In February of 2011, President Obama launched the Better Buildings Challenge to help American commercial and industrial buildings become at least 20 percent more efficient by 2020. More than 120 diverse organizations representing over 2 billion square feet of real estate are already on track to meet that 2020 goal and cut their energy use by 2.5 percent annually. These efforts obviously save families and businesses money on their utility bills, they reduce energy demand, and they help us to achieve our climate goals by reducing greenhouse emissions. This week’s events will highlight the progress for our private and public sector.
As promised in his State of the Union Address, President Obama said that this is a Year of Action and that he will act on his own if need be to get things done such as in the case to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. He has been using the power of his phone, and all of the people in his administration have been working to get more commitments from more partners on these key sectors to get more efficiency in our build sector, more deployment of solar across the economy.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) invites Better Buildings partners and stakeholders to a national Summit to catalyze investment in energy efficiency across the public, private, commercial, industrial, and multifamily housing sectors. We look forward to highlighting innovative market solutions, and recognizing leaders for their innovation and accomplishments.
Attendees across sectors and Better Buildings programs will engage in dialogue focused on sharing demonstrated market and technology solutions and proven approaches with an equal emphasis on discussing future opportunities for greater energy efficiency in America’s homes and buildings.
Better Buildings Summit sessions will focus on the following high-impact areas:
Innovative Replicable Solutions from Market Leaders: Implement energy management practices and demonstrated business solutions.
Making Energy Efficiency Investment Easier: Make use of data and information and strategies to mobilize capital.
High Impact Technologies: Explore technologies and the systems/whole-building approaches deployed by Better Buildings partners.
Collaborations and Partnerships: Collaborate or partner with labs, utilities, manufacturers, cities, states, and other stakeholders to cut energy waste in our nation’s buildings by 20% in 10 years.
As with some of his past budget proposals, Ryan will have trouble explaining the details and the means that get to the end — a balanced budget. This year, the consensus on the most implausible parts of his plan comes on two fronts.
The first are the levels at which non-defense discretionary spending is set in the budget. Discretionary spending is comprised of spending on programs that have to be reauthorized by Congress every year, not including entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
The second is an accounting trick that is likely to be controversial, and that some call a gimmick.
The last year of the budget window, 2024, gives a good example of what Ryan does to balance the budget:
He ups non-defense discretionary cuts by $50 billion in 2024.
He assumes lower war spending by about $25 billion that same year.
He still needs a trick to get the budget to complete balance. Ryan uses a “dynamic” scoring method that helps balance his budget — one that could generate controversy. The “macroeconomic feedback effect” assumes the macroeconomic effects of cutting deficits will lead to about $74 billion in savings in 2024.
The non-defense discretionary spending levels, especially in the last year, seem to be the most implausible part of the budget. In 2024, per the budget, the non-defense discretionary spending levels would be $467 billion — a 22 percent cut from post-sequester levels. In raw dollars, that’s lower than it was in 2005. It’s also much lower than the 2013 level of $576 billion.
Loren Adler, a research director at the at Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told Business Insider it would “c ertainly be one of the toughest pieces to feasibly achieve.”
In inflation-adjusted terms, it amounts to about a 29 percent cut from current levels. According to a Senate Democratic aide, it’s also 28 percent below the average amount of the non-defense discretionary spending levels during the Bush administration.
By 2024, the Ryan budget adds $483 billion to defense spending beyond sequester-set spending caps. But to get overall savings, the budget cuts $791 billion from non-defense discretionary spending.
“NDD levels by end of budget window totally implausible — damage to safety net as well,” Jared Bernstein, a former Obama administration economist and now a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said in an email.
Ryan also uses the accounting trick to achieve balance. It’s a method he hasn’t employed in past budgets, and one that usually isn’t used by the Congressional Budget Office when scoring legislation. Ryan says the “macroeconomic feedback effect” of the deficit-cutting provisions in his budget will amount to $175 billion in savings over the 10-year budget window. And about $74 billion of that will come in the last year — coincidentally providing the U.S. with a $5 billion surplus.
Here’s Ryan’s reasoning for doing so:
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated several times over nearly 20 years that congressional action to reduce deficits will ultimately result in lower interest rates and faster economic growth by freeing up savings for use in productive investment. In addition, CBO has estimated that the positive economic effects of deficit reduction will feed back into the budget and further reduce deficits and debt over the medium and longer term.
