William Becker, 75, is an American living in the heartland of the United States. He is a journalist, author and former senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy, where he specialized in renewable energy technologies.
He is the founder and executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project, which has developed recommendations since 2007 for U.S. presidents and presidential candidates on how to confront global climate change and lead America’s transition to clean energy. He has consulted with international leaders on these topics as a member of Mikhail Gorbachev’s International Climate Change Task Force.
Becker began his journalism career as a 19-year-old combat correspondent for the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. After leaving the military, he wrote for the Associated Press, then became editor and publisher of his own weekly newspaper in a rural Wisconsin village.
The village, Soldiers Grove, was flooded frequently. The federal government offered to build a levee, but Becker proposed instead that the community move to higher ground. Soldiers Grove left its riverside location in the early 1980s and rebuilt on higher ground as America’s first solar town. After a historic flood in the Mississippi River Valley in 1994, other villages asked Becker to help them plan similar relocations. His avocational interest ever since has been to help communities around the United States use ecosystem services and nonstructural measures to avoid floods and other weather disasters, and to help disaster victims rebuild sustainably.
During his eclectic career, Becker has served as the editorial writer for a daily newspaper, executive assistant to the Attorney General of Wisconsin, Counselor to the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy (DOE), and director of DOE’s Midwest Region. After leaving the government, he organized several national conferences on sustainable development, where he met and began working with national and international thought leaders to develop public policies on climate change.
He is the author of The Indefensible Society, The 100-Day Action Plan to Save the Planet, and The Creeks Will Rise, a book about national flood policy in the United States, recently published by the Chicago Review Press. He is co-editor and a contributor to Democracy Unchained, a collection of essays by 38 distinguished authors on rebuilding America’s democracy.