Video: Robert Redford tells President Obama it’s time to lead “America on a path to cleaner, safer energy”

UPDATE: The video of Redford on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann is at the end.

Robert Redford calls on the President to get off his butt and start leading America away from dirty fossil fuels toward a clean energy future — in a video and blog post:

Okay, the “get off his butt” part was my interpretation of the video and this blog post:

Mr. President: Now is the Time For Clean Energy

Thursday, May 20, 2010, marks one month since BP’s oil rig exploded off the Gulf Coast, killing 11 people and unleashing one of the worst environmental disasters our nation has ever seen.

Since then, millions of gallons of oil have gushed into the ocean, poisoning marine life and threatening hundreds of miles of coastal waters, beaches and estuaries from the mouth of the Mississippi to the Florida Keys.

This is the clearest picture we could have of our failed national energy policy, which extends over many decades and administrations. Yet, shockingly, our elected officials in the Senate continue to drag their feet on enacting the policies that would bring the real change we need to shift our country from dirty to clean energy sources, while creating jobs and cutting our dependence on oil.

This oil disaster is threatening marine life and habitat in a region that accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. production of shrimp and oysters, as well as millions of pounds each year of red snapper, grouper, bluefin tuna, and other fish. Fishing has been shut down from the Mississippi River to the Florida Panhandle — an area of 46,000 square miles, or roughly the size of the state of Pennsylvania. These closures are devastating to thousands of Gulf Coast families who depend on this bounty for their livelihood. Many of these people are still reeling from the trauma of Hurricane Katrina five years ago.

I am glad that President Obama announced that he would appoint an independent commission to look at the causes of the blowout and determine what we must do to prevent this from ever happening again. This is an important first step in addressing the national tragedy and coming up with real solutions to prevent future drilling disasters.

But it is not enough.

Right now, the Senate has legislation on the table that would help move us in a new direction and put America back in control of its energy future. The American Power Act, drafted by Senators Kerry and Lieberman, is not perfect — but it is a significant step toward cutting our dependence on fossil fuels, limiting carbon pollution, and encouraging businesses to shift to clean energy sources.

Unfortunately, the full Senate continues to stall — weighed down by too much infighting and too many special interests. That’s why we need the president to assert his voice and leadership by letting the Senate — and the American people — know that he is serious about getting clean energy and climate legislation passed this year.

Americans want action. It is time for President Obama to use the power of his office to make sure we clean up this mess, and get America on a path to cleaner, safer energy.

In order to help get this message out, I’ve just recorded a new hard-hitting television commercial, produced by my colleagues at the Natural Resources Defense Council, calling on President Obama to lead us to a clean energy future.

In making this plea for leadership, Redford joins many others begging him for leadership, including CP:

NYT columnist Tom Friedman has another column on the subject:

No, the gulf oil spill is not Obama’s Katrina. It’s his 9/11 “” and it is disappointing to see him making the same mistake George W. Bush made with his 9/11. Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those rare seismic events that create the possibility to energize the country to do something really important and lasting that is too hard to do in normal times.

Sadly, President Obama seems intent on squandering his environmental 9/11 with a Bush-level failure of imagination. So far, the Obama policy is: “Think small and carry a big stick.” He is rightly hammering the oil company executives. But he is offering no big strategy to end our oil addiction. Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have unveiled their new energy bill, which the president has endorsed but only in a very tepid way. Why tepid? Because Kerry-Lieberman embraces vitally important fees on carbon emissions that the White House is afraid will be exploited by Republicans in the midterm elections. The G.O.P., they fear, will scream carbon “tax” at every Democrat who would support this bill, and Obama, having already asked Democrats to make a hard vote on health care, feels he can’t ask them for another.

I don’t buy it. In the wake of this historic oil spill, the right policy “” a bill to help end our addiction to oil “” is also the right politics. The people are ahead of their politicians. So is the U.S. military. There are many conservatives who would embrace a carbon tax or gasoline tax if it was offset by a cut in payroll taxes or corporate taxes, so we could foster new jobs and clean air at the same time. If Republicans label Democrats “gas taxers” then Democrats should label them “Conservatives for OPEC” or “Friends of BP.” Shill, baby, shill.

