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Obama: “Climate change poses a threat to our way of life.”

By Joe Romm  

"Obama: “Climate change poses a threat to our way of life.”"

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Starts the pivot from spill to bill: “We’re not going to be able to sustain this kind of fossil fuel use. This planet can’t sustain it…. I’m going to keep fighting to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation”

UPDATE:  Transcript of Obama presser on BP oil disaster here.

Obama gave a big speech at Solyndra, a California solar manufacturing plant, yesterday, which I’ll excerpt below.  For background on Solyndra, see “First Energy Department loan guarantee goes to “¦ a solar manufacturer.”

DotEarth opinion blogger Andy Revkin just tweeted,

Obama sci chief: POTUS will give major speech on climate (not imminent). “He believes it, he understands it, we’re going to get it done.”

Here are excerpts from Obama’s speech:

We’ve got to go back to basics.  We’ve got to go back to making things.  We’ve got to go back to exports.  We’ve got to go back to innovation.  And we recognized that there was only so much government could do.  The true engine of economic growth will always be companies like Solyndra, will always be America’s businesses.  But that doesn’t mean the government can just sit on the sidelines.  Government still has the responsibility to help create the conditions in which students can gain an education so they can work at Solyndra, and entrepreneurs can get financing so they can start a company, and new industries can take hold.

So that’s why, even as we cut taxes and provided emergency relief over the past year — we also invested in basic research, in broadband networks, in rebuilding roads and bridges, in health information technology, and in clean energy.  Because not only would this spur hiring by businesses — it would create jobs in sectors with incredible potential to propel our economy for years, for decades to come.  There is no better example than energy.

We all know the price we pay as a country as a result of how we produce and use — and, yes, waste — energy today.  We’ve been talking about it for decades — since the gas shortages of the 1970s.  Our dependence on foreign oil endangers our security and our economy.  Climate change poses a threat to our way of life — in fact, we’re already beginning to see its profound and costly impact. And the spill in the Gulf, which is just heartbreaking, only underscores the necessity of seeking alternative fuel sources. We’re not going to transition out of oil next year or 10 years from now.  But think about it, part of what’s happening in the Gulf is that oil companies are drilling a mile underwater before they hit ground, and then a mile below that before they hit oil.

With the increased risks, the increased costs, it gives you a sense of where we’re going.  We’re not going to be able to sustain this kind of fossil fuel use. This planet can’t sustain it.  Think about when China and India — where consumers there are starting to buy cars and use energy the way we are.  So we’ve known that we’ve had to shift in a fundamental way, and that’s true for all of us.

Now, earlier today I spoke to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who, as you know, is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist.  And he’s been on the scene in the Gulf, deeply involved in our efforts to bring this crisis to an end….

… a lot of damage has been done already — livelihoods destroyed, landscapes scarred, wildlife affected.  Lives have been lost.  Our thoughts and prayers are very much with the people along the Gulf Coast.

And let me reiterate:  We will not rest until this well is shut, the environment is repaired, and the cleanup is complete. And I look forward to returning there on Friday to review the efforts currently underway and lend my support to the region.

But even as we are dealing with this immediate crisis, we’ve got to remember that the risks our current dependence on oil holds for our environment and our coastal communities is not the only cost involved in our dependence on these fossil fuels.  Around the world, from China to Germany, our competitors are waging a historic effort to lead in developing new energy technologies.  There are factories like this being built in China, factories like this being built in Germany.  Nobody is playing for second place.  These countries recognize that the nation that leads the clean energy economy is likely to lead the global economy.  And if we fail to recognize that same imperative, we risk falling behind.  We risk falling behind.

Fifteen years ago, the United States produced 40 percent of the world’s solar panels — 40 percent.  That was just 15 years ago.  By 2008, our share had fallen to just over 5 percent. I don’t know about you, but I’m not prepared to cede American leadership in this industry, because I’m not prepared to cede America’s leadership in the global economy.

So that’s why we’ve placed a big emphasis on clean energy.  It’s the right thing to do for our environment, it’s the right thing to do for our national security, but it’s also the right thing to do for our economy.

