Go Blue! “Be Nice” While You “Shape Destiny,” Obama Counsels at University of Michigan Commencement


Barack Obama addressed 90,000 people Saturday at the Big House, the University of Michigan’s football stadium, where he was greeted warmly by the largest crowd to hear the president since the inauguration. Among the nearly 10,000 graduates was my daughter Kayla.

The university is a place of innovation, stability, and optimism in a state that has endured more negative consequences of the recession, and the underlying transitional factors that caused it, than any other. The evidence list is long and familiar. Detroit is losing 10,000 residents a year, and is home to less than half as many residents as it had in the 1950s. The state is just one of two — Rhode Island is the other — that is losing population. Joblessness is high. Incomes are low. Most of Saturday’s graduates will begin their careers outside Michigan, where we’ve been sending our best   since 1990. For two decades in a row, Michigan has been a national leader in exporting its brightest young minds.obama-at-michigan-cropped-2951

Michigan voted for Obama because he represented hope and because his calm, self-effacing, and candid style is appreciated even though the state is fueled by division. Blacks from whites. Urban from suburban. North from south. Detroit from Grand Rapids. Conservatives from liberals. Front office from shop floor. Michigan from Michigan State. Perhaps that’s why Obama, who’s confronting upheaval and resistance at every turn — war, the economy, jobs, political opposition in both parties, climate change, energy, and an expanding environmental disaster in the Gulf — chose Michigan as the place to address how Americans behave in the public arena. His speech, he said, was prompted by a kindergarten student who sent him a letter that asked, “Are people being nice?”

The obvious answer is no. They’re not. In the public arena people behave poorly, rudely, aggressively, with insolence and anger. “Part of what civility requires is that we recall the simple lesson most of us learned from our parents: Treat others as you would like to be treated, with courtesy and respect,” said Obama.

Of course, there is more to it than that. Obama described a democracy that has tilted dangerously because  bad behavior draws the attention of both parties, the news media, policy makers, and seems to encapsulate the boiling energy of the era of transition that has enthused some and worried most.

Very clearly, Obama is dismayed by the ferocity of the public exchange. How do you know? Easy. He’s complaining about the media, a sure sign of presidential frustration. “Today’s 24/7 echo-chamber amplifies the most inflammatory soundbites louder and faster than ever before,” he said. He added: “If we choose only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, studies suggest that we become more polarized, more set in our ways. That will only reinforce and even deepen the political divides in this country.”

“We need a vibrant and thriving news business that is separate from opinion makers and talking heads. That’s why we need an educated citizenry that values hard evidence and not just assertion. As Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously once said, “Everybody is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

But the problem of incivility in the public arena, which has existed for all of the nation’s history, is critical now because of the speed of market and environmental changes, and the inability of decision makers to agree on responses. “When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us,” said the president. “We, the people. We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders and change our laws, and shape our own destiny.”

The point resonates with me. I just spent three months working with a utility in northern Michigan that wants to do a good thing –– generate 30 percent of its power with local renewable resources by 2020. Despite that goal, the utility was charged by some members of the community, and the major daily and weekly newspapers, with the equivalent of environmental genocide. A 10 mw combined heat and power wood biomass generating station would lead to forest “slaughter,” “toxic” ash, and all manner of “cancer causing” pollutants. None of these is true.

As a member of the team that designed and executed a communications and public engagement process to accomplish the utility’s goal I personally was described by such lovely phrases as poseur,  sinner, liar, shill, hypocrite and a few more choice words too. And that was from environmentalists I’ve worked with for years.

“The problem with it,” said the president, “is not the hurt feelings or the bruised egos of the public officials who are criticized. Remember, they signed up for it. Michelle always reminds me of that. The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It prevents learning –- since, after all, why should we listen to a “fascist,” or a “socialist,” or a “right-wing nut,” or a left-wing nut”?

“It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate, the one we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.”

