The Obameter

Set a standard for utility companies that 80 percent of the nation's electricity comes from clean sources by 2035

"Setting a standard for utility companies to that 80 percent of the nation's electricity comes from clean sources by 2035"


"A Plan for Jobs and Middle-Class Security"

Subjects: Energy, Environment, Second Term Promise


Congressional inaction makes new standards unlikely

Updated: Friday, August 2nd, 2013 | By Julie Kliegman

Obama set a high standard when said he would set standards requiring electric companies to obtain 80 percent of their energy for clean sources by 2035. Our first question: what did he mean by "clean energy”?

Obama's definition includes wind, solar, nuclear, natural gas and clean coal, which is a broad interpretation. The president's role here is to get a legislative standard that utility companies will follow.

Getting clean energy legislation passed is no easy task. Former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M, proposed the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 in March of that year, but it never made it out of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee. That was the last new piece of legislation relevant to Obama's promise.

Right now, there's nothing new coming down the pipeline, either, said David Konisky, an environmental politics professor at Georgetown University. He said the chances of legislation moving in Congress are "obviously low given the energy policy preferences of Republicans in the House.”

Many states have individual renewable energy standards, but none as aggressive as 80 percent, Victor said. He added that these policies have nothing to do with Obama policy and long predate his terms.

On the national level, Obama's nomination of Ron Binz to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission could be a step towards setting broader electricity requirements. In Colorado, Binz oversaw a shift to renewable energy.

But FERC alone could not implement a new standard, said David Victor, a University of California, San Diego political science professor and environmental policy expert. Also, Binz hasn't yet been confirmed and may face opposition.

Overall, there's nothing happening on the congressional front to create a clean energy standard for electricity. We'll keep our eye on this through the end of Obama's term, but since no legislation is moving, or even being introduced, for now we rate this promise Stalled.


Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, "Summary Maps,” accessed August 2, 2013

Email interview with Georgetown University environmental politics David Konisky, July 31, 2013

Email interview with University of California, San Diego political science professor David Victor, August 1, 2013

Obama For America, "A Plan for Jobs and Middle-Class Security,” October 23, 2012

Politico, "Conservatives ID Next Confirmation Fight: FERC,” August 1, 2013

U.S. Energy Information Administration, "AEO2013 Early Release Overview,” December 5, 2012

White House, "FACT SHEET: The State of the Union: President Obama"s Plan to Win the Future,” January 25, 2011

White House,  "President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts,” June 27, 2013

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