And we can see the positive impacts right here at Solyndra.  Less than a year ago, we were standing on what was an empty lot.  But through the Recovery Act, this company received a loan to expand its operations.  This new factory is the result of those loans.

Since the project broke ground last fall, more than 3,000 construction workers have been employed building this plant.  Across the country, workers — (applause) — across the country, workers in 22 states are manufacturing the supplies for this project.  Workers in a dozen states are building the advanced manufacturing equipment that will power this new facility.  When it’s completed in a few months, Solyndra expects to hire a thousand workers to manufacture solar panels and sell them across America and around the world…..

But thanks to loans through the Department of Energy, which helped provide Tesla motors with the financial wherewithal to expand, that shuttered plant is soon going to reopen.  (Applause.)  And once again — once again, it will be a symbol of promise, an example of what’s possible here in America.

Tesla is joining with Toyota in a venture to put a thousand skilled workers back to work manufacturing an all-electric car.  (Applause.)  And this is only the beginning.  We’re investing in advanced battery technologies to power plug-in hybrid cars.  In fact, today in Tennessee there’s a groundbreaking for an advanced battery manufacturing facility that will generate hundreds of jobs.  And it was made possible by loans through the Department of Energy, as well as tax credits and grants to increase demand for these vehicles.

We used to account for about 2 percent of advanced battery technologies for cars.  We’re expecting, in the next couple years, to get up to 20, 30, maybe even 40 percent, building our market share right here in the United States of America.

We’re investing in an advanced electricity grid.  And Governor Schwarzenegger and I were just talking about this before we came out, because this has been a big priority for him — that will be more efficient and better able to harness renewable energy sources.  We’re providing grants to build wind farms and install these solar panels, helping us double our ability to generate renewable energy.  We’re expanding our capacity in biofuels to reduce our dependence on oil.  We’ve helped forge one historic agreement — and are on track to produce a second — to dramatically increase the fuel efficiency of America’s cars and trucks.  So we are making progress.  It’s progress that’s going to produce jobs, that’s going to help secure our future.

But we’ve still got more work to do, and that’s why I’m going to keep fighting to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation in Washington.  (Applause.)  We’re going to try to get it done this year, because what we want to do is create incentives that will fully unleash the potential for jobs and growth in this sector.

Already we’re seeing the results of the steps we’ve taken.  As I said, before the Recovery Act, we had the capacity to make less than 2 percent of the world’s advanced vehicle batteries.  In the next five years, we’ll make 40 percent of these batteries here in the United States.  Before the Recovery Act, we could build just 5 percent of the world’s solar panels.  In the next few years, we’re going to double our share to more than 10 percent.

Here at this site, Solyndra expects to make enough solar panels each year to generate 500 megawatts of electricity.  And over the lifetime of this expanded facility, that could be like replacing as many as eight coal-fired power plants.  It’s also worth noting, to achieve this doubling of our share of solar capacity, we actually need to make four times as many solar panels, because other countries are adding capacity, too.  Nobody in this race is standing still.

So these steps are helping to safeguard our environment.  They’re helping to lower our dependence on oil.  At a time when people are struggling and looking for work, these steps are helping to strengthen our economy and create jobs.  We all know how important that is, because times here in California are still tough.  It’s going to take time to replace the millions of jobs we lost in this recession.

Unemployment remains high, even though the economy is growing and has started adding hundreds of thousands of jobs each month.  So it took years to dig our way into this hole; we’re not going to dig our way out overnight.  But what you are proving here — all of you, collectively — is that as difficult as it will be, as far as we’ve got to go, we will recover.  We will rebuild.  We will emerge from this period of turmoil stronger than ever before.

That’s not all.  You’re also proving something more.  Every day that you build this expanded facility, as you fill orders for solar panels to ship around the world, you’re demonstrating that the promise of clean energy isn’t just an article of faith — not anymore.  It’s not some abstract possibility for science fiction movies or a distant future — 10 years down the road or 20 years down the road.  It’s happening right now.  The future is here.  We’re poised to transform the ways we power our homes and our cars and our businesses.  And we’re poised to lead our competitors in the development of new technologies and products and businesses.  And we are poised to generate countless new jobs, good-paying middle-class jobs, right here in the United States of America.

