Rocky Mountain Institute on the Obama climate plan

The Rocky Mountain Institute, a non-profit organization co-founded by Amory Lovins in 1982, has a sterling reputation for its future energy visions and for its political independence. RMI and Lovins have been consulted by just about every energy company, utility, and government across North America and, to some extent, around the world. While GallonDaily has no knowledge of any particular relationship between RMI and the Obama administration, we suspect that RMI is as knowledgeable as any organization in North America regarding the directions that the Obama team might follow to implement the President’s new commitment to action on climate change. This knowledge becomes important to Canadians given our government’s commitment to follow in America’s footsteps on climate change, though we have little confidence that such a commitment will be kept when the time comes.

Recently an analyst at RMI wrote on the climate options available to President Obama, given that Congressional action on climate legislation is as unlikely as ever for the next four years. Devi Glick, the RMI analyst, does not shy away from reality when she states “Limiting carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation, industrial, buildings, and electricity sectors is critical. . . . But past lessons point out what is clear: it will not be easy process.”

Glick suggests that steps that might be taken by the US administration include:

  • limiting carbon emissions from existing power plants using a business-led approach and existing authority under the Clean Air Act. Under the proposal, the EPA would set state-by-state carbon emissions reductions standards based on the carbon intensity of each state’s current electricity generation portfolio. Instead of regulating plant-by-plant, both states and utilities that own multiple carbon-emitting power plants could aggregate electricity generation facilities into a fleet when calculating compliance. (This proposal originated with the Natural Resources Defense Council.)
  • establishing more efficient building codes and increasing standards for appliances.
  • driving down the installed cost of solar photovoltaics.
  • developing innovative financing options for energy efficiency projects that reduce risk, upfront capital investment requirements, and hassle for the customers and financiers. Examples include on-bill financing, solar leasing, repayment via property taxes, and community-financed solar projects.

RMI may have put the kibosh on Canadian government support for its proposals when it states that, for the US, its vision is a 158 percent bigger economy by 2050, at a cost savings of $5 trillion compared to business-as-usual, all while weaning the US completely off oil, coal, and significantly reducing natural gas. Nevertheless, many of its proposals are likely to form part of any climate change mitigation program implement by governments in the North American sub-continent.

There are many more details on possibilities for the Obama climate change initiative on the RMI blog at

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