Earth Day Round Up from Across the Obama Administration

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It’s been a busy Earth Day at the White House and around the administration. Yesterday Vice President Biden kicked off the Administration’s Earth Day Celebration by announcing $452 million in Recovery Act funding to support a “Retrofit Ramp-Up.” This program will create thousands of jobs and allow these communities to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses while testing out innovative strategies that can be adopted all over the country. President Obama also issued a Presidential Proclamation on Earth Day calling on Americans to join in the spirit of the first Earth Day forty years ago to take action in their communities to make our planet cleaner and healthier.

This afternoon, Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, hosted a live chat on WhiteHouse.gov to answer your questions about how the Administration is working to improve the environment and build a clean energy economy that supports the jobs of the future. This evening, the President hosted an Earth Day reception in the Rose Garden at the White House where he discussed some of the challenges that lie ahead in achieving a clean energy economy:

“I think we all understand that the task ahead is daunting; that the work ahead will not be easy and it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take your leadership. It’s going to take all of your ideas. And it will take all of us coming together in the spirit of Earth Day — not only on Earth Day but every day — to make the dream of a clean energy economy and a clean world a reality.”

Over on the Social Innovation and Civic Participation blog, guest blogger and former Peace Corps volunteer Kelly McCormack shares here story about a community solution to an environmental problem in Guatemala.

Finally, President Obama’s cabinet and other senior government officials fanned out across the country as part of the Administration’s 5-day celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. From live chats, to announcing major investments in renewable energy, to appearing on the David Letterman show – all-in-all a busy day!

Last October, the Middle Class Task Force and the Council on Environmental Quality released a report called “Recovery Through Retrofit”(pdf). “Retrofitting” is a fancy word for making your house more energy efficient and more comfortable – everything from putting in a new water heater to sealing up cracks and openings where air can leak into and out of a home.

Our report identified some of the biggest barriers to building a strong, sustainable home energy retrofit industry. And it laid out an action plan to overcome them by making retrofits more affordable, giving homeowners straightforward information about the benefits of energy efficient upgrades, and building a well-trained workforce to get the job done.

For the last several months, we’ve been working hard to implement the recommendations in our report. Yesterday, the Vice President made an announcement that builds on the work we’ve been doing. He announced that 25 communities across the country have been selected for “Retrofit Ramp-Up” awards through the Recovery Act. This program will create thousands of jobs and allow these communities to retrofit hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses while testing out innovative strategies that can be adopted all over the country.

Growing the retrofit industry is a priority of the Task Force because it will create jobs, cut energy use and help families save money. As the Vice President said yesterday, it’s a “triple win.” So we hope you’ll take some time to learn more about Retrofit Ramp-Up. And if you missed our Task Force report the first time around, please check it out (pdf).

Happy Earth Day from the Middle Class Task Force!

–Brian Levine, Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President

A Triple Win

Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the Clean Energy Transformation

A central piece of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) is more than $90 billion in government investment and tax incentives to lay the foundation for the clean energy economy of the future.  These investments and tax incentives include everything from energy efficiency retrofits to modernizing the electrical grid to tax credits for advanced clean energy manufacturing.  These clean energy investments are also providing crucial stimulus to the economy today.

The CEA’s third quarterly report on the impact of the ARRA, released on April 14, found that the Act as a whole raised employment by between 2.2 million and 2.8 million jobs over what it would otherwise have been.  In a new supplement to the report, we focus in detail on the macroeconomic impact of the Act’s clean energy provisions.

The clean energy provisions in the ARRA are grouped into nine functional categories.  Of the original $787 billion estimated cost of the Act, $90 billion was devoted to clean energy programs.  Nearly $40 billion of this total has already been obligated for specific clean energy projects, and more than $9 billion has been outlayed.

To estimate the short-run economic impact of the ARRA’s clean energy investments, we use the CEA macroeconomic model described in our third quarterly report.  We find that the Recovery Act created more than 80,000 clean energy jobs as of the first quarter of 2010, and that the clean energy investments supported an additional 20,000 jobs throughout the economy.  Importantly, these estimates include only employment related to projects that have received actual outlays to date.

In many cases, the additional $20 billion in obligations may have already generated economic activity because recipients may begin spending as soon as they are certain funds are available.  Looking over a longer horizon, the ARRA’s clean energy provisions will support about 720,000 job-years through 2012.  (A job-year is the equivalent of one worker employed for one year.)  Thus the Act will be a source of both employment and progress on clean energy for years to come.