That’s the promise of clean energy.  And thanks to the men and women here today — and the innovators and the workers all across America — it’s a promise that we’ve already begun to fulfill.

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25 Responses to Obama: “Climate change poses a threat to our way of life.”

  1. Jonah says:

    ‘atta boy! That’s starting to again sound like some “change I can believe in”.

  2. Chris Dudley says:

    Looks like Salazar is still alive. His Minerals Management Service Director has been forced to resign: http://www.ajc.com/business/oil-agency-chief-quits-536200.html

    Here is her Bio from the Agency Website:

    MMS Director S. Elizabeth Birnbaum Biography

    Elizabeth (Liz) Birnbaum assumed duties as Director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) on July 15, 2009.

    As MMS Director, Birnbaum administers programs that ensure the effective management of renewable energy, such as wind, wave, and ocean current energy; and traditional energy and mineral resources on the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf, including the environmentally safe exploration, development, and production of oil and natural gas, as well as the collection and distribution of revenues for minerals developed on federal and American Indian lands.

    Before her appointment, she was staff director for the Committee on House Administration, where she oversaw strategy development, budget management and staff activities for the committee that manages legislative branch agencies. From 2001-2007, she was Vice President for Government Affairs and General Counsel for American Rivers, where she directed advocacy programs for the nation’s leading river conservation organization.

    At the Department of the Interior, Birnbaum was Associate Solicitor for Mineral Resources from 2000 to 2001, supervising and managing a staff of attorneys that provided legal advice, developed regulations and conducted litigation on minerals issues for the Minerals Management Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation.

    In addition, she was a special assistant to the Interior Solicitor, from 1999 to 2000, overseeing legal policy on a range of natural resource issues, including mining law, public land management and hydropower licensing. From 1991 to 1999 she was counsel to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where she handled legislative and oversight activities for the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, and electric power marketing administrations. From 1987 to 1991 she was counsel for the Water Resources Program of the National Wildlife Federation.

    Birnbaum has been an officer and member of numerous boards and commissions, including the National Capital Section of the American Water Resources Association; Arlington County Environment and Energy Conservation Commission; and the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Section of the District of Columbia Bar.

    Birnbaum received her Juris Doctor from Harvard University in 1984 and her A.B. degree, magna cum laude, from Brown University in 1979. She was Editor in Chief of the Harvard Environmental Law Review, Vol. 8.

  3. mike roddy says:

    I hope the speech is repeated in primetime, with a preparatory announcement. Most people are at work at 12:45. This speech is just as urgent as anything he will ever talk to us about.

    [JR: This is just a press conference. Climate speech appears to be non-imminent.]

  4. paulm says:

    “…America’s leadership in the global economy”

    Still have to realize that we have to move on to a local based economy, as we travel on our space craft called Eaarth!

  5. Jonah says:

    Victor:
    The jobs will follow the demand, as they always do. You should learn when you’re being fed (and parroting back) straw man arguments. Nobody is claiming that green jobs will happen without demand for green power & efficiency.

    The American Power Act will help create that demand, and the jobs will follow.

  6. Dittoheads says:

    On April 1, Obama approved offshore drilling. Rush Limbaugh said it was a head fake. He would find a reason to interfere with offshore drilling. Obama was wrong April 1 and Rush was correct.

  7. Michael W says:

    Reopening the Tesla plant seems a little like wishful thinking. The Department of Energy should not be taking money out of the private sector (where you actually have to be profitable to survive) and giving it to a failed company. Bad investment, net loss of jobs.

  8. prokaryote says:

    I hope all the agencys can get rid of their oil habbits and focus on the transition to clean energy.

    All these action will create jobs. Let’s create a new economy based on sustainable technologies – in comparsion with our environment. Something everybody depends on.

    Time is running out.

  9. fj2 says:

    The President seems to demonstrate extreme skill dealing with a crisis of unprecented proportion.

    [JR: He stays cool under pressure and is highly informed. He should give press conferences at least weekly.]

