The talking points are better than the speech

Here are the key talking points the White House sent around with the speech:

  • This economic and environmental tragedy underscores the urgent need for this nation to embrace a clean energy future.  For years, there has been little more than lip service given to the need to end our reliance on fossil fuels.  That failure to move forward with innovative energy policies is evidenced by the Gulf spill. Now it is time to act with the urgency that this challenge requires.
  • This Administration has taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry – from the largest-ever investment in basic research to financial support for innovative “green” businesses to aggressive new national fuel standards.  These actions must be matched by a comprehensive plan that transitions the United States to a 21st century clean-energy economy.  We must not continue to be tied down by old approaches to harnessing energy resources.
  • The House of Representatives has passed a comprehensive energy and climate bill, and there is currently a plan in the Senate – developed with ideas from Democrats and Republicans – that would achieve similar goals. And the President is committed to working with anyone from either party to get this done, because the cost of inaction to our economy, our national security, and our environment is too great.

The speech itself was not quite so crystal clear.

Now I will credit him for the fact that this was a big oval office speech, and he does spell out the urgent need to end our addiction to fossil fuels.  But he can do better  than pulling punches, especially on climate, as this one does.  We’ll see if he’s serious about his words in the coming days if he personally lobbies Senators — especially Democrats.

What did you think?

Here are the key lines from the speech:

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered.  For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels.  And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.  Time and again, the path forward has been blocked – not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight.  Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America.  Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil.  And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.

We cannot consign our children to this future.  The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.  Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

This is not some distant vision for America.  The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry.  As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels.  Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient.  Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us.  As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition.  Only if we seize the moment.  And only if we rally together and act as one nation – workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence.  Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill – a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America’s businesses.

Now, there are costs associated with this transition.  And some believe we can’t afford those costs right now. I say we can’t afford not to change how we produce and use energy – because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

What Obama might have said is that the plan doesn’t even start until 2013, so it hardly threatens the recovery.

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party – as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels.  Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks.  Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power.  Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development – and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead.  But the one approach I will not accept is inaction.  The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet.  You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II.  The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon.  And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom.  Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is our capacity to shape our destiny – our determination to fight for the America we want for our children.  Even if we’re unsure exactly what that looks like.  Even if we don’t yet know precisely how to get there.  We know we’ll get there.

I give him a B.  The talking points are more like an A-.

58 Responses to The talking points are better than the speech

  1. John Howley says:

    We have only two percent of the world’s oil reserves (most Americans think it’s 50 percent) and we are draining $1 billion per day from our economy. I think this calls for concrete, emergency action of some sort, not just a general call for clean energy legislation. Something like 55 mph or other similar concrete steps to reduce our petroleum usage in the near term. Follow with additional concrete steps to reduce petroleum usage — convert USPS trucks to electric or NG, etc. Otherwise, he risks leaving the impression (which is false) that we can drill our way out.

  2. Rockfish says:

    I give him a C. Not failing, but nothing special. I think the climate content was especially weakened by it’s inclusion in a weak speech about the BP spill. There was little content on either topic. It seemed very political and poll-driven. Sort of a “gee, I guess I need to give a speech about this” speech.
    I mean, c’mon, “even if we don’t know where we are going or how we are going to get there?” I don’t think I’d give a B to that term paper!

  3. Ben Lieberman says:

    It’s time for a simple web site which summarizes in an easily accessible form which Senators accept the reality of global warming and climate change and which deny. The same web site should then list, what if any, action each Senator supports to combat the climate crisis. The fact that most reporters at most media outlets basically refuse to report on the story means that politicians are able to get away with a lot when it comes to denial and inaction.

  4. I was struck by the fact that he didn’t mention climate change, except as a reference to the title of the house bill, and that he didn’t mention carbon prices. It doesn’t strike me as the transformational speech i was dearly hoping for. Hope I’m wrong, and that to most ears it sounded much more clearcut.