— Keith Schneider

When It Comes to Climate and Clean Energy, “Just Say No” Has Become Too Popular


Monday, in the parlance of Washington policy and journalism, was scheduled to be a potential day of breakthrough in the work to achieve action on the warming climate. Senators John Kerry (Mass.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.) had announced that they’d come to consensus on what a bipartisan energy and climate policy fit for the 21st century looked like. The results were to be unveiled at a news briefing that had global import.

Instead nothing happened. It was like reeling in a sailfish, all fight and silvery splash, only to have the beast die on the way into the boat.

This is the third time in five months that that I’ve been involved in climate and clean energy campaigns that culminated in less than they promised. “Just say no” is emerging as a far easier answer than saying yes to progress.

In Copenhagen in December, nearly 200 nations gathered at the largest summit ever with the express purpose of reaching agreement on a climate treaty. Instead what they came up with was a novel accord that points in the right direction and may not achieve more than that.

In Traverse City, a small utility’s bid to acquire 30 percent of its energy from local renewable resources, including a state-of-the-art clean right-sized clean burning 10 mw wood biomass plant, generated such fierce hyperbole about unfounded risks among some environmentalists that you’d have thought the utility was proposing a 100-acre toxic waste site for the middle of town. The local push back, led by a grassroots environmental group, is consistent with similar resistance in 30 other states to proposals for new wind, solar, geothermal, wood biomass, and transmission lines. This week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to decide on a big offshore wind farm in Massachusetts that has been the focus on a popular opposition campaign. The clean energy transition may not be televised.

Now comes the Senate’s attempt to push through a climate and energy bill, which over the weekend got washed up on the shoals of partisanship, immigration policy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s re-election, and the powerful climate change-denying communications machine operated by America’s fossil fuel collective.

Today, Senator Reid retreated just a bit and sought to assure his Democratic and Republican colleagues that debate on the climate and energy bill would come before debate on the immigration bill. That makes sense since there is no immigration bill to debate in the Senate. But Graham, a very lonely Republican in the climate and clean energy space, has not yet indicated whether he’s ready to participate in introducing the ready-to-go energy bill that he’s spent months shaping with Senators Kerry and Lieberman.

The politics of stasis — of doing nothing — is brought action on climate change to a crawl, and that may be kind. The public will to act, to reduce emissions of carbon, to provide for the safety of the planet and all its inhabitants, is just not apparent in the United States, or in much of the rest of the developed world.

Clearly, a new operating program is needed politically and a new communications frame and strategy needs to be developed. Today the Environmental Protection Agency made public a new report on climate change effects that are getting worse:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are increasing. Between 1990 and 2008, there has been about a 14 percent increase in emissions in the United States.
  • Average temperatures are rising. Seven of the top 10 warmest years on record for the continental United States have occurred since 1990.
  • Tropical cyclone intensity has increased in recent decades. Six of the 10 most active hurricane seasons have occurred since the mid-1990s.
  • Sea levels are rising. From 1993 to 2008, sea level rose twice as fast as the long-term trend.
  • Glaciers are melting. Loss of glacier volume appears to have accelerated over the last decade.
  • The frequency of heat waves has risen steadily since the 1960s. The percentage of the U.S. population impacted by heat waves has also increased.

Still, people in the United States aren’t much concerned. They are clearly indicating,  in grassroots fights and in support for lawmakers who counsel to do nothing, that they are satisfied with the way things are. That is a dangerous sentiment in an unsettled world making powerful and swift transitions in every important sector — the economy, markets, the environment, energy, population, and competition for resources.

— Keith Schneider

Though the Need is Urgent, Earth Day’s Best Moment May Lie in Past


This week, just a day before the nation marked the 40th Earth Day, the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded 50 miles from the Louisiana coast, leaving 11 people dead, dozens injured, and a pulse of crude oil that is spreading across the Gulf of Mexico. The blast, which caused the platform to sink on Earth Day itself, came 16 days after 29 men perished in a West Virginia coal mine – the worst American mining disaster in 40 years.

The two calamities embody the relentless risks – human and environmental – that come with the unceasing pursuit of fossil fuel. They also highlight a stubborn feature of the original Earth Day – the consequences of America’s dangerous reliance on oil and coal – that has expanded and deepened in the 40 years since.

