From the Wonk Room.
In a speech at the Department of Energy today, President Obama announced he was signing a memorandum to direct the department to issue new energy efficiency standards for common household appliances -- something Secretary Steven Chu has highlighted in the past as a top priority. He also responded to critics who "ridiculed our notion that we should use part of the money to modernize the entire fleet of federal vehicles," asking, "Are these folks serious?"
This is what they call "pork." You know the truth. . . . So when you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself, "Are these folks serious?" Is there any wonder we haven't had a real energy policy in this country?
Neo-Hooverite conservatives have attacked numerous efficiency initiatives in the recovery plan:
-- $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees
-- $200 million in funding for the lease of alternative energy vehicles for use on military installations
-- $5.5 million for "energy efficiency initiatives" at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration
-- $6 billion to turn federal buildings into "green" buildings
As President Obama explained, federal fleet modernization "will not only save the federal government significant money over time, it will not only create manufacturing jobs for folks who are making these cars, it will set a standard for private industry to match." This is as true for the green building efforts and other efficiency initiatives. Speaking to an audience of Department of Energy scientists, he concluded:
For the last few years, I talked about these issues with Americans from one end of this country to another. Washington may not be ready to get serious about energy independence, but I am and so are you and so are the American people.
Inaction is not an option that's acceptable to me and it's certainly not acceptable to the American people, not on energy, not on the economy, not at this critical moment.
In Obama's words, it's time for Congress "to rise to this moment."