Why is Obama playing defense? Just how much oil has to spill into the gulf, how much wildlife has to die, how many radical mosques need to be built with our gasoline purchases to produce more Times Square bombers, before it becomes politically “safe” for the president to say he is going to end our oil addiction? Indeed, where is “The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act”? Why does everything have to emerge from the House and Senate? What does he want? What is his vision? What are his redlines? I don’t know. But I do know that without a fixed, long-term price on carbon, none of the president’s important investments in clean power research and development will ever scale.

Obama has assembled a great team that could help him make his case “” John Holdren, science adviser; Carol Browner, energy adviser; Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winner; and Lisa Jackson, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. But they have been badly underutilized by the White House. I know endangered species that are seen by the public more often than them….

We know the problem, and Americans are ready to be enlisted for a solution. Of course we can’t eliminate oil exploration or dependence overnight, but can we finally start? Mr. President, your advisers are wrong: Americans are craving your leadership on this issue. Are you going to channel their good will into something that strengthens our country “” “The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act” “” or are you going squander your 9/11, too?

When you are criticized by both Robert Redford and Tom Friedman for failure to lead on the same issue, you are definitely screwing up.

Here is Redford on Countdown:

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28 Responses to Video: Robert Redford tells President Obama it’s time to lead “America on a path to cleaner, safer energy”

  1. mark says:

    wow, great column!

    Here in Manitoba, temperatures are far above normal spring arrived very early, all conforming to the expected and predicted.

    For what it’s worth, I saw this today:

    “In Azerbaijan, heavy rains forced the Kura River out of its banks, and it broke through protective dams in a number of regions. Flooded zones formed in the territory of 40 districts, about 20,000 houses were covered with water, over 300 houses collapsed and 2000 more are in emergency condition. Besides, water flooded 50,000 hectares of arable land and pastures.

    The floods forced to start evacuation of nine villages of the Sabirabad District. Here, water flooded gasoline and gas fuelling stations and tubs with fuel; the bridge over the Baku-Goradiz railroad line was under threat of collapsing.

    According to local authorities,


  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    Bravo! Now where are the other artists, entertainers, and bold souls who also deeply care? It’s time to speak up, now more than ever.

    “Pick up the cry!”


  3. mike roddy says:

    Good job, Friedman and Redford, and you too, Joe.

    I’m beginning to think that Barack Obama does not know how to lead, and lacks the temperament for it besides. The challenge and opportunity of a lifetime has been handed to him, and he’s looking over his shoulder, or trying to split the difference.

    Maybe that worked in the Illinois legislature and the Senate, but there’s a reason that so few Senators have been elected president. Americans sense that at key moments the person we entrusted our country with has to be prepared to go ahead and piss some people off, especially the entrenched and powerful ones.

  4. Michael Tucker says:

    How easy will it be for the do-nothing anti-science Republicians to block this bill? I fear it will not even get to the floor of the Senate for debate.

    I’m not saying that we should not try. President Obama needs to be out front on this but…it is just too easy to filibuster.

  5. Peter Bellin says:

    We need to continue to put pressure, as scientists and as citizens, on the President and our congressional delegations to take this issue seriously. I have no idea if the President sees messages posted on the White House web page, but I feel occasional comments there may have a 1 in a 1000 (or maybe 10,000) chance of being seen.

    It is exhausting to see the denialists spread doubt and misinformation, so we need to be as tireless in response.

    Below is the text of my posting on the White House web page.

    I am writing to urge you to take a leadership position climate change response. I know that you have made speeches, and asserted your intention to develop a serious national response, but I do not think you are taking this issue seriously enough.

    The ecological disaster caused by BP offers an opportunity to define the need to change quickly to an economy based on renewable energy, maximize energy efficiency and take any other measures needed to prevent the slow motion, yet immensely more catastrophic, disaster of climate change.

    The American people look to you for leadership in this area. Do not consider politics in measuring your actions in this area; consider the legacy of your Presidency if you start America on the road that will avert the worst damage from climate change

  6. robhon says:

    This is a delicate dance politically. If Obama comes out and makes grand sweeping statements on this issue right now it’s probably going to do more long term harm than good. Gotta get through the mid-terms without losing Congress first.