Ryan notes the CBO used such dynamic scoring, for example, in 1998, when analyzing the 1998 bipartisan budget resolution that planned to balance the budget. But in general, the CBO says it does not usually analyze the macroeconomic effects due to several reasons (emphasis added):
Doing macroeconomic analysis of all proposed legislation would not be feasible; nearly all legislation analyzed by CBO would have negligible macroeconomic effects anyway (and thus negligible feedback to the federal budget); and estimates of macroeconomic effects are highly uncertain.
In his budget last year, Ryan included guidance about the macroeconomic effects to argue how his budget would be even better for deficits than the numbers showed. However, he did not employ the scoring method to achieve a balanced budget.
Republican budget proposes deep cuts in domestic programs
4/1/14 2 hours ago By David Lawder – Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Representative Paul Ryan, the leading Republican voice on budget policy, rolled out a new fiscal blueprint on Tuesday that calls for deep cuts in domestic programs, increased defense spending and a goal of erasing annual deficits in 10 years.
Ryan’s budget, called the “Path to Prosperity,” has almost no chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate but is expected to serve as a campaign manifesto for Republicans in November’s congressional elections.
It proposes to kill President Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare reforms and revives cuts in social programs such as the popular Medicare entitlement for the elderly that Ryan, who chairs the House Budget Committee, has proposed in other recent budgets.
The plan calls for savings of $5.1 trillion over a decade, with the goal of reaching a balanced budget by 2024 with no new tax revenues but increased defense spending.
Nearly $2.1 trillion would be saved over a decade by the proposal to kill Obamacare, according to the plan.
A sweeping overhaul of Medicare has been slightly revised, with phased-in changes applying to workers 55 years old and younger, compared to last year’s proposal which affected workers who were 54 and younger.
The document aims to bolster Republicans’ credentials as the party of fiscal prudence, but could open them up to fresh attacks from Democrats, who are calling for steps to reduce the gap between the rich and poor.
Washington, D.C. – Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today after Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released this year’s version of the House Republican budget:
“Today, Republicans have laid out their vision for a less prosperous America, demonstrating, yet again, the weakness of their arithmetic and the strength of their indifference to the concerns of struggling middle class families across the country. They are proving the lengths they will go to protect the special interests at the expense of the public interest. They are undermining seniors, students, and the middle class, crippling our economic competitiveness, and gutting our nation’s investments in the future – all to protect loopholes for the wealthy few and corporations that ship jobs overseas.
“Under this Republican budget, the wealthy and well-connected wouldn’t be asked to pay even a little more. But seniors would be asked to pay more for preventive services and prescription drugs and see the end of the Medicare guarantee. Families would witness devastating cuts to research, innovation, education, clean energy, and manufacturing, ceding economic leadership to other nations. All Americans would see a budget that rejects comprehensive immigration reform, with its promise of job creation, stronger small businesses, a growing economy, and a shrinking deficit.
“Democrats have a better approach: creating jobs, strengthening the middle class, investing in our infrastructure and our children’s education, closing the opportunity gap, and responsibly reducing the deficit. Together, we can reignite the American Dream and build an economy that works for everyone.”
Hoyer Statement on Republican Budget for Fiscal Year 2015
April 1, 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today in response to the House Republican budget for Fiscal Year 2015:
“No one ought to be surprised at the budget unveiled by Chairman Paul Ryan and House Republicans today, which once again asks those with less to give more and those with more to give less. This year’s Republican budget builds on the disastrous approach Republicans have followed over the past three years, embracing the painful and irrational sequestration cuts and slashing funding that supports investments in opportunity, growth, and security.
“While anyone who looks at the FY2015 Republican budget can readily see that it would do serious damage to our economy and society, Republicans do their best to hide the extent of the damage. As in previous years, Chairman Ryan relies on gimmicks, magic asterisks, and spurious accounting assumptions to presume that his budget will achieve its anticipated deficit savings. Additionally, his budget ends the Medicare guarantee as we know it, turns Medicaid into a block grant, repeals the Affordable Care Act [aka ObamaCare], fails to invest in job creation, and does not include any new revenue. His budget simply doesn’t work – and would lead to significant harm for our country.
“Last week, I delivered a speech in which I called on both parties in Congress to maximize every opportunity to move us closer toward the long-term fiscal sustainability that our country needs. Our budget process is just such an opportunity; unfortunately, House Republicans chose to make it a partisan messaging exercise rather than a real effort to achieve balanced deficit savings and invest in the programs that strengthen our economy, grow our middle class, and help more of our businesses and families Make It In America.”