On Monday, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham, and Joe Lieberman are scheduled to make public a proposal for comprehensive climate and energy legislation they hope will change that vector. By some accounts the steps it takes to diminish oil and coal use will include a phased in cap for the electricity and industrial sectors. It may also contain a pollution fee for transportation fuels and new measures to foster the development and use of domestically produced cleaner energy alternatives.

In these and other provisions, the Senate proposal is said by Congressional staffers to differ substantially from the House energy and climate legislation enacted in June 2009. The House legislation contained robust measures to cap carbon emissions and to develop an emissions trading market that has potential to generate billions of dollars to accelerate the low-carbon economy.

In anticipation of the Senate climate and energy proposal, Public Opinion Strategies, a national market research firm, released on Earth Day the results of a poll that was conducted in five moderate to conservative states.  The firm found that a majority of 800 voters polled earlier this month in Alaska, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, and Virginia favored what the pollsters called an “overhaul the nation’s energy system to reduce polluting emissions and increase the use of renewable energy sources.”  The pollsters also discovered what they said was “strong support” – regardless of party affiliation -for any plan to put a price on carbon to also include refunds to citizens.

I’ll be busy on Monday reporting for USCAN on the Senate bill’s content, gather a summary of reactions from the climate action community, and describe the shape of the policy debate over the next few months.

Forty years ago, in response to the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans demonstrated their commitment to Mother Earth in marches, actions (I painted the White Plains train station and dragged tires out of the Bronx River), teach-ins and much more. The civic activism prompted a generation of bipartisan federal and state legislation that cleaned the air, cleared the water, and protected man and animal alike from a good number of industrial hazards. It also opened the way to a much more efficient economy that is many times larger today than it was then.

The legislation made public on Monday is driven by motives and energy that is consistent with the first Earth Day. But the political culture is so much angrier, divided, jealous, and immature — and that encompasses the behavior of extreme voices on every side. The result is that in an era when environmental dangers are just as urgent, and the potential for doing good just as keen, the federal government has scant chance to enact a measure that comes close to what’s needed.

— Keith Schneider

Stewart Udall, An American Statesman Passes


I met Stewart Udall, and his wife Lee, in 1988 when I was a national correspondent for the New York Times and he was in the midst of seeking compensation for American victims of the nuclear weapons industry. It was the start of a friendship of 22 years that ended today with Stewart’s death.

Stewart, who was 68 at the time, and Lee were getting ready to move into a beautiful adobe-style house they were building in the hills above Santa Fe. He managed a law practice that represented Navajo uranium miners injured by radiation exposure, as well as the families of miners who’d died. They both were active in promotion of the arts, a facet of the expansive Udall interests that the couple brought to the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s.

I wrote several articles about Stewart in the Times and we got to know each other well. He invited me to get to know his children – Tom, now a United States Senator, Lynn, Lori, Denis, Scott, and Jay. And in June 1998, three years after I left the Times to launch the Michigan Land Use Institute, Stewart responded to my invitation to speak in northwest Michigan by spending the weekend and appearing at a fund raiser for the Institute, and at an emotional standing room only public gathering at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He was the first Secretary of the Interior to ever visit the park, which he helped to establish. It was one of the most memorable weekends of my life. The picture above was taken that day by J. Carl Ganter.

President Obama honored Stewart today with this statement from the White House. “For the better part of three decades, Stewart Udall served this nation honorably. Whether in the skies above Italy in World War II, in Congress or as Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall left an indelible mark on this nation and inspired countless Americans who will continue his fight for clean air, clean water and to maintain our many natural treasures.  Michelle and I extend our condolences to the entire Udall family who continue his legacy of public service to this day.”

Stewart Udall made his life count for principles, especially the respect he and his family shared for the land, the arts, and justice that are now embedded in the nation’s culture and economy and way of life. It’s not much of a leap to note that the work he executed during his life, like the wild ground he preserved in national parks and refuges, will endure for as long as this nation endures.

In our many conversations, especially those over the last year, I often suggested how lucky he was to serve when he did. It was a golden age of policy making and Stewart was right at the center of it.

