Energy & Environment

New White House office to develop climate change policies

A worker cleans a fountain on the North Lawn of the White House on Friday, November 19, 2021.
Greg Nash

The White House is set to create a new division of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) that will develop federal climate change policy.

The Biden administration will appoint Sally Benson, a professor of energy engineering at Stanford University, to head the newly created division, according to The Washington Post, which was the first to report the news. The Hill has confirmed the creation of the division.

In an announcement Wednesday, the White House said the OSTP Energy Division will be focused on planning the transition to renewable energy and ensuring the U.S. meets its target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The OSTP has also appointed Costa Samaras, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, to serve as Principal Assistant Director for Energy and Chief Advisor for Energy Policy at OSTP.

In her role as deputy director for energy and chief strategist for the energy transition, Benson will work closely with other officials such as White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy and OSTP Deputy Director for Climate and Environment Jane Lubchenco.

“We have a 120-year-old energy system that was built over a long time period, and we’re talking about very quickly changing that to a new system,” Benson told the Post. “And this is a huge opportunity for American industry, for American workers, to lead.”

“Science and technology have done things once thought impossible: making solar energy the cheapest energy and dramatically lowering the cost of wind power and batteries,” OSTP Director Eric Lander said in a statement. “Now we need to do the same with smart grid technologies, clean hydrogen, fusion power, and more — to make carbon-neutral energy the cheapest energy, so it’s always the easy choice — by driving the virtuous cycle of invention and deployment that brings down costs.”

The news comes weeks after the end of the COP26 international climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, where U.S. officials emphasized what they said was a return to climate leadership by the United States, even as other major emitters like Russia, China and India announced significantly less ambitious commitments.

It also comes during a surge in gas prices that yesterday prompted the administration to announce that it will release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

— Updated at 3:10 p.m.

Tags Eric Lander Gina McCarthy

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