    If you want to do something important for climate change, make sure ALL your friends go out and vote in November. The achilles heel of the left is general apathy toward what are extremely important issues at play. The president has to govern the nation. It’s up to the rest of us to galvanize the party against oil, coal and anti-science interests.

  7. Mark Shapiro says:

    Urge Obama to act, and remember your congressman and both senators as well. Contacting your local paper helps, too.

    Obama knows what needs to be done. We need to exert pressure across the board and *make* him do it.

  8. Wit's End says:

    In the drama of the oil gushing into the Gulf, with its attendant release of methane, and the link to CO2 emissions from burning oil, we should not forget the “other” greenhouse gases from volatile organic compounds that form toxic ozone when exposed to UV radiation. The solution (if it’s not too late for a solution) must include only truly clean energy – wind, solar, geothermal, and other technologies that may be developed.

    Until biofuels from ethanol or other sources are evaluated for their impacts on human and vegetative health, they have no place in energy policy. It’s quite likely that acetaldehyde forming peroxyacetyl nitrates is far more damaging in terms of cancer, emphysema, asthma…and forest decline and crop failure…than the mundane ozone from gasoline and coal we have been exposed to for decades.

  9. baboon says:

    Why is John Hamaker wrong ????

  10. Hisnamewas says:

    Well looks like the heavy crude has hit the mangroves in la. ( In the words of bender “we’re boned”

  11. max says:

    Dear Leader, Dear Leader please come save us! I want Obama to lead on this issue as much as anyone but look at the climate he has to work in-where is Tom Friedman when it comes to criticizing the disinformers in the media-where was he when the press descended like a pack of screeching harpies on Gore and annointed the anti-intellectual Bush as the President? Why are some of these media figures not fired for their lies-why are they allowed to be on the air?

  12. Roger says:

    Good for Friedman, Redford, Joe, and others asking Obama to lead NOW on climate!

    We encourage everyone to sign the ongoing Global Warming Education Network petition asking for climate education and leadership at Every name on this petition is another vote for Obama to take action.

    With US and worldwide coal miner deaths, with oil and methane gushing into the Gulf, with the new NAS reports of the dire consequences of inaction on climate, with the recent letter signed by hundreds of concerned members of the US National Academy of Sciences, what better time could there be for a frank, prime-time, national “State of the Climate” speech by Obama to level with Americans about the situation?

    For those who miss his speech, I believe there is an obligation for the US government to warn its misinformed citizens of the severe problems that are headed our way unless corrective steps are taken soon.

    By analogy, wouldn’t we expect to be warned by our government that an enemy’s planes or missiles were headed for a major city? Would the government simply post the information on a website, as they have done with $20 billion worth of climate research? Would they issue a press release? NO! And the urgency involved, before we hit major climate tipping points (if it’s not too late already), is similar.

    Given the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent by fossil fuel interests to successfully confuse Americans about an issue that will likely lead to life and death impacts, shouldn’t our government spend an equal or greater amount to clear up the confusion? (In, for example, ‘public service’ ads such as have been run in the UK.)

    Isn’t an informed, educated electorate a very critical element of a working democracy? Couldn’t the government’s many climate-related websites also be promoted?

    Our traditional media are failing us, as demonstrated once again by this past Sunday’s front page Boston Globe article, “A cooling trend.” So, isn’t it time for the government that taxes us in exchange for protection to provide such protection from the hell and high water we’re headed towards unless we change course?

    One big part of this “mother of all problems” (to quote biologist E.O. Wilson), is that we’ve never run into it before. So, few of our ‘systems’ for dealing with problems–whether at the individual or the aggregate level–are working properly. It’s as if we had to design a plane that had to fly the first time, without testing it.

    Our responses to the coming climate crisis have been far to weak. It is beyond the time for courageous leadership. Again, please sign the petition, then call 202-456-1111 (9-5), or go to the White House website at to leave a personal comment about the need to lead!

  13. prokaryote says:

    We running out of time, civilization as we know it is about to disappear.
    Record precipitation events all over the planet already.