I still write for a number of desks at the Times and prepared the first draft of Stewart’s obituary. The edited piece that appeared in the paper on Sunday, March 21, 2010 was based on this draft, which appears here in its entirety.


Stewart L. Udall, who as Secretary of Interior in the 1960s helped to invent innovative new safeguards for the nation’s natural treasures and added vast  holdings to the public domain with statesmanship and flair rivaled only by President Theodore Roosevelt, died today of natural causes. Mr. Udall, who celebrated his 90th birthday on January 31, was surrounded at his death by his six children.

Mr. Udall was 40 years old and a three-term Democratic congressman from Arizona when President John F. Kennedy asked him to become the first person from that state ever to serve in the cabinet. A resolute liberal from the conservative West, he was the last surviving member of Mr. Kennedy’s original cabinet.

In the more than eight years that he led the Interior Department, a tenure that also spanned the entire administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Mr. Udall was the federal government’s most tenacious advocate for environmental conservation. He forged strong personal ties with the small group of lawmakers, attorneys, conservation leaders, and writers then working in Washington who helped lay the foundation for a generation of landmark statutes to secure the nation’s air, water, and land.

Few corners of the nation were left untouched by Mr. Udall’s principled approach and his ability to work collaboratively with Congress. He added 3.85 million acres to the public domain, including four national parks – Canyonlands in Utah, Redwood in California, North Cascades in Washington state, and Guadulupe Mountains in Texas – six national monuments, eight national seashores and lakeshores, nine national recreation areas, 20 historic sites, and 56 wildlife refuges.

Mr. Udall also was the government’s primary advocate for the 1964 Wilderness Act, which permanently ensured that millions of acres of wild land would remain “untrammeled by man.” He was the intellectual force behind the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which directed fees and royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to pay for wilderness protection and recreation. Mr. Udall also campaigned to preserve America’s historical heritage, and played a big role in saving New York’s Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball. Among his rare missteps, which Mr. Udall readily acknowledged, was approving federal oil and gas leases off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, which led to a devastating 1969 oil spill.

Following President Kennedy’s assassination, Lady Bird Johnson urged her husband to retain Mr. Udall. The two had become close and worked together on a program to plant flowers and beautify Washington, D.C. Near the end of the decade he helped to write and actively promoted the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which protected some of the nation’s most beautiful rivers.

Although Mr Udall cultivated congressional allies, his most important friend on Capitol Hill was his younger brother, Representative Morris Udall, who succeeded him as an Arizona Congressman, rose to become chairman of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, and in 1976 ran for president in a campaign that his older brother managed. Most of the significant environmental and land protection statutes that became law in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Endangered Species Act, bore their stamp and influence.

“That was a wonderful time and it carried through into the Nixon administration, into the Ford administration, into the Carter administration,” Mr. Udall said. “It lasted for 20 years. I don’t remember a big fight between the Republicans and Democrats in the Nixon administration or President Gerald Ford and so on. There was a consensus that the country needed more conservation projects of the kind that we were proposing.”

President Kennedy’s murder in 1963, followed by Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968, were personal blows that marred his optimism. In many ways, though, Mr. Udall represented the most enduring legacy of the Kennedy administration’s promise and its attitude.

He engaged his work with a sense of adventure, dynamism, and sheer delight that reflected the administration’s youth and idealism. It was Mr. Udall who made the suggestion, embraced by President Kennedy, to invite Robert Frost to recite a poem at the young president’s inauguration. Mr. Udall accompanied Mr. Frost to the Soviet Union in 1962, a trip meant to foster better ties with Premier Nikita Kruschev. He held evenings at the Interior Department with poet Carl Sandburg and actor Hal Holbrook.

A man who prided himself on his fitness – he was an all conference guard on the University of Arizona basketball team – Mr. Udall climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, and Mt. Fuji in Japan while heading U.S. delegations to both regions. When he was 84-years-old, at the end of his last rafting trip on the Colorado River, Mr. Udall hiked up the steep Bright Angel Trail from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the south rim, a 10-hour walk that he celebrated at the end with a martini.

