Obama to seek 40 percent cut in federal greenhouse gases

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President Obama signed an executive order Thursday to cut the federal government’s greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent over the next decade.

The effort will save taxpayers as much as $18 billion due to energy savings, the White House said.

“Today, America is going to be once again leading by example,” Obama said in brief remarks Thursday during a Department of Energy roundtable event with leaders from the federal contractors and suppliers.

“These are ambitious goals, but we know that they’re achievable goals,” he continued.

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Obama will also push federal agencies to get 30 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind and solar energy. Several major federal contractors and suppliers are announcing emissions reduction goals of their own.

“Since the federal government is the single largest consumer of energy in the nation, federal emissions reductions and progress across the supply chain will have broad impacts,” the White House said in a fact sheet.

Brian Deese, a top adviser to Obama, said the executive order shows that the administration is “on offense” on climate even as congressional Republicans attack some of the president’s landmark environmental efforts.

Months ahead of a planned United Nations agreement to cut emissions globally, the federal efforts should show world leaders and other nations that the United States is serious about cutting emissions, Deese said.

“Certainly our hope is that we are laying forth a template that other countries could also learn from and look at as well,” he told reporters.

Taken together, the actions will be the equivalent of taking 5.5 million average cars off the road for a year, saving 26 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in carbon dioxide-equivalent terms, according to the administration. The reduction goal is based on a 2008 starting point.

As the top energy consumer in the nation, the federal government’s actions can make a huge dent. They can also represent a major part of Obama’s goal of reducing the United States’s total greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels.

“With a footprint that includes 360,000 buildings, 650,000 fleet vehicles and $445 billion spent annually on goods and services, the federal government’s actions to reduce pollution, support renewable energy and operate more efficiently can make a significant impact on national emissions,” the White House said.

Some of the specific measures in the executive order will include goals over the next decade of getting 25 percent of the government’s electric and thermal energy from clean sources, reducing federal buildings’ energy use 2.5 percent over the next decade and slashing federal vehicle emissions by 30 percent.

Thursday’s announcement moves the goalposts from a 2010 order Obama signed on federal agencies’ emissions. That mandated a 28 percent cut from the same 2008 starting point, and the government has already reduced greenhouse gases 17.2 percent since then.

Obama will participate in a roundtable discussion later Thursday at the Energy Department where major federal contractors such as IBM and Northrup Grumman will announce their own emissions goals.

—This story was updated at 10:38 a.m.