Obama's big economic-recovery speech today had, by my count, three proposals with a distinctly green hue:
* Doubling the production of alternative energy in the next three years.
* Modernizing more than 75 percent of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on energy bills.
* Building a smart grid to deliver electricity in a more reliable and efficient manner from cleaner energy sources.
A bigger and smarter national grid is a no-brainer—check out this great Technology Review piece on the subject. Doubling the production of alternative energy in three years would be remarkable, and I'm curious how he'll do it. During the campaign, Obama pledged to set a nationwide renewable-portfolio standard that would require utilities to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2012. To date, some utilities have struggled to meet similar portfolio targets in places like California and New York (partly because of poor grid infrastructure), so it'll be interesting to see if Obama goes down that route, or considers other policy tools—say, the sort of feed-in tariffs that are juicing Germany's solar and wind industries.
Obama's earlier campaign proposals on energy also included smart ideas on energy efficiency—still the cheapest and easiest way to drive down energy costs and curtail greenhouse-gas emissions—that went far beyond modernizing buildings and weatherizing homes. He talked about updating appliance-efficiency standards and pushing states to implement utility decoupling, so that utility profits aren't tied to how much electricity they sell, giving them incentives to promote conservation. For yet another suggestion, a longtime federal employee writing at ClimateProgress recently sketched out a proposal for a federal efficiency-portfolio standard, arguing that most states could meet their ever-growing electricity needs for at least the next decade via efficiency measures, demand response, and on-site generation—without having to build a single new centralized power plant. No doubt we'll soon see the details of what Obama has in mind, but this is one area where it's almost always possible to think bigger.