Mr. Udall, and his wife, Lee, were especially friendly with Jacqueline Kennedy, and were close to Robert and Ethel Kennedy, whose children were about the same age as Mr. Udall’s six children. Mrs. Udall, who died in 2001, once pushed the historian, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., into the pool fully clothed during a rambunctious party at Robert Kennedy’s Hickory Hill estate in Virginia, a moment that delighted her husband for years afterward.

But it was Mr. Udall’s sense of fairness, his allegiance to the land, and his admiration for those that spoke out in its defense that most distinguished his life and work. He invited Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner to be the department’s writer in residence. Mr. Stegner’s presence prompted Mr. Udall to write The Quiet Crisis, his best selling 1963 book on the new environmental ethic taking shape in the nation. Their friendship ended tragically in 1993 when Mr. Stegner was killed in an auto accident in Santa Fe, New Mexico while visiting Mr. Udall at his home.

In 1962, when Rachel Carson’s critical analysis of the risks of pesticides, Silent Spring, was denounced as specious by the chemical industry, Mr. Udall publicly defended Ms. Carson’s scholarship, personally introduced her to President Kennedy, and convinced Mr. Kennedy to appoint a presidential science advisory committee, which a year later confirmed her findings. In April 1964, Mr. Udall served as a pallbearer at Ms. Carson’s funeral at the Washington National Cathedral.

Mr. Udall applied the same doggedness and loyalty to his important work in the late 1970s and through the 1980s as a lawyer representing thousands of uranium miners, nuclear weapons industry workers, and citizens exposed to radiation from atomic weapons manufacturing and testing in the West. Operating on a scant budget, and with the assistance of his wife, three of his children, and a small team of lawyers, Mr. Udall filed class action lawsuits that pried open the government’s secret Cold War legacy of scientific deceit and mismanagement within the multi-state American nuclear weapons industry.

Though he won the first case in 1984 in federal district court, an appeals court overturned the ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court declined in 1988 to hear arguments. Mr. Udall then turned to Congress, working with lawmakers of both parties, particularly Republican Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Democratic Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy. In 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. The law, administered by the Department of Justice, provided up to $100,000 for those sickened by radiation exposure, and issued a formal apology for the “harm” done to American citizens who were “subjected to increased risk of injury and disease to serve the national security interests of the United States.” In 1994, Mr. Udall published the sixth of his eight books, The Myths of August: A Personal Exploration of Our Tragic Cold War Affair With The Atom, a highly regarded account of the weapons program and the struggle for justice.

Stewart Lee Udall was born on January 31, 1920 in St Johns, Arizona during an era when the tiny settlement still bore much of its remote, tough, old West character. His grandfather, David K. Udall, helped to settle St. Johns, arriving there in 1880, seven years after its founding as a way station for wagoneers hauling U.S. Cavalry supplies from Santa Fe to Fort Apache. His father, Levi S. Udall, was a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court. His mother, Louise Lee Udall, was active in civic affairs and a gifted writer who instilled in her son the love for ideas and the words to express them.

Mr. Udall’s great grandfather was John D. Lee, who was convicted and executed in 1877, 20 years after 120 California-bound emigrants from Arkansas were slaughtered by Mormon zealots in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In 1989, at the urging of descendants of the Arkansas victims, Mr. Udall agreed to bring about reconciliation, helping to organize a memorial event in 1990 and erect a monument to what he called the greatest tragedy in the history of the West.

Mr. Udall served as a gunner for the U.S. Army Air Force during World War Two. In 1948 he graduated from the University of Arizona with a law degree and went into private practice for two years, then formed Udall & Udall, a joint practice with his brother. In 1954, Mr. Udall was elected to Congress.

He is survived by his son Tom Udall, a Democratic Senator from New Mexico and his other children, Lynn, Denis, Scott, Lori, and James. He also is survived by a nephew, Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado, and eight  grandchildren.

