Sunday night’s Green Inaugural Ball was a big, swanky, Technicolor affair at the Newseum that included Vice President Joe Biden, a celebrity chef behind the food (Wolfgang Puck), and music by Will.i.am.
On Monday night, the smaller, lower-key Environmental and Clean Energy Inaugural Ball unfolded at Georgetown’s Sequoia restaurant.
But what it lacked in Will.i.am, the smaller of the two environmental balls made up for in yes-we-can.
President Obama’s green energy team all said, in essence, that Obama really, really meant it when he vowed to make climate a major focus in Monday’s inaugural speech.
“We need to make sure that we tackle climate change in these next four years and this president is going to do it,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, wearing his traditional ten-gallon hat and bolo tie, told the crowd Monday night.
“We are going to lift our game in the interlocking challenges of climate change and energy,” said John Holdren, who is Obama’s top science adviser.
“Energy and climate policy are going to be a top priority,” said Heather Zichal, the top White House energy and climate aide.
The event was hosted and sponsored by an array of renewable energy industry organizations, companies and advocates.
It was probably on the wonkier side of the inaugural ball spectrum.
A sample of the applause lines:
“On public lands alone, we have already permitted 10,400 megawatts of renewable energy power in the United States,” said Salazar, who is stepping down in March.
“We are going to achieve the President’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020,” Zichal told the crowd.
Other speakers included Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
Obama administration officials have touted several first-term policies like substantially toughening auto mileage standards, but the administration also faced setbacks on climate change and energy, including the collapse of emissions-capping legislation in Congress.
The president has yet to fill in the details of his second-term climate agenda.
Climate advocates are pushing for several executive actions. Among them: Environmental Protection Agency's establishment of carbon emissions standards for existing power plants.
“I think it is quite likely that we will see that,” Holdren, the science adviser, told The Hill.
Zichal, asked after her remarks when Obama would provide specifics on his second-term climate plans, declined to tip the White House’s hand.
“I am not going to get in front of my boss on this one,” Zichal told The Hill Monday night. “I think you will, in due time, see a really aggressive agenda on the energy and climate initiative in line with what the president talked about today.
“I think you will hear more detail about what [Obama] wants to do in the State of the Union [speech],” Salazar told reporters.