The public has been using the first 100 days—that period between the inauguration on January 20 until roughly the end of April—as a benchmark to evaluate the early success and future potential of every president since Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932, at the height of the Great Depression, and established the artificial yardstick as a way to put pressure on Congress and gain public support for his bold agenda.
Obama has made it clear, throughout his campaign and since the election, that energy and the environment will be among the top priorities of his presidency and are likely to be woven into much of the work he intends to accomplish during his years in the White House.
Here are five things related to the environment that President Obama will need to accomplish during his first 100 days in office to fulfill his campaign promises and live up to his potential as an environmental leader:
- Build a Green Economy—Reviving and rebuilding the ailing U.S. economy will be Obama’s first priority, but in doing so he has a great opportunity to use his plans for clean energy investments and green jobs as catalysts to achieve that goal. Strengthening the economy and preserving the environment should go hand in hand.
- Get Serious about Climate Change—Obama needs to establish the United States as a global leader on climate change, starting during his first 100 days by setting ambitious goals to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, establishing programs and incentives to achieve those goals, and following that up with active leadership in international efforts to create a workable global initiative to control climate change and avoid or mitigate its most damaging effects.
- Create a New Clean Energy Policy--Obama understands that energy and the environment are inextricably linked, and he needs to use his first 100 days to set out a national energy policy that will serve America’s current and future energy needs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil while reducing our environmental impact.
- Mitigate the Bush Legacy—President George W. Bush did serious damage to the environment during his eight years in the White House, weakening, eliminating or denying environmental protections in deference to mine owners, oil companies, and other industry polluters. During the last days of his presidency, Bush administration officials continued to create new rules and establish new policies that will do untold harm to the environment and could take months or years to unravel. Obama won’t be able to solve all of these problems during his first 100 days, but he already has people working to identify problem areas and recommend strategies. He should keep that effort going until the damage is undone.
- Respect His Scientists—President Bush tried repeatedly to censor and muzzle government scientists: refusing to let them share their findings with taxpayers, changing their reports before releasing them to the public, and disregarding or ignoring their recommendations. Obama must make it clear that scientists in his administration are valued advisors and public servants, and that their work will not be distorted or undermined by politics.