Does President Obama Drink Tea?

Tea or coffee? It must be the former, because everyone I know is trying to read his tea leaves, especially when it comes to energy and environment policy.

Crystal balls and beverage dregs may be reliable methods of forecasting some things in our future, but when it comes to sustainability (and that’s really what you mean when you say "energy/environment" or "climate" policy) look to California for a hint of where to focus your personal or corporate viewpoint in the coming months. Here are three big areas where the Golden State is leading and, I believe, the Obama Administration will gladly follow.

First, climate policy. On November 18, 2008, shortly after his election, then President-elect Obama delivered a speech to our Governors’ Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles that left no doubt he will expand California’s climate action plan - - and greenhouse gas reduction targets - - to the federal level. If you missed that important speech, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvG2XptIEJk

The second California sustainability trailblazing that we should watch is in what’s called "green chemistry". Governor Schwarzenegger set policies and signed laws that require a growing number of manufacturers to formulate products, from bug spray to baby bottles, with non-toxic ingredients and chemicals. Given the anti-science approach taken by the Bush administration on environmental and public health issues, look for the new President to rapidly order his bureaucracy to build on the sound science and smart policy of states like California on a host of these programs that make us healthier.

Last, take a look at energy efficiency. Californians are 40% more energy efficient than average Americans and it’s not because we don’t enjoy watching the SuperBowl on a 72" Hummer of a TV. It’s because of state energy efficiency standards for appliances and buildings that save people lots of money, along with regulatory policy that incentivizes utilities to invest in energy efficiency programs for consumers. Watch for the feds to do a quick cut-and-paste.

There are other ways the feds will follow California in these matters, with more to come now that so many are inspired by the new President or scared straight by climate change, so stay tuned. But for now, I’ve got to run - - I think I hear the kettle whistling.

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