Obama's Record on Energy Is Actually Pretty Great

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Slate's Jeremy Stahl argues that the United States is finally beginning to take energy efficiency seriously. 

Despite the lack of attention paid to the issue during this year's presidential campaign (at least, before Sandy came along), Barack Obama's first term was a bit of a quiet revolution for climate change policy in America. It's true that within his first two years in the Oval Office, the president had abandoned any efforts at passing a cap-and-trade bill, which went from the policy of choice for both major-party candidates in 2008 to political poison in 2010. But that failure belied a massive shift in energy and climate change policy that Obama was able to accomplish with relatively little fanfare in just his first few months in office. This profound change came in the form of the stimulus bill.

More than 13 percent of the $700 billion American Recovery Act went to energy spending, most of it green. Of the $97 billion spent on renewables, smart-grid infrastructure, fuel efficient vehicles, and the like, the largest portion — $32 billion — went to energy efficiency and retrofitting projects. This was the biggest such investment in the history of history. It may even have finally heralded the arrival of a "Negawatt Revolution" that noted environmentalist and Rocky Mountain Institute founder Amory Lovins described 23 years ago.

The Negawatt is the general principle of cutting electricity consumption without necessarily reducing energy usage through things like energy efficiency. Lovins first introduced it in the keynote address to the 1989 Green Energy Conference in Montreal …


Read Jeremy Stahl's entire piece at Slate.

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