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Obama: BP disaster tells us we must pass a “long-term energy strategy”

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"Obama: BP disaster tells us we must pass a “long-term energy strategy”"

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Reid: “This is an opportunity for us as a country to move away from fossil fuel, to do a better job of looking at renewable energies that are available to us all over this country.”

“I said to the Republicans, join with me,” Obama said. “There’s been some good work done by John Kerry and Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. Let’s go. Let’s not wait. Let’s show the American people that in the midst of this crisis, all of us are opening our eyes to what’s necessary to fulfill the promise to our children and our grandchildren.”

Greenwire (subs. req’d) reports today on Obama’s remarks at an SF fundraiser for Sen. Boxer (D-CA) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  Here’s more:

“The fact of the matter is, is that not only do we have to revisit how these oil companies are operating … but we’ve also still got this overarching issue,” Obama said….

“Even if you hadn’t seen the catastrophe down in the Gulf, the reason that folks are now having to go down a mile deep into the ocean, and then another mile drilling into the ground below, that is because the easy oil fields and oil wells are gone, or they’re starting to diminish.”

He added, “That tells us that we’ve got to have a long-term energy strategy in this country. And we’ve got to start — we’ve got to start cultivating — we’ve got to start cultivating solar and wind and biodiesel. And we’ve got to increase energy efficiency across our economy in our buildings and our automobiles.”

Obama spoke about the push for an energy and climate bill just hours after meeting with a skeptical Senate Republican conference on Capitol Hill where members — including Graham — urged him to pare back and try a less comprehensive approach because of uncertainties over the oil spill.

Yes, Lindsey Graham, who has morphed from a bipartisan statesman to an incoherent pol mocked by his colleagues, has now become the incredible shrinking man, on his way to becoming a truly de minimis politician:

“On energy and climate, the way you move forward is you have a comprehensive approach you can sell, and I don’t think many people believe that the oil spill has helped to get more voters on offshore drilling,” Graham told reporters after the meeting with Obama. “It’s made it a harder climb, so let’s do smaller versions of an energy, climate bill.”

Let’s do a teeny-weeny, itsy-bitsy energy bill that just opens up the South Carolina coast to drilling — and only by BP — okay?

Here, on the other hand, is the Senate majority leader today on the Senate floor:

The bill can’t move forward without some Republican cosponsor.  Since that does not appear to be Graham ( though I would expect he’d vote for the final bill if it made it that far), and since Sen. Cantwell has given Sen. Collins (R-ME) all the cover she needs to abandon her long-standing commitment to climate action, that leaves Sen. Snowe (R-ME), who did not prove terribly reliable during the healthcare debate, but who certainly understands the threat of anthropogenic global warming.

Sad, really, that this most modest, market-0riented climate bill, which would easily get 60 votes if Republicans were not hell-bent on denying Obama any victories that might show he is a bipartisan leader who can solve problems, may well wither on the vine.

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15 Responses to Obama: BP disaster tells us we must pass a “long-term energy strategy”

  1. mike roddy says:

    I assume that you mean Snowe, Graham, and maybe Brown will be needed, since Nelson and Landrieu can be expected to vote no. Are there any surprises out there- like maybe McCain joining up if he wins the primary?

  2. Doug Bostrom says:

    Reiterate Obama: “Even if you hadn’t seen the catastrophe down in the Gulf, the reason that folks are now having to go down a mile deep into the ocean, and then another mile drilling into the ground below, that is because the easy oil fields and oil wells are gone…”

    I don’t repeat the “or they’re starting to diminish” bit because the easy recovery is in point of fact now all in geopolitically nightmarish locations. A quibble compared to the overarching message.

    Obama gets that our predicament is pushing us to objectively absurd activities, dead-end capers. Like I’ve said before, he’s a person who gets the big picture but is not naturally inclined to try and cram it onto a bumpersticker.

  3. Dan B says:

    Was Graham replaced by a double because he dared threaten the oil behemoths?

    Will the fossil fuel behemoths keep America in the 19th Century of energy until we’re no longer a world leading economy?

    We’re on course to have an increasingly intractable balance of trade if we fall further behind renewable energy leaders like China, Germany, Spain, and Denmark, let alone the billions we send to Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    Would the GOP trash the American economy because they’re tied to the money gusher that has little future?

  4. We might get Florida’s LeMieux to get to 60. We’ll get Snowe and Collins, and lose Landrieu and Nelson.

  5. SecularAnimist says:

    Actually I am in favor of making the bill smaller by eliminating the tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer handouts to the “clean coal” hoax and to the toxic, dangerous, expensive and ineffectual nuclear power boondoggle.