  5. Fred Teal says:

    It is interesting that a number of republicans and some conservative democrats made statements prior to the speech to the effect that the President had better not use this crisis as a means of pushing his energy agenda. “Just clean up the spill” was their message. “We’ll talk about energy later.” Maybe they are feeling afraid, hopefully. I liked what he had to say but I see the real need as a WWII type of push with “no holds barred.”
    I guess the 800 pound gorilla in the room is our huge global population and the rapid rate with which we are exhausting all of our key resources, including oil, which must continue to climb in price. It seems to me that we really restrict the discussion when we focus exclusively on climate change without painting things with a broader brush, although, God knows, that is bad enough.

  6. Edward Wolf says:

    I think it was the right speech for the moment. Oval Office addresses confront challenges and introduce themes that persist through presidencies; typically those themes get augmented and framed in different terms as time passes. When the time is right and circumstances make the moment, I suspect Obama will frame the challenge in climate terms, perhaps again from the Oval Office. This will build, and now he has made it a matter of national purpose. Now is the time to let him know we hear him and are prepared to help.

  7. Calm, cool, detached, articulate, rational, optimistic…these are some of the words I would use to describe Obama’s speech on the Gulf coast crisis. Our nobel winning Secretary of Energy, who reports directly to Obama, is in charge of stopping the spill. Two other heavy hitters are in charge of clean up and prevention. What more could we ask for? A miracle?

  8. Not A Lawyer says:

    @bill mckibben: That was what struck me as well. Obama did use some of his usual code for carbon pricing, like saying we need to make “clean energy the profitable kind of energy.” But I was a little surprised as pre-speech, administration officials were saying he’d make at least a modest mention of the Senate bill. They also said that he “absolutely” stood behind his recent Pittsburgh speech, which was a little more explicit in its support for pricing carbon (hopefully they’ll post a full transcript of the pre-speech press call). But nothing here.

  9. Oliver James says:

    We wanted indication, but just have no freaking idea whether the administration will push for a carbon price. And of course, we won’t know if anyone/anything with a price can get 60 votes, regardless of who is pushing or not pushing.

    So it’s frustrating. It would have been nice to see Obama make the climate linkage. But I suppose that’s just my wish, and doesn’t itself guarantee progress.

    We just have to wait, and work in the meantime. Grassroots/tops campaigns, pedal to the floor now…..

  10. Fred Teal says:

    Richard Heinberg has an insightful take on the implications of the spill. It also strikes me that, based on the recent banking system melt-down, followed by this spill, and watching the commentary about Obama’s inability to control things and looking at the complexity of the various organizations that must play a meaningful role, we may as a civilization have reached such a high degree of complexity that we simply cannot maintain it at this level. There is so little leeway left for recovery when something goes wrong.

  11. Peter Bellin says:

    I also was disappointed that he did not specifically mention climate change. I do not think the emphasis on oil inedependance is adequate, since we must also reduce and then eliminate coal consumption. Oil independence, with no consideration of climate change is not a strategy that will lead to a green energy economy (think oil sands, coal to oil, etc).

    I was disappointed by the speech, I thought it was not strong enough, but let’s see how it plays out in the media and public discussion.

    I was listening via PBS, and I was disturbed to hear the angry voice of a local resident of Louisiana, who was angered by the economic impact of the moratorium on deep water drilling. She opined that the BP disaster is an aberration, and that the oil companies will do much better without government interference. Clearly coming form a different world than mine, but I am losing faith that we will develop a world-wide strategy (or even a national strategy) that will avoid serious impact from climate change.

  12. mike roddy says:

    “I’m happy to look at other ideas from either party”

    Translation: The oil company gravy train is just too tempting for members of Congress. Those dumb cowboys beat me this time. Looks like we’ll have to settle for the worthless Lugar bill for now, since Kerry Lieberman won’t survive a veto.

    “Even if we don’t know yet precisely how to get there”

    Translation: The noses of our Congressmen are firmly planted in the bottoms of the fossil fuel companies. Even Landrieu, whose state’s fishing industry is devastated, sprays oil on her hair for perfume. McConnell will make sure he exercises the veto on anything that inconveniences US oil companies, though they don’t mind making BP the fall guy here. This all means I’ll have to work administratively, through executive orders and EPA regulations.