  10. paulm says:

    Price of oil about to go up….

    Moratorium On Deepwater Drilling Expected To Be Announced At Obama Press Conference
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/27/moratorium-on-deepwater-d_n_591560.html

  11. prokaryote says:

    Hi, PaulM ” – Still have to realize that we have to move on to a local based economy, as we travel on our space craft called Eaarth!”

    I think we can have a global economy, but to change someone should start on the local level. For example carbon neutral biofuels – created from biomass – bioenergy (cow manure, algae, energy from decompossing processes – from waste). We need a global economy to push next gen technologies. We need to change the way we use 3rd world resources.

    Those nations should get incentives when they create clean energy solutions.

    What should be prevented?
    That old technologies find it’s way to the 3rd world countrys. So you need to supplie 3rd world nations with renewable technologies. This will also help to stabilze those nations and prevent immigration needs.

    It will not help if we phase out emission in industrial nations, when at the same time developing worlds increase emissions.

    I think we need a global governmental institution which should act as a single entity on the climate crisis – to bring clean energy revolution – transition forward.

  12. fj2 says:

    9. fj2, (continued) This is a skill set he must increasingly call upon dealing with the future and including the accelerating envionmental crisis and is most encouraging.

  13. mike roddy says:

    I’m impressed by Obama today. He appears to be growing into his job.

  14. dhogaza says:

    Reopening the Tesla plant seems a little like wishful thinking.

    I’ll trust Toyota’s knowledge of the automobile industry over anyone’s here …

  15. Andy says:

    Now that was a speech that I was excited to read!

    The messaging on America’s risk falling behind (especially invoking China) is particularly effective. Americans want to lead the world, especially the world’s economy. Telling us that our economic leadership is threatened is a great motivator. The paragraphs below are the most effective paragraphs in the whole speech:

    “Around the world, from China to Germany, our competitors are waging a historic effort to lead in developing new energy technologies. There are factories like this being built in China, factories like this being built in Germany. Nobody is playing for second place. These countries recognize that the nation that leads the clean energy economy is likely to lead the global economy. And if we fail to recognize that same imperative, we risk falling behind. We risk falling behind.

    “Fifteen years ago, the United States produced 40 percent of the world’s solar panels — 40 percent. That was just 15 years ago. By 2008, our share had fallen to just over 5 percent. I don’t know about you, but I’m not prepared to cede American leadership in this industry, because I’m not prepared to cede America’s leadership in the global economy.”

    Everyone, I would humbly suggest repeating this message (linked to the American Power Act as the way to enable the American economy to regain its position of leadership in the global economy of the future) loud and clear on every blog and forum you participate on!

    Andy

  16. Chris Dudley says:

    First the Catchpa at the White House: Egypt ionized

    I sent in a couple comments after the press conference which had pretty good TV coverage I think. I was moved by his expression of feeling about the damage done to the ocean. I too have watched sea turtles at Mokuleia, standing stunned at their existence. Here are the comments I sent in. He promised to consider them during the press conference so I hope he does.

    I have two comments: 1) The President said all the easy oil had been sucked up out of the ground. This is only true for North America where oil production began. In fact there is a lot of easy oil in the world and some of it is being deliberately held off the market to manipulate oil prices. We should have a low oil price policy and not a desperate domestic production oil policy. 2) The oil in the water at depth is now causing or will soon cause hypoxia and it will cease breaking down under bacterial action. BP’s Robert Dudley (no relation so far as I know) has explicitly refused to clean up subsurface oil. This has got to change. We must supply oxygen at depth. Chemical oxidizers like sodium percarbonate which have a good supply and are environmentally benign can be sunk in sacks off of small boats to where the oil is to promote breakdown of the oil. Don’t let BP get away with leaving that oil in place.

  17. Sasparilla says:

    Nice article Joe.

    Its great to see the President talking like this, makes me happy to see him mentioning the bill and how it ties into this crisis (about time).