One of Mr. Udall’s last essays was his “Letter to My Grandchildren,” which the Michigan Land Use Institute originally published in 2005, and has done so every December since on its Web site. It reflects his penetrating insight about grievous risks to the economy and environment from global climate change, and his judgment about the capacity of his heirs to respond. “Operating on the assumption that energy would be both cheap and superabundant, I admit, led my generation to make misjudgments that have come back and now haunt and perplex your generation,” he wrote. “We designed cities, buildings, and a national system of transportation that were inefficient and extravagant. Now, the paramount task of your generation will be to correct those mistakes with an efficient infrastructure that respects the limitations of our environment to keep up with damages we are causing.”

Recovery Bill is Breakthrough on Clean Energy, Good Jobs

In signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act today President Barack Obama ensured that $113.5 billion will be spent over the next two years on developing clean fuels, modernizing rail transit, pursuing energy efficiency, developing high-mileage electric vehicles, and scaling up electrical generating stations powered by the wind, sun, and heat of the earth.

The magnitude of the clean energy investment – consistent with the sums spent to launch the Interstate Highway System in the late 1950s, and to put a man on the Moon in the 1960s – is intended by President Obama and Congressional leaders to begin charting a new national economic development strategy that is based on much different priorities than those that preceded it.

Instead of consuming more energy, land, and natural resources the clean energy provisions in the stimulus bill are aimed at conserving energy and sharply improving efficiency. Instead of reaching deep into the earth and far overseas to secure increasingly scarce and insecure oil reserves, the president looks to harness the abundant sun, wind, and geo-thermal resources within America’s boundaries.

In place of adding more carbon dioxide and other climate change pollution to the atmosphere, the clean energy provisions of the stimulus bill will spur non-polluting sources of energy. And President Obama and Congressional leaders have set in place investments in research, development, and training in a bid to ensure that more of the parts of the clean energy economy are invented and installed in America by American workers.

President Obama signed the bill during a ceremony in Denver at the Museum of Nature and Science, which generates a portion of its power from a solar array of 465 photovoltaic panels on its roof. The president was introduced by a solar industry executive, Blake Jones, the president of Namaste Solar Electric.

The president said the clean energy provisions of the recovery bill are “an investment that will double the amount of renewable energy produced over the next three years.” He said the clean energy provisions would help “transform the way we use energy.” And he introduced a new Web site, Recovery.gov, to enable Americans to track the bill’s progress.

“Our American story is not — and has never been — about things coming easy,” the president said. “It’s about rising to the moment when the moment is hard, converting crisis into opportunity, and seeing to it that we emerge from whatever trials we face stronger than we were before.”

He added: “I hope this investment will ignite our imagination once more in science, medicine, and energy and make our economy stronger, our nation more secure, and our planet safer for our children.”

The $113.5 billion that the president and Congress directed to clean energy and green-collar job generation and training make up one of the largest portions of the $505 billion that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act authorizes in spending. The balance of the $787 billion stimulus bill – $282 billion – is for tax cuts.

In order to qualify for federal investments, the law requires states and cities to develop criteria for stimulus projects that gives priority to energy efficiency, repairing roads and bridges rather than building new capacity, green-collar job training, family-supporting jobs that include job quality standards, and access to stimulus jobs for low-income people.
A Plan For A New American Century

In both the scale of the spending directed to clean energy and good jobs programs, and in its specific goals the stimulus bill reflects years of work by the national Apollo Alliance coalition of labor, environmental, business, and social justice organizations.

“This is the largest investment in clean energy development in our history,” said Phil Angelides, a California businessman and chairman of the Apollo Alliance. “It represents the focused work of labor, business, environmental and social justice organizations who developed a clear strategy about where the nation needed to go, and worked together to achieve it. President Obama and members of Congress deserve the nation’s appreciation for taking this important step to guide the country down this new and essential economic path. But this is only the start of the economic transformation that America must undertake to ensure prosperity and provide for good family-supporting, green-collar jobs. More needs to be accomplished in the months ahead to accelerate development in the clean energy sector to limit oil imports, reduce the threat of climate change, and rebuild the American middle class.”

Among the clean energy investments in the stimulus are $10.9 billion to build a state-of-the art national energy grid, $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy, $2 billion for advanced battery manufacturing, $5 billion for home weatherization, $3.2 billion for state energy efficiency and clean energy grants, and $17.7 billion to modernize and expand rail transit.

