Foreword by Governor Bill Ritter

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama told Congress that if it did not act to curb global climate change, he would.

And he did. Five months later, the President issued a comprehensive climate action plan that does not require congressional action. Many of the items already have been implemented or put in motion.

The President’s plan adds to the long list of initiatives his administration has accomplished since 2009, ranging from historic vehicle efficiency standards to the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Are there additional steps the President can take in the next three years to mitigate climate change and move America closer to a clean energy economy? The answer is yes. But they will require considerable work by the administration and support from the American people. They will also require steps by the President to unleash enterprise and investment across the country.

In March 2013 President Obama met with 14 energy thought leaders, representing a variety of stakeholder groups, to discuss how he could further pursue a clean energy agenda using his lawful authority. Following the meeting,the leaders asked the Center for the New Energy Economy (The Center I founded in 2011 at Colorado State University) to undertake a deeper examination of the President’s options in five discrete areas. In response, CNEE launched an eight-month initiative to gather ideas for additional presidential action on climate and clean energy. In dialogues, roundtables and peer reviews, CNEE engaged more than 100 participants, including chief executive officers, chief financial officers and other top executives from industry, academia, research institutions, NGOs and state and local governments. We asked them what new actions by the President and his executive agencies would help our nation be more effective in meeting our climate and our energy goals.

The five areas of focus are:

  1. Doubling energy productivity
  2. Financing renewable energy
  3. Producing natural gas responsibly
  4. Developing alternative fuels and vehicles, and
  5. Enabling electric & gas utilities adapt to the new realities of the 21st century

Two rules governed this process. First, we applied the Chatham House Rule, ensuring participants’ anonymity to encourage open dialogue and free exchange of ideas. In accordance with that rule, we have not attributed ideas to specific individuals or organizations. Second, we encouraged but did not require consensus. Not all participants agreed with all of the recommendations in our final report, but they all had a considerable voice in the process.

Four principal themes emerged during the CNEE exercise:

1. As CEO of the nation’s largest energy customer – the Federal Government — and Commander–in–Chief of the armed forces, the President should use the full power of federal procurement to help create the large and stable markets that will attract more investment in clean energy goods and services. That will require changes in the procurement system.

2. Many of the most important legal responsibilities related to energy use and carbon emissions reside in states and localities. The Federal Government should help states and localities assert their leadership with increased research, technical assistance and carefully targeted financial assistance.

3. The Federal Government and its policies will have to be retooled to support a clean energy economy. For example, many industry leaders who are eager to participate in the energy transition say they are inhibited by government regulations that are not keeping up with today’s rapid changes in energy technology and customer preferences.

4. The administration can make strategic changes in fiscal policy to help move private capital at every level of the economy off the sidelines and into clean energy.

This report offers President Obama and his administration more than 200 recommendations for America’s transition to a clean energy economy – recommendations that CNEE believes can be implemented with the President’s existing authority. Many of the recommendations can be implemented immediately; some will take several months; and others may not be completed until after President Obama leaves office.

President Obama deserves credit for his resolve to take action on climate change. This report is intended to help him. There simply is no more important issue and no time to waste.

Bill Ritter, Jr.
41st Governor of Colorado
Founder and Director, Center for the New Energy Economy