Muckraker: Grist on Politics

In his third press conference in as many days, Barack Obama today signaled once again that environment and energy issues will be at the heart of his administration’s efforts to fix the ailing economy.

The president-elect said he will appoint an “Economic Recovery Council” to focus on reversing the current economic trends. The council, which he said will be based on the model on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board created by President Eisenhower, will be chaired by Paul Volcker, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman who has been outspoken on the need to address climate change.

During his tenure at the Fed (1979-87), Volcker guided monetary policy to end the worst recession (up until then, at least) since the Depression. Since leaving the Fed, he has taught international economic policy at Princeton University and was the chairman of the board of trustees of the International Accounting Standards Committee. He also headed the Independent Inquiry Committee for the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program and served as chairman of the Group of Thirty.

Volcker has been vocal about the need to address climate change, and has spoken out against the idea that doing so will hurt the economy. In an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt last year, Volcker said that if America fails to address climate change, “you can be sure that the economy will go down the drain in the next 30 years.”

“What may happen to the dollar, and what may happen to growth in China or whatever pale into insignificance compared with the question of what happens to this planet over the next 30 or 40 years if no action is taken,” he continued. “The scientists seem pretty well agreed that [global warming] is still potentially manageable if we act decisively, beginning now into the next decade or so, by taking measures that are technically and economically feasible.”

On a side note, Volcker is an avid conservationist and Atlantic Salmon angler, who was honored last month by the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Said ASF president Bill Taylor:

Mr. Volcker is a leader in striving for economic values that sustain a healthy environment. In 2003, as Chairman of the National Commission on the Public Service, he strongly supported integrating the resources of the 29 agencies devoted to clean air, water and waste programs. He believes that the U.S. economy could successfully contribute to curbing global warming, and that the costs pale into insignificance compared to the question of what will happen to this planet over the next 30 or 40 years if no action is taken.

 

In his remarks today, Obama also said that Austan Goolsbee, an economic adviser to his campaign, will serve as the staff director and chief economist of the new economic advisory council and will be a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.