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December 17, 2012

OPIC, Export Import Bank, and President Obama’s Climate Legacy

SmogWe often wonder what century the Export Import Bank chairman Fred Hochberg thinks he is operating in given all his climate destroying fossil fuel finance. In fact just last week, like a moth drawn to a flame, he found yet another controversial coal plant to consider.  But when it comes to firmly embracing 21st century realities, including the threat of climate change and the economic opportunity clean energy presents, we have no doubt about Ex Im's sister agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

OPIC reinforced its embrace of clean energy and the 21st century with a record $1 billion in clean energy finance for 2012. That is almost three times the amount of finance Ex Im Bank provided to clean energy and OPIC did it with a portfolio that is a fraction of the size. In addition to its record breaking clean energy finance, it is providing important leadership to other development finance institutions with its $20 million for off-grid clean energy access in Africa.

Ex Im Bank on the other hand is a very different story. Worse than the paltry clean energy finance is the fact that Ex Im Bank has proven that just like Exxon, it too hates your children. That's because while OPIC had a record breaking clean energy year, Ex Im was breaking records of its own in fossil fuel finance. So when it comes to President Obama's international clean energy strategy it is even more clear that it is a tale of two agencies: OPIC the clean energy champion and Ex Im Bank the fossil fuel train wreck.

As President Obama considers his climate legacy, it is clear that it will be defined in large part by his embrace of clean energy and rejection of fossil fuels. His administration and the leadership at OPIC have now set the bar high in the international arena. Ex-Im Bank, however, is actively undermining their achievements. It's time the President Obama considered a leadership change to help move this institution into the 21st century and reinforce his climate legacy.

-- Justin Guay, Sierra Club International

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