-ranking on the agenda is international climate finance, an issue that’s likely to be a focal point in Cancun.

International climate finance poses an opportunity for the U.S to begin redeeming itself and make substantial contributions toward global progress; by helping developing countries, many of whom lack real energy infrastructure and face the greatest threat to climate devastation, to build up their clean energy infrastructure while reducing global carbon emissions.

Obama has scaled up global clean tech funding commitments for 2010 and 2011, but there still remains a huge gulf between what is on the budget and what is needed. Meanwhile, mirroring our backward domestic energy policy, we continue to subsidize fossil fuel projects abroad.


While this year brought troubling evidence of the destructiveness of fossil fuels, our leaders continue to use tax-payer money to promote dirty energy.


The World Bank, the major body for distributing these funds, is also taking the approach of signaling one direction while turning the other. While the organization has appointed their first “clean-energy czar” and is touting their commitment to green energy, 2010 marks the World Bank’s highest fossil fuel spending year to date.

According to Steve Kretzman at the Institute for Policy Studies, removing global fossil fuel subsidies could result in 10 to 12% reductions in greenhouse gases globally.

These subsidies exacerbate the climate crisis and impede real progress on building strong, competitive hubs for clean energy on an international scale. They are also a result of inadequate leadership on the part of developed countries, including the United States.

Despite the fact that President Obama helped forge an agreement within the G-20 to phase out international fossil fuel subsidies, no real commitments or actions have been made, and Obama has so far failed to take advantage of this opportunity to shift fossil fuel subsidies to clean tech for developing countries.

This Sunday, after negotiations in Tianjin have concluded and while the IMF meetings draw to a close, over 5,000 communities around the world will roll up their sleeves and get to work building the clean energy economy that our elected officials have so far failed to foster. As part of the 350.org 10/10 Global Work Party, hundreds of people will gather in front of the White House for a rally to celebrate our victory of getting solar on the White House and call on Obama to move beyond merely symbolic leadership.

How can Obama offer his leadership in building the clean energy economy?

In the coming months, there are three major actions that Obama can take to ensure that the U.S invests in the development and availability of clean energy beyond just the solar panels on the White House.

Obama must:

#1- Lead the G-20 in removing fossil fuel subsidies from the federal budget and re-funneling those funds to clean tech programs abroad.

#2- Move our country forward as a clean energy leader by doubling our wind capacity and matching China’s solar growth rate in the next year.

#3- Commit to meaningful long-term contributions toward international climate finance in Cancun this November.


Youth continue to pressure Obama to stop passing the buck and take the lead on climate finance.


If Obama wants to strengthen his position as a leader and is asking for young people to stand behind his agenda, he needs to start taking real action. We can encourage him to do so by getting started building the new green economy this Sunday and by getting vocal about our demands.

One creative and significant way we can address Obama is through the MTV Town Hall Forum next Thursday, October 14th at 4pm EST. The call will air live on MTV, CMT, and BET and will give young viewers the chance to ask Obama questions via Twitter. Let’s tune in and flood the Twitter feed, making sure Obama understands that the clean energy future doesn’t stop at the White House.

***Please reply to this posting with ideas for how we can creatively message these demands on Thursday evening, or other ideas for getting vocal.***

This post is the first of a series on Obama, the UN Climate Negotiations, and Funding the Clean Energy Future, so stay tuned for more news in the lead-up to Cancun.

3 Responses to “What’s Next, Obama?”

  1. 1 Ron Steenblik Oct 10th, 2010 at 11:11 am

    “The U.S is a major player in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), a group which is collectively spending between $100 and $557 billion on fossil fuels annually.”

    Huh? I suggest you double-check your sources, particularly the Reuters article to which this article links. I quote:

    The International Energy Agency, part of the OECD, estimated that subsidies for fossil fuel consumption are worth about $557 billion in emerging and developing countries. Estimates were harder to produce for developed countries because such subsidies are often distributed in indirect ways, said the OECD, which noted that some estimates said the global total may be as much as $100 billion a year.

    Note: the $557 billion refers to consumer subsidies in emerging and developing countries.

    I’m all for reforming fossil-fuel subsidies, but such inaccuracies do not help the cause.

  2. 2 nickengelfried Oct 11th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I think one of the most important points we can be pressuring the Obama on right now is the need for the administration to use its full authority to regulate greenhouse gases and other pollutants under the Clean Air Act. As if on cue, the Main Street Alliance and Small Business Majority just produced a report showing past Clean Air Act programs have created millions of jobs in the US and resulted in economic benefits that far outweigh the costs.

    I’d like to see the Obama administration asked how it plans to respond to the concerns of small business innovators who see strengthening and expanding the Clean Air Act as an opportunity to put the US back to work? Will President Obama support Lisa Jackson’s recent moves to place new regulations on ground-level ozone and other conventional pollutants? And how will he work to ensure the Clean Air Act’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases is not disabled by conservatives in Congress?

    Those are questions I’d love to see asked at the forum on Thursday. The report I cited can be accessed at http://mainstreetalliance.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Benefits-of-CAA-literature-review-final-10-04-2010.pdf

  1. 1 President Barack Obama » What's Next, Obama? « It's Getting Hot In Here Trackback on Oct 9th, 2010 at 11:18 am
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