Believing that change begins at home, President Barack Obama has called for the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy within the next six years.
Currently, the government receives 7% of its energy from renewable sources, but the goal is to hit at least 20% by 2020. Thanks to technological advancements and a rising interest in weaning the country off of foreign oil, the Obama administration believes the 20% figure is a reasonable mark to hit by the end of the decade.
According to the President, this step is necessary “to promote energy security, combat climate change, protect the interests of taxpayers, and safeguard the health of our environment, the federal government must lead by example.” He’s right: there’s no better way to demonstrate to the American public that we can rely on sustainable energy sources than by having government agencies become early adopters.
Although Obama has faced criticism for not doing enough to tackle pollution and other environmental issues, it’s not as though he has done nothing. Since the President assumed office, he has overseen the federal government’s carbon emissions decrease by 15% due to internal green policies and practices.
Considering that the U.S. government – which employs more than 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles – is the “single largest consumer of energy” in the country, that’s no small feat. In 2009, the federal government released 123 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, so every step toward reducing that amount in the future will be significant.
Still, no matter how large the federal government, “leading by example” as Obama calls it will not be enough to avert global catastrophe. Companies and individuals will indeed have to follow suit in signing on for renewable energy sources. The administration will help to force some of these changes by putting caps on power plant emissions and strengthening vehicle emission standards moving forward.
The switch to renewable energy is not just good for the environment, but also the American economy. Even as most industries have floundered during the recession, the renewable energy continued to grow thanks to the rising demand. Moreover, the expanding industry creates new jobs, which in turn cuts unemployment.
While Obama may have settled on 20% because it was achievable, other nations are setting their sights higher. Scotland, for example, boosted its 2020 marker from 50 to 80% reliance on renewable energy and further pledges that by 2025 it will be at 100%.