    Getting rid of those provisions, which do absolutely NOTHING to address the climate problem or build a secure & sustainable energy economy, would make the bill a LOT smaller.

    I’m sure Senator Graham would agree, since he’s not a bought-and-paid-for stooge for the fossil fuel and nuclear power corporations or anything.

  6. mike roddy says:

    SA, #5, I agree that the legislative sausage is really stinky on this one.

  7. Chris Dudley says:

    President Obama is not quite right. We are drilling in deep water because Saudi Arabia keeps a good chunk of production capacity idle to manipulate the price of oil. This makes the price of oil high enough so that these kinds of efforts can be profitable. Saudi Arabia can manage this because the US has abandoned its low oil price policy. There is still plenty of easy oil for a US oil consumption rate of 17 million barrels a day and that rate, which we would have now if we had kept up with CAFE standards, would require Saudi Arabia to idle too much capacity to make money by trying to control supply.

    Soon, President Obama would have the story right because Saudi investment is seeming less effective than it used to be. They still produce oil cheaply with new investment, but probably not dirt cheap. But, the issue is not more difficult supply yet but uncontrolled demand. The US cheap oil supply policy shifted into an oil supply only policy where we kept up military protection of access to oil but failed to continue to cut demand. This is counter to the national interest. We would do best by using up the remaining easy oil at a very low price while constantly shifting off of oil.

    At this point, to get back on an easy oil only diet with a low oil price we need a cut in consumption to about 16 million barrels of oil a day. This will force so much idle capacity in Saudi Arabia that they will undercut OPEC partners and the oil price will fall. Then we need to keep on cutting at a steady clip as lack of productive investment in new oil supply leads to a decline in availability of easy oil. So long as we keep demand about five million barrels a day below production capacity, oil will be cheap and our transition off of oil will proceed at the lowest possible cost.

    Under the present circumstances, domestic production, aside from stripper wells, is pretty much insane. We should be getting off of oil at the lowest possible cost, not trying to play a fools game in a market of manipulated prices. It makes no sense at all to try to produce intrinsically expensive domestic oil.

  8. Leif says:

    “It makes no sense at all to try to produce intrinsically expensive domestic oil.” Chris, #7

    Unless of course if you look at it thru the eyes of BIG OIL and Big Money.

  9. Chris Dudley says:

    Lief #8,

    Quite right. We have conflated the national interest with oil interests. That sort of worked when we had a low oil price policy but it does not work with what amounts to a high oil price policy.

  10. Dana Pearson says:

    For what it is going to cost the nation in the gulf… incalcuable… it would be a bargain to establish a national solar energy and conservation bank designed to fully fund AT ZERO INTREST, anyone desiring electric cars, photovoltaics, home geothermal, grid based on/offshore wind, desert based concentrators, tidal options, and the new bio-refineries being developed… The biggest problem right now is the lack of readily available capital, especially as it is being sucked up into credit default swaps and speculation betting which contributes absolutely nothing to the economy. Instead of an endless compromise, capitalize a national bank, allow everyone to participate, and see a revolution happen overnight… We need an emergency effort and this would rapidly involve millions of folks, at all levels, using market principles. I for one would immediately contract for solar on our roof, retrofit my entire house, and sign a contract with GM for a Volt. This would create a tidal wave of demand, innovation, and change… which is exactly what we need. It would give each of us, at all levels from little old me to PG&E the incentive to shift into high gear.

    Couldn’t this be done with an executive order directing the Fed to fund us? They were able to dump trillions of money into banks without legislation and we still don’t even know where the money went… It’s about time for the people.

    GET IT DONE, OBAMA… We need millions of new jobs, clean tech, clean fuels, and safe low-carbon solutions and this would do it…

  11. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    “It makes no sense at all to try to produce intrinsically expensive domestic oil.”

    So which bits of this death-wish-ridden society are assumed to make sense ?

    Obama is pinned by legacy across the board of policy options. He cannot hope for a second term, and prevention of a calamitous republican presidency, if he attempts significant punitive measures against oil consumption, and is thus limited currently to such affordable efficiency and innovation measures as inherited foreign policy priorities, and ongoing domestic political corruption, leave open to him.

    For those measures to achieve a 5% cut in oil supply by 2012, thereby postponing that year’s early loss of the global oil market cushion, and its resulting price spike and recession, would be a notable achievement.