    “All of these approaches have merit”

    Translation: Sorry America, it looks like we’ll just have to talk about our little fossil fuel problem for a while longer. America is a great country, but corporate gangsters call the shots, and I’m having a lot of trouble beating them.

  13. mike roddy says:

    Oops, I of course meant filibuster, not veto, in the second paragraph.

  14. Ben Lieberman says:

    @ Peter: A lot of the PBS NPR spill seems to suggest that if we just gave all the good folks on the shore all the stuff they needed they could keep all the oil off the beaches. It’s a strange mix that combines a sort of populism with faith in technical fixes while avoiding the basic reality about what happens when oil billows into the sea: a lot of it gets onto shore no matter what you do because you can do very little to control the movements of large amounts of water over weeks and months. There’s no folks/technical fix for that.

  15. Will says:

    Obama gave me a prime time speech on energy, with a wide audience. He called for a new energy future. While it was not that speech that all climate activists dream of (THE speech; that may never come) I am very pleased that he is focusing on energy, so I give it an A-.

  16. Peter Sergienko says:

    I thought the speech was a decent first step in starting a new conversation with the American people about the need to end our dependence on fossil fuels. I assume the decision to avoid the term “climate change” was poll driven. Clean energy and green jobs “sell” politically. Climate change, unjustly so, just draws controversy (the type of anger some talking heads want President Obama to display in response to BP). For what it’s worth, I’ve written some simple pieces on climate change legislation for local business journals. Interestingly, the editors did not want me to use the term “global warming.” I decided to avoid the supposed controversies concerning climate science entirely, focusing on the different mechanisms for regulating greenhouse gas emissions and leaving the reasons for regulation mostly undiscussed.

  17. JHawk says:

    I think a B is pretty fair. I believe we’ll see how serious he is if we begin to see the “going public” series that we saw in the final weeks of the health care battle. That is how he will move poll numbers, by taking this message directly to the people.

  18. burk says:

    Yes- he didn’t quite have the courage himself to call for a carbon tax. That would have cut the crap, cut the rhetoric, and called his listeners for real sacrifice. Ideally, he would have told us bluntly that we would be seeing a $2 per gallon gasoline tax, minimum, and the same over all of the fossil fuels, as a downpayment 1. on the environment, 2. on the national debt, and 3. on our strategic addiction.

  19. johna says:

    Nice talk, where were the specifics? He won’t accept inaction, but doesn’t spell out what he will do. Again.

  20. Gary says:

    NPR remains consistent……absent wit and inane observations.

  21. MarkB says:

    Take this with a grain of salt, since funny stuff goes on with Intrade, but their contract for cap and trade for this year shot up 23 percentage points this evening.

    Pretty good speech, overall.

  22. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Given the almost total exclusion of ‘Climate’ from the speech, at issue is whether Obama doesn’t get climate, or whether people just don’t get what actually precludes his leadership on climate –

    The usual suspects of reasons for inaction are blown out of the water by the gravity of the progress of the feedbacks’ threat – on which he has first rate info from within his administration. So, dismissing ‘corrupt’, ’stupid’, anti-science and ‘ill-informed’ as just implausible, the most common assumption blames: ‘the balance of political advantage’ – Yet as this site has amply and precisely documented, this clearly favours exemplary action on climate asap.

    The scientific, political, military and diplomatic pressures on him for action have been growing more acute, even as the weather has grown more unstable, since he took office. Yet he saunters around, apparently concerned, but passive.

    I’ve yet to see a domestic policy priority that can justify his reticence on climate, which seems stubborn, despite both the implacably rising multiple and contagious threats from GW, and this unique political opportunity to address the issue.

    There is a cover-story that claims how:-”the public will have to suffer salutary impacts of GW before they’ll accept action commensurate with the problem without firing the president.” Plausible, but it doesn’t begin to explain the degree of inaction – i.e. bog-all education effort, or of ‘push-button’ effort to discredit the deniers’ funding, motivation and arguments, or of encouragement of grass-roots efforts in innovative technologies and cultural change.

    So if anyone has found a domestic policy priority that justifies presidential inaction to date, I’d be very glad to hear it –
    Not least because if it ain’t a domestic policy priority that restricts him, then it’s a foreign policy imperative that does so.