Statement by the White House Press Secretary on the House Republican Budget
April 01, 2014
To build real, lasting economic security for the middle class, the President and Democrats in Congress have a plan to grow our economy from the middle out, not the top down, and create more opportunities for every hardworking American to get ahead. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress do not have a plan that works for the middle class and the House Republican Budget is the same old top-down approach. Because of a stubborn unwillingness to cut the deficit in a balanced way by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and well connected, the House Republican Budget would slow the economy, stack the deck against the middle class, and threaten the guaranteed benefits seniors have paid for and earned.
The House Republican Budget would raise taxes on middle class families with children by an average of at least $2,000 in order to cut taxes for households with incomes over $1 million. It would force deep cuts to investments in our roads and bridges, scientific research to cure diseases like Alzheimer’s and at every level of education from early childhood to community college. It would end Medicare as we know it, turning it into a voucher program and risking a death spiral in traditional Medicare. Instead of ensuring that Americans earn a fair wage for a hard day’s work and lifting millions of people out of poverty, the House Republican approach undermines Americans working hard to support their families by slashing food stamps and Medicaid. And rather than expanding health coverage for all Americans and making it more affordable, it would repeal the Affordable Care Act, raising health care costs on families and businesses and eliminating coverage for the 3 million young adults who have gained coverage by staying on their parent’s plan, the millions of people who have signed up for private insurance plans through the Marketplaces, and millions more who can continue to gain coverage through Medicaid.
The House Republican Budget stands in stark contrast to the President’s Budget, which would accelerate economic growth and expand opportunity for all hardworking Americans, while continuing to cut the deficit in a balanced way. The President has put forward a Budget that rewards hard work with fair wages, equips all children with a high-quality education to prepare them for a good job, puts a secure retirement within reach, and ensures health care is affordable and reliable, while at the same time asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share and making tough cuts to programs we can’t afford. And by paying for new investments and tackling our true fiscal challenges, the President’s Budget builds on the progress we’ve already made to cut the deficit by more than half since 2009 and cuts the deficit as a share of the economy to 1.6 percent by 2024. It also stabilizes the debt as a share of the economy by 2015 and puts it on a declining path after that.
Budgets are about choices and values. House Republicans have chosen to protect tax breaks for the wealthiest rather than create opportunities for middle class families to get ahead. The President believes that is the wrong approach and that we should instead be making smart investments necessary to create jobs, grow our economy, and expand opportunity, while still cutting the deficit in a balanced way and securing our nation’s future.
A State-by-State Breakdown of the Damage That Would Be Caused by the House Republican Budget
Amy Brundage April 09, 2014 05:13 PM EDT
House Republicans this week are voting on a budget that protects tax breaks for the wealthiest rather than create opportunities for middle-class families to get ahead. It is the same old top-down approach and would raise taxes on middle-class families with children by an average of at least $2,000 in order to cut taxes for households with incomes over $1 million.
As in previous years, the House Republican Budget proposes deep funding reductions that would result in severe cuts to critical areas that are needed to support job creation, economic growth, a strong middle class, and assistance for lower income individuals, especially when compared to the overall level of investment in the President’s budget. Since House Republicans aren’t willing to identify specifically what they actually want to cut, one way to assess the potential damaging impact is to look at what would happen to key programs if the cuts compared to the President’s budget were applied evenly across the board.
The results show the potential extent of the damage across the country. Within a few years:
In Florida, 290,000 seniors benefited from the closure of the Medicare Part D prescription drug donut hole in 2013 alone and at least that many likely would have to pay more for their needed medications in future years.
In California, more than 50,000 fewer students would receive Pell Grants to help them pay for college.
In Ohio, the proposed Medicaid block grant would cut federal Medicaid funding for the state by more than $30 billion over the next decade, likely resulting in more uninsured individuals and less care for those still covered.
In Texas, 12,000 fewer children would receive Head Start services.
In Pennsylvania, more than 100,000 people would lose job search assistance.
In Missouri, 1,700 fewer victims of domestic violence would be served through the STOP Violence Against Women Program.
2014 Nuclear Security Summit The Netherlands, the organising country, will focus on the following achievable and visible goals:
Optimal security for and, if at all possible, a reduction in the use of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
Ratification of the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material by more countries to ensure that the amendment enters into force as soon as possible.
