The 7th edition of the Environmental and Clean Energy Inaugural Ball was – pardon the pun – energized by President Obama's inaugural speech earlier on Monday, in which he emphasized the need to address climate change and achieve a sustainable energy economy. In front of a crowd of well-wishers who braved the crisp air and numbered between 800,000 and 1 million, he pledged, "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise."
Later that evening, one could feel those words infusing the Ball with a sense of great expectations. The speakers sensed the mood, and they all expanded enthusiastically on the President's statement. After a presentation of the flag conducted with panache by the Young Marines Color Guard, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, wearing his trademark cowboy hat and bolo tie, set the stage when he said, "We need to make sure that we tackle climate change in these next four years and this president is going to do it." John Holdren, President Obama's Science Advisor, promised, “We are going to lift our game in the interlocking challenges of climate change and energy.”
Not to be outdone, Heather Zichal, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Climate Change, asserted that "energy and climate policy are going to be a top priority. [...] We are going to achieve the President’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020."
Chiming in as well were Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Deputy EPA Administrator Robert Perciasepe, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff and U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA).
First held in 1989, at the election of George H. W. Bush, the Ball is nonpartisan, bringing together the environmental and clean energy communities to welcome a new Administration and ensure that their message gets the visibility it deserves. EESI's Executive Director, Carol Werner, has been part of the Organizing Committee for all seven Inaugural Balls.