For every new president the preliminary measure of success is the infamous "First 100 Days."
But maybe this year it's time to set a new benchmark. Perhaps Barack Obama should be the first American president to be assessed against a "First 92 Days" measuring stick.
Day 92 is today, April 22, better known as Earth Day.
And this Earth Day, Americans will have plenty to celebrate. That's because Obama has, in 92 days, set the nation in a new direction when it comes to transitioning to a clean-energy economy, stopping global warming and protecting the environment.
Take Day 6, when Obama directed his new Environmental Protection Agency administrator to reconsider a contentious Bush administration decision preventing 14 states from reducing global-warming pollution from cars and light trucks. If Minnesota were to adopt the stronger standards, it could save 2.7 billion gallons of gasoline by 2020 and prevent 13 million metric tons of global-warming pollution by 2025.
Day 28 sure didn't fly under the radar. On this day, Obama signed into law the largest green funding initiative in American history: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With a stroke of the pen, the president allocated nearly $80 billion that will double America's renewable-energy production, improve energy efficiency and invest in green transportation, creating 1.5 million green jobs in the process and achieving his first major policy victory.
But Obama didn't stop there. On Day 37, he unveiled a budget that incorporates $646 billion in revenues from capping global warming and invests an additional $150 billion in renewable energy like wind and solar. His budget sets the stage for a new energy plan for America that addresses global warming and drives the transformation to a new clean-energy economy.
With less fanfare, on Day 59, Obama's EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson moved ahead with a finding that global-warming pollution poses a danger to public welfare. A final decision, expected as soon as this week, would allow the EPA to speed our transition to a clean-energy economy and regulate the worst global-warming polluters.
Day 63, too, may have slipped notice; the administration announced that it would reconsider the dubious practice of "mountaintop mining," a practice in which companies blow the tops off mountains and dump the debris into nearby waterways.
Then, on Day 69, the president signed the largest expansion of protected wilderness in 15 years. The Omnibus Public Land Management Act was result of a bipartisan coalition of politicians in both the U.S. Senate and House working to protect 2 million acres of American wilderness. This is an amazing victory for any American who's ever enjoyed a hike through California's towering sequoias, backpacked the craggy peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park or spent a night under the green canopy of the Virginia Ridge wilderness area.
So as Americans celebrate Earth Day, why wait for those last few days to evaluate Obama's progress? The first 92 look pretty good.
And yet, there is more work to do. The latest science makes clear that, to protect future generations from the worst effects of global warming, we must reduce pollution over the next 10 years faster than the president has proposed, cutting emissions by 35 percent below today's levels by 2020. Capping global-warming pollution to the extent needed and ensuring that polluters pay is the right move for our environment and our economy but will face roadblocks from Big Oil, other polluting interests and their allies in Congress.
As the slogan says, we should make "Earth Day Every Day." Here's hoping that Obama's next 1,368 days are as productive as his first 92.
Monique Sullivan is an advocate for Environment Minnesota.
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