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100 days: Obama's big green dream

100 days: Obama's big green dream(Kate Sheppard via UTV)On the environment, the Obama administration has moved swiftly toward

making climate and energy reform a realitySeventy-nine percent of Americans think President Barack Obama will do a

good job protecting the country's environment, according to the latest

Gallup poll on the topic, released on Earth Day. The total includes 95% of

Democrats, 75% of independents and – most surprisingly – 65% of Republicans.As the poll shows, Americans have a good deal of confidence in Obama's

ability to address the biggest concerns of today, which include combating

climate change and moving the country away from fossil fuels. At 100 days,

he is so far living up to those expectations.The Obama team sent good signals on their environmental policy intentions

early, with the appointment of a host of advisers that has been called the

"green dream team". Perhaps the most strident appointment was that of Carol

Browner, the Clinton-era Environmental Protection Agency head, to serve as

the special adviser on climate and energy to the White House.Browner was seen as a tough regulator at the EPA, and by all accounts would

have been more aggressive had the White House given her more latitude.

She's not charged with coordinating efforts across federal agencies and the

administration, and may well have her second chance at fulfilling her green

dreams.She's joined by a host of other top-ranking officials that have solid green

credentials: EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Council for Environmental

Quality head Nancy Sutley and energy secretary Steven Chu. There are also

two key administration figures taking the lead on green jobs: labour

secretary Hilda Solis and green jobs adviser Van Jones.Those appointees wasted no time in getting started. Within hours of taking

office, Obama issued a flurry of environmental directives – calling on the

EPA to revisit a request from California and 13 other states to set tougher

emissions standards, directing the department of transportation to set

higher fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks and pushing for

energy and efficiency measures in the economic stimulus package.So far, his cabinet has at least taken the preliminary actions on all three

of them. Jackson opened a public comment period on the waiver request,

which most assume the agency will grant by the end of June. In March, the

DOT issued new fuel economy standards for the 2011 model year, boosting the

industry-wide standard to 27.3 miles per gallon – an increase of 2 miles

per gallon over 2010. DOT estimates this will save 887 million gallons of

fuel and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 8.3 million metric tons.Perhaps the biggest environmental break-through was the economic stimulus

package, which invested an unprecedented sum of federal funds in renewable

energy, efficiency, transmission and mass transit. The package includes

$62.2bn in direct spending on green initiatives and $20bn in green tax

incentives, including multi-billions for transmission, smart grid, energy

efficiency upgrades for federal buildings, efficiency grants for local

governments, low-income housing retrofits, rail transit and green jobs

training.Their next big green move came in the administration's first budget – which

affirmed their stated desire to see a cap-and-trade plan to curb

climate-warming emissions in place by 2012 and included major additional

investments in energy and transit. Their budget calls for $15bn annual

investments in energy and efficiency projects, and increased funding for

rail – on top of the $8bn for Amtrak in the stimulus – in order to create a

"world-class passenger rail system" across the country.Most ambitious, however, is the plan the budget outlines to reduce

greenhouse gas emissions, calling for cuts to 83% below 2005 levels by

2050. Though the Senate rejected the possibility of getting this approved

through the budget process, the Obama team's aggressiv