–Christina Romer, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers

Every Day is Earth Day for Peace Corps Volunteers

Following is an Earth Day story about a Peace Corps volunteer with a community solution to an environmental problem. Happy Earth Day!

No one would ever know that the walls of a two-room elementary school in Granados, Guatemala were created with plastic bottles. Unless, that is, you helped Laura Kutner, an innovative third-year Peace Corps Volunteer from Portland, Ore., and her community complete the project, which proved to be a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective alternative to traditional construction. Kutner and many of my former Peace Corps/Guatemala colleagues have helped their communities construct, what we like to call, “bottle schools,” which are constructed by enclosing plastic bottles in a chicken-wire frame and covering them with concrete to create walls. They use the bottles — which were cleaned and filled with plastic bags, chip wrappers, aluminum, and Styrofoam discarded in the community — as an alternative to cinder block.

n Kutner’s case, students and community partners helped to collect so many bottles and trash, they had to go to surrounding communities to find more discarded materials to build the school. This project sparked the community’s interest in pollution, recycling and waste management. Other Guatemalans have taken note, and Peace Corps Volunteers across the Central American country are in the process of building schools, walls and recycling centers out of trash. And, if Volunteers aren’t involved in bottle construction, they are working to educate their local communities about the importance of respecting the environment, or on a variety of other projects.

Peace Corps Volunteers are faced with the challenging task of accessing community needs, brainstorming sustainable projects with local people, garnering their support and finding grassroots funding. Peace Corps is a unique experience, Volunteers partner with local communities and both live and work where they serve. Among other projects on Earth Day, Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide are engaged in establishing forest conservation plans, helping develop alternatives to wood as a fuel source, and collaborating with various organizations to promote environmental awareness. Click here to see more examples of Volunteers’ work.

Peace Corps Volunteers are encouraged to share their experiences with Americans upon return from service. Many former Peace Corps Volunteers use Earth Day to speak about their service and environmental conservation. As Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, its service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world with 7,671 volunteers serving in 76 host countries. To learn more about the Peace Corps, please visit our website.

–Kelly McCormack recently returned from Peace Corps/Guatemala. She now works in the Peace Corps Communications Office.

OSTP Celebrates Earth Day 2010 with Public Lecture, New GLOBE Report

OSTP Director John P. Holdren will give a free public lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, this evening as part of the White House’s celebration of Earth Day 2010. Dr. Holdren’s talk, “Science and Technology for Sustainable Well-Being: Priorities and Policies in the Obama Administration,” will highlight Administration initiatives that are addressing the pressing economic, environmental, energy-, and climate-related challenges facing the Nation today.

Dr. Holdren will also note that today marks not only the 40th anniversary of Earth Day but also the 15th anniversary of a Federal program that embodies the central principles of Earth Day—the Global Learning & Observations to Benefit the Environment, or “GLOBE,” program. OSTP today released a new report that affirms the many benefits of that environmental education program—launched on Earth Day 1995—and lays out a map for future accomplishments.

GLOBE is a worldwide primary- and secondary-school-based science and education program designed to open up the world of scientific discovery to students by getting them into the field to make actual environmental measurements, such as air temperature, waterway acidity, and sunlight intensity. Since its launch in 1995, the program has grown to connect—in an enormous data-sharing network—more than 20,000 schools in 112 countries.

Students in GLOBE schools, along with the 50,000 teachers that GLOBE has trained in those schools, have collected and uploaded more than 20 million environmental and climate measurements in the past 15 years—a data set that is openly available for collaborative scientific research by students and professional scientists alike.

“GLOBE is an important tool for educating the next generation of climate and environmental scientists, giving students the opportunity to share in the excitement of scientific discovery in their own backyards,” Dr. Holdren said.

The new report, produced by OSTP, reaffirms the value of GLOBE as part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to science education and environmental stewardship and lays out important goals for the years ahead—in particular an enhanced focus on climate education that focuses on global warming, the carbon and energy footprint, climate and human health, and ecosystems, agriculture, and biodiversity.

For more details about GLOBE, see our full release or http://www.globe.gov.

GLOBE is just one element in an array of programs and activities being supported by the Administration in the domain of environmental science and education, many of which are highlighted on a special Earth Day website launched this week by the White House.

Article and photo republished from the White House Blog.

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