President Obama Orders Federal Agencies to Trim Greenhouse Gases

October 7, 2009

Aerial photo of a desert landscape covered with lines of solar panels that break the landscape up into about a dozen polygons.

The federal government's commitment to sustainability is demonstrated at Nellis Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, Nevada, where a 14-megawatt solar power facility forms a patchwork pattern on the landscape. Enlarge this photo.
Credit: Master Sgt. Robert Valenca, U.S. Air Force

President Obama signed an executive order on October 5 that sets sustainability goals for federal agencies and focuses on making improvements in their environmental, energy, and economic performance. The Executive Order requires federal agencies to set a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2020 within 90 days. It also requires federal agencies to increase their energy efficiency, reduce the petroleum consumption of their fleets, conserve water, reduce waste, support sustainable communities, and leverage their federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies. The new Executive Order makes reducing greenhouse gas emissions a priority for the federal government, which occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services.

In his order, President Obama requires agencies to meet a number of energy, water, and waste reduction targets, including reducing their vehicle fleet petroleum use by 30% by 2020; beginning in 2020, designing all new federal buildings to achieve net-zero energy use by 2030; improving their water efficiency by 26% by 2020; minimizing their buildings' impacts on storm water runoff; recycling or diverting 50% of their waste by 2015; and meeting sustainability requirements in 95% of all applicable contracts. Within 180 days of the order, the federal government will also develop guidance for locating federal buildings in a manner consistent with sustainable development. Some recent examples of federal environmental stewardship include the planned construction of a 600-kilowatt wind turbine at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and the planned installation of an 8-megawatt solar photovoltaic system at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, Colorado. See the White House press release and the Executive Order (PDF 87 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

The Executive Order follows the president's proclamation of October as National Energy Awareness Month. The president called on the people of the United States to mark the month by making clean energy choices that can both rebuild our economy and make it more sustainable. Noting that the federal government is the largest consumer of energy in the United States, the proclamation noted that the Obama Administration is committed to lead by example in the use of clean energy and energy efficiency. The proclamation also notes that we face a turning point in our nation's energy policy, and that we can either allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc, or we can create jobs deploying low-carbon technologies to prevent its worst effects. See the president's proclamation.