Climate nabs spotlight at Green Ball

Source: Whitney Blair Wyckoff, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vice President Joe Biden last night urged environmentalists to “keep the faith” on climate issues as he made a surprise appearance at the Green Inaugural Ball.

President Obama is committed to tackling the issue during his second term, Biden said to roaring applause at the event, hosted by the National Wildlife Federation at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I got involved in politics for two reasons — only two — at the front end of my career: civil rights and the environment,” Biden told the crowd of activists, lawmakers and federal officials. “And I don’t intend on running this four years without getting a whole hell of a lot more done.”

The Green Ball aimed to bring together the environmental, conservation and clean technology communities to mark the start of Obama’s second term. Climate change in particular was on the minds of many senior advocates.

“Climate, climate, climate. That’s what we’re about,” Sierra Club Director Jim Dougherty said while munching on hors d’oeuvres in one of the VIP rooms on the Newseum’s seventh floor. “We see that as the single greatest threat to the ecosystem.”

He added: “The president has talked about it a lot, but we haven’t seen a lot of movement in the first term. So we see this as a chance to really make some progress.”

In the next room, Sue Brown with the National Wildlife Federation expressed a similar hope.

“My green wish would be to get some comprehensive climate legislation and promote green energy, clean energy,” she said. “I have some young nieces, and I would like them to inherit a better planet. So that’s pretty important to me.”

High-profile Obama administration officials and lawmakers — Energy Secretary Steven Chu, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, soon-to-be acting EPA chief Bob Perciasepe, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) — as well as Bill Nye the science guy were also in attendance last night.

“Stop funding nuclear power. Put more money into the development of alternative energy. Has to happen,” Kucinich said after walking down the so-called green carpet made of 100 percent recycled materials.

Later in the evening, Chu said Obama would reveal more of the administration’s environment and energy goals in the days ahead. “It’s a very robust agenda,” he said.

About 3,700 people attended the event, according to the event’s organizers. It was a mix of glitz and granola — with a few onlookers hoping to catch a glimpse of D.C. celebrities. Men wore both tuxedos and suits, and at least one wore black jeans and cowboy boots. Women were festooned in everything from black cocktail dresses to enormous studded tulle ballgowns. A few wore fur.

Tickets for the Green Ball went for $400, and VIP tickets were a staggering $1,950. However, savvy green groupies could snag lower-priced tickets for $250 and $1,300, respectively, on Groupon.

The evening featured performances by and jazz player Trombone Shorty. But on Twitter, many attendees pointed to the surprise appearance of Biden as a highlight.

During the short time he was there, Biden emphasized that the 2009 stimulus law ushered in the “single largest commitment to renewable energy in the history of America.” But the 2010 elections in Congress stymied the administration’s goals. “We’re going back at it,” he said.