    Yet the idea that those means would be sufficient to heavily depress global prices and so make offshore drilling redundant seems a naive and wishful sort of thinking. Consider:

    - Global oil demand is returning to 2% growth per year (~ 1.7 MBbls/day).
    - According to the most authoritative of sources (the US DOE, & DOD, & others) global supply will start to decline during 2012 giving a shortfall off global demand of around 1.7% (~ 1.5 MBbls/day) by year’s end, besides the absent market cushion of 1.0 MBbls/day.
    - By 2016, according to the same sources, due to reserve depletion plus ‘above-ground’ factors global supply will have reached an annual decline rate of around 4% per year, year on year. That implies a shortfall of almost 10.0 MBbls/day off global demand in that year, which is more than half of current US oil consumption.

    Thus unilateral US action to cut its usage sufficiently, year on year, to offset both rising global demand and depleting global supply so as to maintain a low global oil price, is a pipe dream.

    Obama’s remarking of the need for ‘a long-term energy strategy’ is very welcome, if characteristically restrained. He has to know very well that, in parallel with the climate issue overall, this is a matter of common security, i.e. that it cannot be resolved at other than a global level. – Specifically, any nation not meeting its duties under an equitable and efficient treaty to manage its oil demand sufficiently will, not may, will be free-riding on the efforts of others, eroding both the latters’ function and the treaty-members’ cohesion.

    It perhaps needs saying here that unless global oil demand is reduced faster than supply declines, then a declining saw-tooth of oil price spikes and recessions seems the most probable course of the global economy, with serial impoverishment leading to geo-economic and geo-political fragmentation.

    Meanwhile, with rising global tensions over resources, and with energy-innovation capacities constrained by turbulent economic decline, the interactive feedbacks would be continuing to accelerate unchecked off at least the next 35 years of timelagged warming.

    Obama doubtless has all of this information at his fingertips – and it is welcome that he’s now got as far as advocating for a long-term energy strategy. At Copenhagen, in amongst the calculated tactic of serial escalating snubs to developing nations, he mentioned that the climate is actually an issue of common security. On energy, as a central component of climate strategy, he needs to start explaining to the US public just what common security requires.

    In particular, in response to the fossil lobby’s potent lie over Kyoto:
    “It ain’t global and it won’t work”,

    Obama would do well to now promote the question:
    “If we don’t act, why should they ?”

    Regards,

    Lewis

  12. Dan B says:

    Chris @7 & 9, (& Leif @8)

    Thanks for putting these points in such clear language. It’s some subhuman game of cat and mouse, combined with the shell game – how noble…

    Along the same lines I found a statement from a World Future Society promotional mailing:
    “..(N)eutralize Petrodollar Power.. within the next decade.” Deutsche Bank

    They were talking about electric cares. We need more bold energizing statements of the reality we can, and must, create.

  13. Roger says:

    I agree with Lewis about Obama needing to start explaining to the US public about various aspects of climate change.

    From my point of view, most Americans have wrongly made up their minds that climate change is still just a tiresome debate between various factions. Thay have nearly closed their minds to new information. They reason,”If this were really a problem, we’d hear about it from the government.”

    You can help encourage Obama to educate and lead on climate here: http://www.change.org/global_warming_education_network/petitions/view/obama_please_educate_and_lead_on_climate_change. Sign the petition, then call the White House to ask the same thing at 202-456-1919. (Every signature sends another e-petition to the president, so get your Facebook and regular friends and family to sign too.) Thanks!

    Warm regards,
    Roger

  14. Chris Dudley says:

    Lewis (#10),

    Recall that a cut of 3 million barrels a day in US consumption covers the demand growth elsewhere for about 4 years because you’ve left oil in the ground for later. It also postpones what you worry about in 2016 as well as softening it. Cutting a million barrels a day of US consumption each year after the initial cut is just a matter of efficiency in the transportation fleet. We could go faster as well if needs be though I think we’ll start a bandwagon because people elsewhere in the world will like the idea of cheap oil and will want to keep it that way. And we do have means of persuasion in some cases. Mentioning the words “carbon tariff” seems to get the attention of some pretty quickly.

    I’m pretty sure people in the US would be happy with President Obama using our Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan if he can deliver $0.60/gallon gasoline. Remember that it has a “white market” in spare rations so you can alway pay more if you want to, or make some money if you have spare rations.

  15. Wit's End says:

    I think that we will greatly increase the likelihood of legislative action if ocean acidification is more broadly understood. The chemistry is indisputable and the effects on shellfish and coral are already impacting commercial interests.

    “Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA) was joined by her colleagues Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and 41 other Members of Congress in sending a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson expressing their concerns about the effects of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and coastal communities. The letter urges the EPA to play a more active role in addressing ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act.”

    From her webpage: http://capps.house.gov/2010/05/capps-farr-inslee-urge-epa-to-take-more-active-role-in-addressing-ocean-acidification.shtml