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Obama energy blueprint includes green fleets

01 April 2011
Obama energy blueprint includes green fleets

NEW YORK: In a major speech on energy this week President Obama said he wanted the US to pick up the pace on clean energy investment, noting how the country has slid behind China and Germany: “In the 1980s, America was home to more than 80% of the world’s wind capacity, and 90% of its solar capacity. We owned the clean energy economy. But today, China** has the most wind capacity.  Germany has the most solar. Both invest more than we do in clean energy.”

“Other countries are now exporting technology we pioneered and they are going after the jobs that come with it because they know that the countries that lead the 21st century clean energy economy will be the countries that lead the 21st century global economy. I want America to win the future,” Obama further explained.

President Obama outlined his plan, which includes an increase in domestic clean energy production and a gradual reduction in demand for oil—two energy policy measures he linked with national security in light of recent world events. By 2025, the goal is to reduce US reliance on foreign oil by one third. In a marked departure from his last state of the union address, Obama focused on climate change and linked it directly with the energy task: “Every time we fill up at the pump; every time we lose a job or a business to countries that invest more than we do in clean energy, when it comes to our air, our water, and the climate change that threatens the planet you’ll inherit – we are already paying that price. These are the costs we’re already bearing.  And if we do nothing, the price will only go up.”

In his speech, Obama announced that he is directing federal agencies to purchase 100% alternative fuel, hybrid or electric vehicles by 2015. And going forward, Obama noted that the government would partner with private companies that want to upgrade their large fleets.

In response, Amy Davidsen, US Director, The Climate Group, said: “Transforming the government vehicle fleet is a significant step in the right direction. US business and government leaders should work together and accelerate the uptake of cleaner vehicles to the levels and ambitions of our president. We hope this effort considers how electric vehicles, coupled with a cleaner electric grid, represents one of our best opportunities to significantly reduce carbon emissions in the medium term - and fleets are one of the best places to start introducing them to the market.”

In the US, the transportation sector is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for almost a third of all GHG emissions in this country and over 5% of global emissions. Of the 16 million public and private fleet vehicles on the road in the US, nearly a third are government owned (4.4 million) at the federal, state and local government level. The president's commitment relates to the more than 600,000 vehicles in the federal government fleet.* Fleet operators represent concentrated buying power and the top fleet operators together manage a large percentage of the fleet vehicles on US roads.

In 2010, The Climate Group launched the EV20 - a global coalition of businesses and governments committed to transforming the market by 2020 - to kick-start discussions on different technological, political, regulatory and financial issues associated with electrification. Participants are focused on increasing the number of EVs purchased, and helping the industry scale up and drive down costs.

“Overall, this concerted focus on energy comes at a time when the country needs renewed leadership on solving the energy challenge. Obama is right: the price of inaction is too costly and the problems are too great to leave to future generations,” Amy Davidsen said.

Read a transcript of the President’s speech
View a video of the President’s speech
America’s Energy Security fact sheet

*More on government fleet statistics (see page 52 in PDF)

**To learn more about China’s low carbon trajectory, read our recent Guide to China’s Five Year Plan

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