James K. Gailbraith, an economist and professor of government at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs, also commended the Obama administration and Congress for the speed in drafting and passing the stimulus bill. But Galbraith, like other leading economists, said in an interview that the just-approved stimulus should be followed by more spending measures of similar scale.

“The policy needs to be bigger and we should be prepared for the crisis to go on longer,” he said. “That point is important for the Apollo Alliance. It is legitimate and important to have strong elements in the program that can spend out over a period, and on which you can build.”

“The reason why you want a program which builds for the long-term on energy and the environmental front is because that is the direction that the public and private economies want to take,” said Galbraith. “You can build an industrial sector on clean energy for the U.S. economy and it can serve as an export sector.”

“To me, the stimulus is a first step,” he said. “But we don’t know what scale we need. We need to be on a scale sufficiently large to make a decisive impact reasonably soon. If we don’t do that the bad news just keeps flowing in.”

More Action Needed
The Apollo Alliance is heeding that lesson. The Alliance’s national, state, and local organizations are preparing to be deeply involved in upcoming Congressional consideration of major investments in energy, manufacturing to make the components and parts for the clean energy sector, and in capping climate change gases and generating investment revenue for clean energy and green-collar jobs.

Today Congressional lawmakers and public interest leaders paused to consider the importance of the stimulus bill and the role played by the Apollo Alliance to gain its passage.

“This legislation is the first step in building a clean energy economy that creates jobs and moves us closer to solving our enormous energy and environmental challenges,” said Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and Senate Majority Leader. “We’ve talked about moving forward on these ideas for decades. The Apollo Alliance has been an important factor in helping us develop and execute a strategy that makes great progress on these goals and in motivating the public to support them.”

“President Obama and Congress made a huge investment to expand clean energy efforts,” said Dan Weiss, senior fellow and director of climate security at the Center For American Progress, a progressive think tank in Washington. “The economy, national security, and our planet mandate that we become more efficient and cleaner. The Apollo Alliance understood this and worked with labor, business, social justice and environmental organizations to support an economic transition that will put people back to work, save families money, and reduce oil use. The Alliance deserves applause for its efforts to help shape and pass this bill.”

Apollo’s Vision Realized In Part
To be sure, the clean energy provisions in the stimulus bill reflect the sound idea first introduced by the Apollo Alliance in 2003, when the group was launched. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the founders of the Apollo Alliance steadily gained support for a message that distilled more than 30 years of conversation in the environmental and business communities about the relationship of the environment to the economy. The Apollo Alliance, named for and inspired by the American space mission, cut through the complexity by arguing that the United States could simultaneously solve the energy crisis, the climate crisis, and the jobs crisis if it pursued clean energy development.

In its widely read New Energy For America report in January 2004, the Alliance called for a “new Apollo Project” to invest $300 billion over ten years in the clean energy sector to “revitalize our manufacturing capacity, rebuild neglected infrastructure, close the growing technology gap with foreign competitors, preserve the environment, and generate good jobs for America’s working families.” The report estimated that such an investment would generate 3 million jobs.

Many of the provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are consistent with recommendations that the Apollo Alliance made in its two reports last year.

In September 2008, the Apollo Alliance published The New Apollo Program, a comprehensive investment strategy and implementation plan that called for the federal government to make a $500 billion, 10-year commitment to clean energy development to generate 5 million jobs. In December 2008, the Alliance published the Apollo Economic Recovery Act that recommended a one-year, $50 billion investment to create or retain 650,000 direct jobs and 1.3 million more indirect jobs in communities across the country.

“The signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan marks a fundamental shift in our nation’s economic and energy policy – a shift toward energy independence, climate stability and broadly shared prosperity,” said Angelides, in a press statement today. “Across the nation, business, labor, environmental and community organizations have come together to create an unstoppable momentum that is making good green-collar jobs the focal point of America’s economic recovery. We must now turn our attention to the energy and climate initiatives that are needed this year to bring our critical mission to rebuild America’s economy from launching point to full speed.”

— Keith Schneider