    If we are really lucky we dodge the clathrate gun.
    Much depends on the US energy politics and how fast we reach APC/APA (After Petroleum Collapse/After Petroleum Age) and how well we prepare.

  14. A Linde says:

    I think the U.S. being a super-power that it is, should lead the way and inspire other countries. The recent events haven’t been too inspiring, though. Have you noticed that Obama’s election campaign was much “greener” than his actual real-life actions?

  15. prokaryote says:

    Scientists say Earth could get too hot for humans

    New research theorizes that if global warming continues at its current pace, Earth’s temperatures could exceed livable limits for humans in the future.

    “We found that a warming of (4 C) would cause some areas of the world to surpass the wet-bulb temperature limit, and a (12-degrees C) warming would put half of the world’s population in an uninhabitable environment,” Huber said.

  16. Gafy says:

    Joe, one thing that got health care reform across the finish line was coverage of the congressional process. I called and emailed and cajoled senators and reps for months and so did a lot of others. We knew who was slowing things down, who was risking blowing up the legislation,etc at every turn..What’s the next legislative step for the American Power Act? Who should I be cajoling, now, besides Obama? Harry Reid? Max Baucus? Thanks for all you do!

  17. Raul says:

    Some narrative histories of the start of explorers in the new lands
    now known as America found too great a bounty of natural life from
    microbes,things that they couldn’t see, to the forests that could be
    impenetrable, to the oceans of such great force, let us now bow our heads
    to say a prayer for the new explorers who discover how our gulf has a
    new great force.

  18. R Camhi says:

    It is imperative that Obama steps up to the plate on the issue of oil dependency and regulation NOW. This newest oil disaster is going to produce irreversible effects on the fragile gulf area ecosystem as well as the future livelihood of hard working citizens. While Secretary Salazar has proven to be an effective watchdog in protecting areas around park lands from further oil industry development and investigating the unsafe practices of the coal industry, the dangers from the BP spill requires higher leadership. I would like to see that “Yes We Can” spirit Obama inspired during his campaign focused on oil regulation legislation. Thanks to Mr. Redford for speaking out and providing voice to the wishes of so many of us who supported Obama in his presidential bid in hopes of true change.

  19. Hilda Orepesa says:

    Redford can get his peer reviewed science published in the nest IPCC report.

  20. Wit's End says:

    If there was every any doubt that big oil owns our government, this NYT article dispels it:

  21. Chris Dudley says:

    The sad thing is that we would not have this problem (the deep water spill) if the US had pursued a low oil price policy as it used to. After the oil shocks we cut demand to the point where OPEC could no longer set prices. It had to sell or it would not be able to repay investment in equipment. We assured, through military means, that there would be no barrier to them selling as much as they could which was less than they could produce because we used efficiency to keep demand down. Cheap oil could fuel economic activity and a good portions of the profits the oil suppliers made came back to us in arms sales. The national interest was our priority at that time.

    But, somehow, though oil production is a very small part of our economy, we seemed to listen to the oil companies which wanted to pursue very expensive ventures which require a high price for oil to finance. All the ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’ stuff is about what amounts to desperation moves compared with the ease with which oil can be produced elsewhere. Our oil companies had made their services too expensive to be welcome abroad where the easy oil is still available so they wanted us to be the suckers using the scoundrel’s appeal to ‘energy independence’ as their siren song. Rather than carry out our former policy of keeping cheap oil plentiful by cutting demand, we let efficiency standards lag and ended up with the last (hopefully) Bush Recession as high oil prices made unwinding our housing issues without economic damage impossible. And, we fought a war for expensive oil. It seems impossible, but we did.

    It is time to return to the national interest and pursue a low oil price policy. Having let progress on efficiency lag, we need now a more dramatic effort for a bit. We should use our Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan to force idle production capacity back onto Saudi Arabia. A cut of 3 million barrels a day in consumption should do the job. Over a few years, advances in hybrid and electric cars should make further rationing unneeded so long as we continue to push efficiency. But, to cut our oil bill now, we need stronger action.

    Since the rationing plan can be invoked at the President’s discretion (it already has congressional approval), this is his most effect chance at leadership.