    While seeing him talk about it some makes me happy, I’ll be joyful if he follows through on his talk and gets the climate/energy bill through the Senate – in fact joyful doesn’t cover it (I’ll be alot more than that). However, with the way things have gone since he’s been in office, I don’t have any faith in counting on him getting that bill through as a realistic expectation (wish that were different).

  18. Chris Dudley says:

    Mike (#13),

    I’m impressed that he is not gray and shriveled yet. If it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. Hope he gets off the nuke craze before something else happens. Karma may have a special liking for him.

  19. Mike #22 says:

    @ 7) Michael W.–a few corrections.

    One, Tesla is expanding into the recently closed NUMMI plant, not reopening a closed Tesla facility as you imagine.

    Two, Tesla’s loan arrangement is part of a large DOE loan program which also includes Ford Motor Company, Nissan North America, Fisker Automotive, Tenneco Inc, etc.

    “The Department of Energy was appropriated $7.5 billion by Congress to support up to $25 billion in loans to companies making cars and components in US factories that increase fuel economy at least 25 percent above 2005 fuel economy levels. The Department plans to make additional loans over the next several months to large and small auto manufacturers and parts suppliers up and down the production chain. The intense technical and financial review process is focused not on choosing a single technology over others, but is aimed at promoting multiple approaches for achieving a fuel efficient economy.”
    http://energy.gov/news2009/8538.htm

    Three, this is a GREAT investment in American jobs and clean American energy transportaion.

  20. Leif says:

    Chris, #18: I fully believe that concessions made to the GOP were made to perry the efforts of the D,B,D crowd and show cooperation with the GOP to sway public opinion. Political expedience if you will. Probably knowing full well that the GOP would take any “give” and still block any progress as they did in fact do. However it does point out the obvious fact that the GOP are the party Government of Powerful and care not about the rest of us.

  21. catman306 says:

    Chris Dudley, thanks for helping to get aeration as a remedial technique for this under surface oil disaster out to the people who can get it done. If BP doesn’t want to clean-up subsurface oil, it means that their whole dispersant technique was designed to get as much oil below the surface as possible. That won’t do at all. Their plan may even include turning the entire coastline of the gulf into a dead zone. Future wells could cause no ecological damage to a dead zone. Future spills could be dispersed to be added to the black mess on the bottom and in the water column. That would drastically lower the cost of any future spills. Does anyone still suppose that corporate citizen BP is incapable of such uncivil behavior? That would explain why the idea of aeration is so outside the box never mentioned in MSM: because it is a forbidden thought as in ‘nothing to see here, move along.’

    If aeration can work on Gulf oil plumes and help nature clean up, perhaps it would work in other dead zones, such the ones forming along the Pacific coast. Wouldn’t this be an easy fix for a growing problem? I hope someone in a position to actually do some experiments will perceive the benefits of aeration and take action.

    The River Thames is aerated with liquid oxygen, a rather high tech, energy rich solution, to a low tech problem.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_aeration
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerated_water

  22. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Chris @ #16

    Sodium percarbonate will not oxidize hydrocarbons but will most likely kill off any remaing living organisms.

  23. Chris Dudley says:

    Harold (#22),

    Wonder why my septic system still works then? http://www.ascleanedontv.com/oxiclean-faqs.html It is meant to feed oxygen to the bacteria once they have used up what was already dissolved, not combust the oil though it could do that at high oil concentration and sufficient depth.

  24. Chris Dudley says:

    Leif (#20),

    Another uranium miner was killed two days ago. http://www.abc4.com/content/news/state/story/Worker-killed-in-Utah-uranium-mine/rsM-kHuxxEqv9uvHP1W4QQ.cspx
    I suppose that is expedient….

  25. Leland Palmer says:

    I’m still a little mystified by the optics of the cylindrical collectors, but it does seem like a good system, with a lot of advantages for commercial roofs. Traditional wisdom has been that oblique incidence of a ray of light on a photovoltaic surface is not as good as perpendicular incidence. Along comes somebody, thinking out of the box, who looks specifically for the best system for commercial roofs, and comes up with a winner.

    Chu strikes again, I guess, in picking winners.

    I guess Nobel prizes in physics don’t come in Cracker Jack boxes, after all.