On Scene with Bill Wilson

 With the fiscal cliff averted and his second inauguration coming up President Obama now faces the question of what his Cabinet will look like during his second term. We already know his choice for replacement of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is Senator John Kerry.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a Commonwealth Club appearance in San Francisco.

With little or no opposition Senator Kerry is expected to sail through Senate confirmation. I think that we can be confident that the strides GLBT people have made in the State Department will remain intact under Senator Kerry’s leadership.

Senator John Kerry at a campaign stop in 2004.

I know that some people might think my example of the US Embassy in Rome having a part in getting Lady Gaga to appear at EURO Pride in Rome in 2011 might seem trivial, but I think it symbolizes the fact that GLBT people now see the American Embassy as a resource for change. There are many countries the world over where it is still illegal to be gay and knowing that the American Embassy understands their plight provides hope.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was CIA Director when he spoke at the Commonwealth Club.

As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has overseen the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy that had prevented openly gay or lesbian people from serving in the military. President Obama choice for his replacement is Senator Chuck Hagel. Even though Senator Hagel has apologized for his “insensitive” remarks regarding James Hormel serving as ambassador, his record raises concerns about further implementation of the repeal under his tenure. This will be an issue if the Supreme Court were to rule the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA) was unconstitutional. DOMA is federal law that prevents gay and lesbian couples married in states were it is legal from getting the same federal benefits as a married heterosexual couple get.
Another cabinet level officer who has announced she is leaving is Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Lisa Jackson. One of the legacies of her tenure at EPA is the increased fuel efficiency standards – pushing the industry to do what is right for the environment. One of her stops on a tour of the Bay Area in February of 2012 was a visit to Mission Motors in San Francisco. The original goal of Mission Motors was to build an electric motorcycle that would break the world’s land speed record. Unfortunately the economic downturn took the bottom out of the luxury motorcycle market. No one was interested in their finished product, but they were coming to them with requests for more efficient lightweight electric motors and other technology. They realized that they didn’t have to produce a final product, but rather their motors could be used in making more fuel efficient vehicles of any kind. After Jackson’s visit to Mission Motors one of the company officers turned to me and said, “The untold story of the mandates is that without them we wouldn’t be in business.”

EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, during a visit to Mission Motors in San Francisco on February 2, 2012.

That statement was reinforced a week later at a press conference announcing that the San Francisco taxi fleet was the greenest in the country. When regulations were enacted in 2008 that sought to reduce carbon emissions there was no industry leader in favor of them. No one saw the benefits of using alternative fuel vehicles and they wouldn’t be using them without the Board of Supervisors mandating the goal of reducing emissions by 20% of 1990 levels. They acknowledged how wrong they had been at a February 8, 2012 press conference where it was announced they had actually reduced the emissions by 49%. In 1990, the average San Francisco taxi emitted 59 tons of GHG emissions per year, and today the average taxi in the City emits 30 tons, a 49 percent reduction. That reduction was achieved because 92% of the taxi fleet is hybrid or CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) vehicles. It would be 100% but there is not a good alternative fuel wheelchair accessible van on the market. The reason the alternative fuel taxis are so popular is the economic benefit to the drivers, who fill them up at half the cost and the owners who spend less time and money on brake repairs.

 Board of Supervisor President David Chiu is reflected in the window of a cab as he affixes a “Clean Air Vehicle” sticker.

“When I announced this goal, many people didn’t think it could be done,” said Lieutenant Governor Newsom. “The clean taxi program has shown that aggressive action is possible at the local level to make major reductions in carbon emissions, reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and accelerate a new green economy”
In the next four years the EPA administrator, whoever it is, will be subjected to a lot of rhetoric regarding the economic impact of environmental policies. I hope they will have the courage to continue to tell the entire story as Lisa Jackson did on her stop at Mission Motors.

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