It's a mark first noted during FDR's presidency, because the extraordinary pressures of the Great Depression demanded an unprecedented pace and intensity to the president's first hundred days.
For President Obama, the financial crisis -- however dire -- is not as bad as it would have been, had FDR not instituted the banking regulations and economic reforms he did during the Great Depression. Nonetheless, these past 100 days have been fast-paced and the president's actions have been dramatic.
Most striking for environmentalists is this: President Obama has not used the economic crisis as an excuse to go soft on environmental protection or renewable energy development. To the contrary, he has put environmental protection and an energy overhaul front and center in his economic recovery plans and all other plans.
The Daily Green managed, without too much effort or stretching, to come up with about 100 actions taken by the Obama administration in the first 100 days that argue persuasively for this being perhaps the greenest first 100 days of any U.S. president.
Here are the 10 that are most likely to affect average Americans directly:
1. Home Energy Tax Credits
President Obama's first legislative victory in Congress was a massive economic stimulus bill that makes unprecedented investments in the environment and renewable energy. For homeowners, the biggest and most direct reward came in the form of credits for home energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy investments like highly efficient windows and doors, insulation, solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems and the like. Homeowners can claim thousands of dollars in tax credits, and pay less on energy bills for years to come.
2. Vehicle Tax Credits
Want an excuse to drive a plug-in hybrid car? How about $7,500 for the first 200,000 buyers from each manufacturer? You can also get $2,500 for plug-in electric motorcycles and other low-speed or three-wheeled vehicles.
3. Home Weatherization Assistance
For many lower income homeowners, tax credits don't really create an incentive to invest in energy efficiency even though those improvements -- and the lowered energy bills that come with them -- would mean a lot to households struggling to make ends meet. President Obama's stimulus bill provided an unprecedented $8 billion for home weatherization and energy efficiency improvements for low income homeowners. That amounts to an average of $6,500 per home.
4. Michelle Obama's Organic Vegetable Garden
When Michelle Obama planted an organic vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House grounds, it instantly became a focal point (and even a target of the pesticide industry). It encourages Americans to try growing some of their own food, to save money, improve health and decrease our reliance on fossil fuel-derived fertilizers and toxic pesticides.
6. Declaring Greenhouse Gases Dangerous
In acknowledging the by-now obvious -- greenhouse gas pollution causes global warming, and our environment, health and well-being is threatened by global warming -- Obama's Environmental Protection Agency set the stage for the first national carbon regulations on cars and power plants. Whether that regulation comes from the EPA, Congress or both remains to be seen, but for the first time the price of fouling the climate will be factored into the cost of doing business, and ultimately that the U.S. will confront the threat of global warming. Though the costs of higher energy or other regulation may be a short-term burden, Obama and many economists believe that the cost of doing nothing will prove far costlier.
7-10. Reducing Toxic Pollution
The Obama Administration reversed several Bush Administration policies, or stopped stalling on other measures, that will ultimately reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.
The EPA reinstated strict laws on reporting toxic chemical releases, which give you more information about the types of toxic chemicals being released into the air and water near your home.
The EPA announced plans to slash mercury emissions from cement kilns, a major source of toxic mercury air pollution, which rains down and contaminates lakes, the fish who swim there and the people who eat those fish. For years, regulation of cement kilns had remained off the table.
The EPA began a long-delayed process of testing pesticides for their potential to disrupt the human endocrine system. Pesticides, alone or in combination, could be linked to diabetes, developmental and learning problems, birth defects and other serious health issues, but for years the way these chemicals mimic hormones has not been thoroughly studied by the federal government, leaving potentially dangerous chemicals in wide use.
The EPA also instituted a new plan for screening combinations of chemicals, recognizing that people are never exposed to just one chemical alone, but typically small doses of multiple chemicals in combination. The new method will also pay particular attention to the way small children are affected disproportionately by toxic chemical exposure.
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