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By David G. Taylor July 15, 2011

10 percent renewable electricity achieved

During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama made his support of renewable energy known by setting the goal that the United States should derive 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2012. It was hoped that this policy would be a crucial step in weaning the United States off of foreign oil while simultaneously mitigating the effects of climate change.

So how goes the promise?

We spoke with the Christina Kielich of the U.S. Department of Energy press office. She told us that the United States receives approximately 11 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. This breaks down to about 6 percent from hydroelectricity, 3 percent from wind, and approximately 1% each from solar, biomass, and geothermal. Thus, in 2011 - one year head of Obama"s promise, the United States has already reached more than the 10 percent renewable level.

Yet, as Dave Hamilton, director of Global Warming and Energy Programs for the Sierra Club, pointed out in an e-mail interview, the Obama administration might not have had that far to go. Hamilton contends that, based on a report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) -- the statistical, independent body within the Department of Energy -- the U.S. was already receiving roughly 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2009. "It was the strong growth in both hydro and wind that brought it over 10 percent for 2009, so I'm not saying the promise was disingenuous. But somebody must have known they didn't have that far to go to make 10 percent with hydro left in the mix," said Hamilton. The EIA report that Hamilton cites specifies that the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act was primarily responsible for this growth of renewable energy-based electricity in 2009.

The Obama campaign picked rather low-hanging fruit when it came to this promise. After all, the increase to 10 percent may have happened anyway. Nevertheless, the Obama administration made a pledge and delivered. Thus, we rate this Promise Kept.

Our Sources

By Catharine Richert August 19, 2009

Climate bill moves on renewable energy goals

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama made big promises about expanding the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal.
Specifically, he wanted to require that, by 2012, 10 percent of electricity came from renewable fuels.
In his New Energy for America campaign plan, Obama pledged to "establish a 10 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 10 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2012."
He's making progress.
Buried in the cap-and-trade bill passed by the House on June 26, 2009, is a provision that would require some utility companies to produce at least 6 percent of their electricity from renewable resources and electricity savings by 2012. That's 4 percent less than Obama initially envisioned. And the bill indicates the administration has compromised by allowing energy savings to count toward that goal.
By 2020, the requirement would be 20 percent, according to a summary of the bill.

So far, it looks like Obama could be a few percentage points shy of his original goal, but the debate over the cap-and-trade bill is far from over; the Senate has yet to tackle climate change legislation, so the language could still change. For now we rate this one In the Works.

Our Sources

President Barack Obama, New Energy for America , accessed Aug. 18, 2009

House Energy and Commerce Committee summary of cap-and-trade bill, accessed Aug. 18, 2009


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