President Obama Made Great Progress on Clean Energy in His First Term

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Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was built on “hope and change.” Millions of Americans went to the polls hoping that the federal government would change its approach to many of the nation’s challenges after eight years of retreat, neglect, and inertia under President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. This was particularly true for concerns about providing greater public health protection from climate change and air pollution, while also increasing security of our energy supplies. The Bush administration gave scant attention to these challenges, and instead pursued policies designed by Big Oil and coal companies for their economic benefit—policies that ignored growing threats from climate change.

In December 2008, during President-elect Obama’s transition, the Center for American Progress proposed the “Top 10 Energy and Environment Priorities for the Obama Administration and 111th Congress.” This progressive agenda was designed to protect public health from carbon and mercury air pollution, reduce oil consumption, and simultaneously boost the economic recovery. Four years later the administration accomplished nearly all of these goals despite the worst economy in nearly 80 years and strong opposition from Big Oil, coal, and other energy interests. Unfortunately, the priorities that required congressional action did not occur, though some progress was still made in each of these areas.

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