It’s Not About the Bleeping Lightbulbs!

by Tim Fulton on November 9, 2008

Image: BohPhoto

I would be hard for anyone to deny at this point that the election of soon-to-be-President Obama is anything other than a historic choice. We may not have all voted for him, but our country will soon be moving in a new direction. Burdened though he is with war, global financial crisis, and the other responsibilities that face him as the next President of the United States, he has already begun talking with other nations about amending our broken environmental policy. For everyone that thought Obama was all talk, this should be a clear sign that that is not the case.

That is all a preface to the discussion of how Obama will look at the issues of environmental protection and climate change. I recently found this quote of Obama’s on a post at Treehugger:

I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.

This was in reference to his getting ready to be questioned by a reporter about his personal environmental actions.

So what does this mean? What kind of environmentalist will President Obama be? I don’t think this quote means that Obama doesn’t care about CFLs or consumer choice. I’m sure he already has all CFLs in his home and has done many other things to reduce his personal environmental impact, but, like Al Gore, Obama realizes that global warming is a worldwide problem and can only be dealt with through international cooperation.

That doesn’t mean that we, as individuals, can forget about reducing our energy consumption. What it means is that, like Obama, we need focus on those actions are part of a bigger, collective movement to reduce energy usage and transform the sources from which we draw our energy. In this sense, CFLs are a distraction from the main issues for many people. If Obama were asked about energy issues and answered “yeah, I installed CFLs and put on solar panels” my response would be “but what about legislation banning the construction of new coal plants and mandating increased solar production and installation?”

Obama isn’t the President yet, but when he enters office he will be calling upon everyone in the U.S. and the world to join together to solve this problem. We need to be ready to answer as a group, calling for change and then following through with that change ourselves.

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1 Christ November 18, 2008 at 12:32 am

I tend to wonder if the WhiteHouse has been looked at in terms of energy loss in the last, say, 100 years?

Obviously, it’s been renovated… but I think it will taking something drastic to turn the larger percentage of America at large on to these environmental short-comings.

Honestly, I want to see the White House be energy-star inspected and certified… and I don’t mean “Yeah, it’s good” I mean “Move out, we’re checking your $#!+ thoroughly, you’ll get it back next month.”

Something like that might give enough press and the “comedy” factor to the general public to make them consider changing their lives for the better.

2 dana November 18, 2008 at 4:46 pm

The White House has seen several energy up/downgrades over the past several decades. President Carter even had a significant amount of active solar thermal capacity installed (subsequently removed during the Reagan administration.)

I suspect it would take some SERIOUS overhaul to pull a LEEDS cert on it though. 😉

3 C. Reaves December 3, 2008 at 6:41 am

Politicians have to be SO careful about what they say and do. When the Obama campaign handed out tire guages to encourage fuel efficiency (a perfectly normal and good thing to do) he was ridiculed by the opposition as being naive about energy. So Obama had to tone down his conservation ideas for the election.

Of course some may say the the naive ones are the “Drill baby, drill” candidates.

I am NOT sure that Obama has CFLs throughout his house. I have not seen him being an aggressive conservation proponent, but that does not mean his administration will not do the right things

4 Christ December 3, 2008 at 11:33 am

I use the White House as an example, purely.

I used it because it’s a well-known figure in this country.

I also wasn’t saying anything for/against a specific person, more to the extent that we – as a country – moreover, as a WORLD – should pay more attention to the big things around us that can help easily.

What I’m not saying is “Stop getting better gas mileage, because we can cut energy use and pollution by everyone else, so it’s OK.”

More like “Keep doing what you’re doing, but shift your focus to those things that can help NOW.”

Stop and think for a minute the amount of energy wasted by office buildings, etc.

It would be a huge step to REQUIRE energy star compliance on new construction, rather than suggesting it.

It seems to me like were all so concerned about saving energy, and not polluting the earth anymore, but then you see some guy get his house built from non-compliant materials, with sub-standard building practices, and ends up wasting more money than he saved for a couple years on it before putting it on the market for someone to buy that doesn’t understand the principle of energy waste as clearly.

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