    Our Plan:

  22. mike roddy says:

    Thanks for posting that link about NOAA, Gail. And this is a foreign owned oil company. Companies like Exxon and Chevron are pretty much inseparable from our government, a situation that is likely to have much more disastrous results.

  23. Bill R says:

    I get REALLY tired of hearing about the senate being unwilling to put a bill forward because it would make the republicans fillabuster it.

    MAKE them do it, you wusses. Make them fillabuster and stand up and go on and on and on and on and on about their 1960’s energy ideas and about how losing out to china in energy innovation is no big deal and about how climate change does not exist.

    At least thier stupid votes will be on the record.

    Democrats = Lack of Backbone.

  24. Windsong says:

    Yep! I wrote a long letter to Obama recently, telling him that I don’t understand why he doesn’t have “fire side chats”, telling the American public the facts about global warming. (Among other things).

  25. Windsong says:

    Re: Climate Change and Oil Drilling

    Dear President Obama,

    Before you were elected, I used to listen to your speeches and had tears running down my face because I was so inspired and felt such hope. I thought things would be different after all, in spite of your predecessor’s Greed and near destruction of the planet.

    Today, I have tears running down my face for a different reason: because I’ve lost hope. I respect the fact that you have so much on your plate– leftovers to resolve from the previous administration. However, I also realize, as you must, that nothing is being done to actually solve the most urgent problem mankind has ever faced– catastrophic climate change. Forty thousand dillars is a lot of money to go toward alternative energy investment. However, everyone who knows the facts about climate change realizes this will not save the Arctic and without the Arctic, we will no longer have a livable climate. The polar bears’ fate is our own fate. And we have only a few precious years left to save the Arctic before run-away effects occur!

    I’m asking you, please! do not allow drillling in this very fragile region! We’ve recently witnessed what occurs when oil companies are given the go ahead and search for every last drop of oil– what occurred in the Gulf of Mexico is heartbreaking and sickening. Pillaging of the environment– especially an area as sensitive and special as the Arctic– is suicidal! It’s the very worst action I can think of for any president to take!

    Polar bears, being on the Endangered Species List, are supposed to have their habitat protected! If the laws are obeyed– as the Constitution demands– then the polar bears will be protected from becoming extinct! In order for this injunction to be obeyed, not only will the Arctic be off-limits for oil drilling, but also, every effort will be made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the United State

  26. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    “Shill, baby, shill!” is surely a line that should adorn billboard posters of the hag, using an image from one of her visits to oil installations.

    Re Obama, his silence is beyond embarrassing. He’s doubtless had all the polling as to the disillusionment among voters his inaction is generating; likewise I’d take a bet that he’s been told more about the risks of the feedbacks taking off than has yet been made public.

    Still no action.

    And I’ve yet to hear a coherent domestic-politics explanation of it.



  27. The BP oil spill is not a GW problem, it is a Peak Oil problem. Obama is doing a lot to get the public off its gasoline kick. His EPA is increasing the pressure on auto and truck fuel efficiency. The American public has accepted drilling for oil in the Gulf and off-shore in Alaska because it loves big, heavy cars, SUV’s, pick-up trucks, and all manner of gas-guzzling amenities such as power every-things in their vehicles and the ability to out accelerate a racing car! All the car manufacturers advertise their powerful gas-guzzling engines (optional, but who is being fooled).

    Once the U.S. public has gotten spoiled to believe it is their right to burn more gasoline than any other country on the planet, a BP disaster is inevitable. Soon, Peak Oil will come and oil prices will rise to the point that a global recession will occur as a result. Once again we will go through the cycle of conservation, then renewed drilling and more gasoline use. Meanwhile, a terrible slow-motion disaster continues in Canada where their tar-sands are supplying more and more oil (and more and more pollution and environmental destruction) to us and where the oil companies have been greatly expanding their investments.

    Can Obama get us on a better path? Maybe. I believe he wants to and hopes to, but the politics are tough and the timing for action is uncertain. In November we must elect more Democrats! That would solve the problems because then good GW laws would be possible. Otherwise, prepare for “Hell and High Water”.