Environment, Cleantech Have Big Wins, Big Losses at the Polls

Environment, Cleantech Have Big Wins, Big Losses at the Polls

Barack Obama handily won the presidency, giving an overall boost to hopes for a greener U.S. economy, while some of the biggest renewable energy proposals on state ballots went down to defeat yesterday.

The president-elect has set and handful of goals for environmental issues, most notably a plan to bring U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and then 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. But Obama is also bringing the environment and the economy together by making green jobs a central plank in his environmental goals.

He has announced that he will create a $150 billion dollar "Apollo project" with a goal of creating five million new green jobs and bringing the United States in line with much of the rest of the world in its environmental goals.

"That's going to be my number one priority when I get into office," the British newspaper the Guardian quotes Obama as saying of his green economy plans. "A clean-energy economy can be the engine that drives us into the future in the same way the computer was the engine for economic growth over the last couple of decades."

Obama has also pledged to create 10 percent of the United States' energy from renewables by 2012 (up from about 8 percent today), and 25 percent by 2025, and bring plug-in hybrid vehicles to the masses in the next seven years.

Although the next resident of the White House will be working to make the nation much greener, most of the major environmental bills put before voters yesterday went down to defeat.

Among the biggest, California's Proposition 7, which would have required utility companies to generate at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewables by 2010 and 50 percent by 2025, lost heavily, with nearly 64 percent of voters rejecting the bill. California voters also shot down Proposition 10, a bill that proposed $5 billion in rebates for people who bought alternative-fuel vehicles, by a margin of 60-40 percent.

In Colorado, Amendment 58 lost significantly, with 58 percent of voters saying no to the measure, which would have ended a tax break for the oil and gas industry and used the additional funds for wildlife habitats, renewable energy projects, and college scholarships.

The two victories of the election were in Minnesota, where voters approved a 3/8ths of 1 percent sales tax increase to fund environmental protection projects; and in Missouri, where Proposition C passed, requiring utilities to purchase 2 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2011, and 15 percent by 2021.

Outside of the White House and state ballots, a handful of politicians who'd been named as enemies of the environment were turned out of office yesterday. The League of Conservation Voters names a Dirty Dozen politicians for each election cycle, and 2008 found seven of the 12 on their way out of office, with two more up in the air.

Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), and Representatives Dean Andal (R-CA), Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Anne Northup (R-KY), Steve Pearce (R-NM), Bob Schaffer (R-CO), and Tim Walberg (R-MI) all lost seats yesterday, with two of the Dirty Dozen candidates' races too close to call yet, Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both Republicans from Alaska.