Environmental groups tell Obama to move fast on climate

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 25, 2008 

WASHINGTON — Don't wait until the financial crisis is over to attack global warming because cleaner ways to produce and use energy will lead to a stronger economy, leaders of environmental groups said Tuesday as they outlined their wish list for President-elect Barack Obama.

The recommendations from 29 of the nation's most prominent environmental and conservation groups emphasized a clean-energy approach to economic revitalization but also included detailed suggestions for Alaska's Arctic region and for conserving land and water resources nationwide.

Leaders of the groups who helped develop the recommendations to Obama's transition advisers rejected the idea that fighting global warming and protecting the environment would be too expensive in an economic downturn.

"Our economy is suffering and so is our environment. The solutions to both go hand in hand," said Larry Schweiger of the National Wildlife Federation.

The country needs to reduce global warming emissions and protect its water, fisheries, forests and wildlife, which are all stressed by climate change, Schweiger said. He also said that environmental protection will affect the quality of life "for Americans everywhere for generations." And he argued that outdoor recreation creates many American jobs.

"The engines that drive our economy," he said, "are not only in Detroit."

Obama has set Congress the goal of passing a stimulus plan quickly so that he can sign it soon after taking office. The report said the stimulus plan was an opportunity to invest in things such as mass transit, renewable energy and weatherization — all of them sources of new jobs.

"There's economic opportunity if we do this right," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The report also argued that a green plan for the economy would "provide a path out of poverty and a more just society." It argued that many people can't afford some of today's more expensive global warming solutions — such as hybrid cars or solar panels. But it said that they'd benefit from new jobs and less pollution.

One of the biggest sources of jobs would be weatherizing homes and buildings to save energy, said Frances Beinecke, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Studies show that about 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are from wasted energy in buildings.

Knobloch said there also would be jobs in building a new grid to move electricity from solar and wind installations to cities.

"We have the last century's patchwork of antiquated technology" that wastes about a quarter of the energy from coal-fired power plants along the electricity transmission lines, he said.

A few of the recommendations in the nearly 400-page report:

_ Pass a law in 2009 that sets up a sale of global-warming pollution permits and uses the money for clean energy, green jobs, consumer relief — especially for those most in need — and protection for vulnerable ecosystems.

_ Grant California and other states a waiver under the Clean Air Act to enforce their own tougher standards for pollution from vehicles.

_ Start a legal review of all Arctic-area Chukchi and Beaufort Sea oil and gas leases made during the Bush administration. Revoke, suspend or limit as many as legally possible to give time for an environmental review. Halt further planned lease sales in the Arctic Ocean, Bristol Bay and conservation priority areas of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska.

ON THE WEB

The full report, "Transition to Green," is available on a joint Web site of the 29 groups: www.saveourenvironment.org

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McClatchy Newspapers 2008

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