More frequent reviews of state security structures by IAEA advisory missions.
National registration and protection of highly radioactive sources (e.g. medical equipment).
Greater role for industry in nuclear security, to enhance the security culture and existing regulations.States should provide information to their own people and the international community to demonstrate that they are taking appropriate measures to maintain the security of their nuclear material and facilities.
These confidence-building measures will increase trust in the international protection system.
“You’ve inherited a country that’s all about living large,”
“each person takes up not only the space occupied by their home and school, but also land in Iowa to grow their food, in Brazil and China to make all their “stuff,” and in the Middle East to get fuel to drive around.”
“Can you believe that the average American teenager uses about 21 football fields of Earth’s resources to live?”
“…We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise. That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared…”
“for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. (Applause.) Now, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods — all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science — and act before it’s too late.
Now, the good news is we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. “
President Obama Establishes a Task Force on Climate
FACT SHEET: Executive Order on Climate Preparedness
November 01, 2013
“We’re going to need to get prepared. And that’s why this plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid. States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready… And we’ll partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce the risk of wildfires, protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as natural storm barriers.” –
President Barack Obama, June 25, 2013
Today, President Obama established a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities nationwide that are dealing with the impacts of climate change. The Task Force members include state, local and tribal leaders from across the country who will use their first-hand experiences in building climate preparedness and resilience in their communities to inform their recommendations to the Administration.
The President signed an Executive Order that directs Federal agencies to take a series of steps to make it easier for American communities to strengthen their resilience to extreme weather and prepare for other impacts of climate change.
Our Earth is warming. Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1.4°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 2 to 11.5°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.
The evidence is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. The planet’s oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes – oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.
Humans are largely responsible for recent climate change
Over the past century, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The majority of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm. This phenomenon is called the greenhouse effect and is natural and necessary to support life on Earth. However, the buildup of greenhouse gases can change Earth’s climate and result in dangerous effects to human health and welfare and to ecosystems.
The choices we make today will affect the amount of greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere in the near future and for years to come.
Climate change affects everyone
Our lives are connected to the climate. Human societies have adapted to the relatively stable climate we have enjoyed since the last ice age which ended several thousand years ago. A warming climate will bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.
Some changes to the climate are unavoidable. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for nearly a century, so Earth will continue to warm in the coming decades. The warmer it gets, the greater the risk for more severe changes to the climate and Earth’s system. Although it’s difficult to predict the exact impacts of climate change, what’s clear is that the climate we are accustomed to is no longer a reliable guide for what to expect in the future.
We can make a difference
You can take action. You can take steps at home, on the road, and in your office to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the risks associated with climate change. Many of these steps can save you money; some, such as walking or biking to work can even improve your health! You can also get involved on a local or state level to support energy efficiency, clean energy programs, or other climate programs.
Calculate your carbon footprint and find ways to reduce your emissions through simple everyday actions.
Personal Greenhouse Gas Emissions Calculator
EPA and other federal agencies are taking action. EPA is working to protect the health and welfare of Americans through common sense measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and to help communities prepare for climate change.
October 15-16, 2013
Secretary of State Department Under Secretary Wendy R. Sherman to lead the United States’ delegation
UPDATE: Iran, six world powers clinch breakthrough nuclear deal
11/23/13 1 hour ago By Parisa Hafezi and Justyna Pawlak – Reuters
GENEVA (Reuters) – Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early on Sunday to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a first step towards resolving a dangerous decade-old standoff.
The deal between the Islamic state and the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia was nailed down after more than four days of negotiations.
“We have reached an agreement,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced on his Twitter feed. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also confirmed the deal.
Iran will get access to $4.2 billion in foreign exchange as part of the accord, a Western diplomat said. No other details of the agreement were immediately available.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers of the five other world powers joined the negotiations with Iran early on Saturday as the two sides appeared to be edging closer to a long-sought preliminary agreement.
The talks were aimed at finding a package of confidence-building steps to ease decades of tensions and banish the specter of a Middle East war over Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.
The Western powers’ goal had been to cap Iran’s nuclear energy program, which has a history of evading U.N. inspections and investigations, to remove any risk of Tehran covertly refining uranium to a level suitable for bombs.
Statement By The President On First Step Agreement On Iran’s Nuclear Program
THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Today, the United States — together with our close allies and partners — took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.
Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As I’ve said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we’ve extended the hand of diplomacy. Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community. So my administration worked with Congress, the United Nations Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.
