Will Obama bring about smooth sailing?

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In today’s historic inauguration, president-elect Barack Obama shed the latter half of his title and became our nation’s 44th president. He enters office during an uncertain time both domestically and globally, as economies fizzle and international tensions swell. Citizens from Kenya to Calcutta will watch with anticipation as Obama’s presidency unfolds with a hefty agenda. No matter what their occupation, they hope this new leader will address their personal agenda, and sailors are no different.

Former president George W. Bush laid a strong foundation for ocean conservation last month when he created the largest protected marine area in history. Though Obama has yet to address recreational boaters directly, his policies are also sure to affect all breeds of sailors. His economic policies coupled with the value he places on science and recreation will affect not only our nation, but our sport as well. Here’s what sailors can expect from our 44th president:

A Stronger Economy

His biggest undertaking could be sailing’s biggest catalyst. As people regain financial confidence, as Obama anticipates they will, sailors will again be able to put their money into recreation. Simultaneously, an improvement in the middle class could only mean good things for the boating industry where, according to the NMMA, the average boater makes $100,000 a year. Boatbuilding itself is a largely domestic industry so more water sports could help to stimulate our economy.

More renewable energy

Obama’s economic stimulus package called for a doubling of alternative energy. On board, this could mean improved propulsion and battery systems. At sea, it could mean more wind farms and more offshore oil rigs, energy sources Obama said he’d be willing to include in a “broader package of energy measures.”

Stricter Fuel Standards

An avid watersportsman from ocean-locked Hawaii, Obama is an advocate of lowering green house emissions to promote healthier seas. He hopes to increase fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon in the next ten years. Cleaning up our emissions is always a good thing, but the NMMA is lobbying Congress to ensure the new standards don’t inconvenience the 300 million Americans who tow their recreational vehicles.

More Research

The president promised to support government-sponsored research to “reverse the damage being done to oceans and coastal areas.” In a 2008 science-based debate, Obama promised to fight for cleaner oceans and coastal areas because he believes they are “American treasures.”

His presidency has hardly begun and already Obama has an ocean of exciting challenges before him. We’ll see how his course pans out.

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