These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian President earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged. I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall. Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran’s Foreign Minister. And we have pursued intensive diplomacy — bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5-plus-1 partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.
Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure — a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.
While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges, which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.
These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb. Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.
Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.
Sustainability is important to making sure that we have and will continue to have, the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and our environment.
Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has engaged the international community to promote sustainable economic growth and to meet the climate change challenge through a number of important venues, including:
International Climate Negotiations
In December 2009, President Obama and other world leaders came together to negotiate the Copenhagen Accord, an important milestone in which, for the first time, all major developed and developing economies agreed to implement measures to limit their greenhouse gas emissions and to do so in an internationally transparent manner. In 2010, the Cancun Agreement confirmed and substantially extended the core elements of the Copenhagen Accord in the areas of finance, technology and adaptation as well as mitigation and transparency in an instrument that the Parties enthusiastically endorsed.In December 2011 at Durban, the United States and the international community took important steps to make operational all of the key elements of the Cancun agreement, including a transparency regime to monitor and review mitigation efforts by developed and developing countries, as well as established a Green Climate Fund. In addition, a process was launched to negotiate a new legal instrument to take effect from 2020, and U.S. leadership was crucial to ensuring that the instrument will be applicable to all parties and include all of the major economies within a common legal system.
The Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, launched by President Obama in April 2009, facilitates a candid dialogue among major developed and developing economies to make progress in meeting the climate change and clean energy challenge. The 17 major economies which are members of the Major Economies Forum are: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The Clean Energy Ministerial, announced by President Obama and the Leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, and led by Energy Secretary Chu, has made progress towards its goal of driving transformational low-carbon, climate friendly technologies by providing tools and platforms to improve the policy environment for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean energy access.
At the 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit chaired by President Obama in Honolulu, leaders agreed to eliminate non-tariff barriers to environmental goods and services, including local content requirements, and cut applied tariffs on such goods and services to 5 percent by 2015. This will help lower costs, increase the dissemination of clean technologies, and create jobs. Leaders further committed to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and aimed to reduce the energy intensity of APEC economies by 45 percent by 2035.
In February 2012, the United States launched the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollution, a new global initiative to make rapid progress on climate change and air quality. Reducing pollutants that are “short-lived” in the atmosphere, such as methane, black carbon, and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which together account for one-third of current global warming, can prevent more than 2 million premature deaths a year, avoid the annual loss of over 30 million tons of crops, increase energy security, and address climate change. Founding coalition partners include Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico, Sweden, and the UN Environment Program.
Many communities around the country are asking for tools to help them achieve their desired development goals, improve quality of life, and become more economically and environmentally sustainable. In response to this demand, EPA developed the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities Program.
Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities provides quick, targeted technical assistance to selected local and/or tribal governments using a variety of tools that have demonstrated results and widespread application. The purpose of delivering these tools is to stimulate a discussion about growth and development and strengthen local capacity to implement sustainable approaches.
In 2013, EPA will select up to 44 communities for assistance. Each technical assistance project in a community will include:
Public engagement, a one-day workshop that is open to the public.
Direct consultation with relevant decision-makers.
A memo outlining specific steps the community could take to implement the ideas generated during the site visit.
Technical assistance will be delivered by EPA staff. In addition, four nonprofit organizations with extensive expertise in sustainable communities will select up to 55 additional communities for assistance. These organizations-Forterra, Global Green USA, Project for Public Spaces, and Smart Growth America-have received grants from EPA to offer assistance using tools they have chosen.
The tradition of the Cabinet dates back to the beginnings of the Presidency itself. Established in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, the Cabinet’s role is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to the duties of each member’s respective office.
The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments — the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Attorney General.
The 15 Secretaries from the executive departments are appointed by the President, and they must be confirmed by a majority vote (51 votes) of the Senate. They cannot be a member of Congress or hold any other elected office. Cabinet appointments are for the duration of the administration, but the President may dismiss any member at any time, without approval of the Senate. In addition, they are expected to resign when a new President takes office.
Over the next few days President Obama will be nominating his choices to fill the vacancies for his 2013-2016 Cabinet.
“As Jonathan Cohn pointed out in The New Republic, filibusters of presidential agency nominations were once very rare, happening only two times each to Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Bill Clinton had nine nominations blocked, and George W. Bush had seven. Obama is “already up to 16 blocks,” Cohn noted.”