    The very special relationship with China has its core contention precisely in the climate issue, with China recently rejecting a back-room ad hoc deal whereby Americans in 2050 would have had more than twice the GHG output-rights of Chinese people.

    While the offer warranted no more diplomatic credence in China’s view than its lack of scientific prudence deserved, it’s worth considering just what a serious US offer would look like in terms of the required rate of change of the good old ‘American Way of Life.’ To avoid the feedbacks’ take-off, that rate of change is necessarily somewhat steeper than the projected rate of decline of global liquid fuels’ exports in the coming decades.

    US stonewalling for such intergenerational advantage over developing nations’ rights cannot be upheld without facing the grim calculus that 20 years worth of commitment to intensifying global climatic damage has already been invested in the policy, and that it is now reaching the nexus where both parties are facing significant current damages, and fearing their larger ‘pipeline’ cousins’ arrival. – Some people expect China to be the harder hit, weakening their negotiating hand – which of course overlooks the US reality of the utter fragility of its most technologically complex of societies, with its entitlement culture, and with its chronic coherency issues.

    Obama’s belated action on energy is already behind that of China, with, for instance, its 120 million electric bikes already in use. Beside commercial justification for a US non-fossil-energy campaign, and that of net energy security, there is also the climate issue, but well to the rear in presentational terms. I suggest this position is an artefact of a long established covert policy that China cannot be shown any significant US concern over the issue by its unilateral re-orientation away from fossil fuels. Since China has made substantial efforts in that field, Obama can now follow suit.

    Whether or not the US still hopes for subsequent diplomatic movement by China, this outcome, of having to play catch-up in non-fossil energy development with a nation producing more engineering graduates per year than the entire number of US engineers, is a cogent critique of the Brinkmanship policy’s usefulness. It may even be a terminal shift of advantage that has been ceded, given that successive great powers have historically been ousted by others exploiting new energy sources : wood > charcoal > coal > oil.

    Yet the prime failing of the policy lies in its acceptance of unknown climate risks’ ongoing escalation, (which is at least exponential and may well be simply non-linear) – so there is plainly some point at which its continued pursuit would just be mutually suicidal.

    While it can be well argued that ‘Brinkmanship’ is long past the point of risking counter-productivity, perhaps the most telling reason for its now being ended (via the negotiation of the framework for a necessarily equitable and sufficiently stringent treaty), is that without the clear public declaration of the climate imperative to the US public, it seems pretty unlikely that there will be sufficient popular motivation to catch up and then keep pace with China’s critical performance in the new century’s energy industries.

    – Notably, the generation that endured the 1930s’ privations, and then pulled such astounding feats of productivity in the US war-footing ‘turn on a dime,’ weren’t in it for the money for all that was welcome – the imperative ethic of social values was front and centre of their work ethic.

    As mentioned above, if anyone can describe a domestic policy priority that outweighs the foreign policy priorities of climate as a cause of Obama’s inaction, I’d be glad to read it.



  23. Jim says:

    Why is it so hard for the President to say that global warming has similarities to this Gulf spill? It is a gusher of greenhouse gas pollution that is allowed to happen because there is no cost. It is having and will have grave consequences in the form of environmental destruction and economic upheaval.
    The solutions are also similar. Make the polluters pay. Make them accountable. Put a price on greenhouse gas pollution.
    Centrists from both parties should be able to get around that kind of message. We are talking about a market-based mechanism, especially when they can point out that some of the cost to polluters will be paid back to consumers and the rest will spur investment in clean, green, job-creating businesses and industries in the US.
    Kerry, Lieberman, Cantwell and Collins, Merkley are all on the right track here. Pres. Obama said tonight, “Now is the time.” Alright then, act like it. Stop listening to Rahm on this one and put your heart into keeping this campaign promise.

  24. Chris Dudley says:

    We are not addicted to fossil fuels so far as I can tell and we have only had oil as a policy nexus since after WWII. A hundred year addiction to fossil fuels would mean that when gasoline was rationed during the war to save on rubber, no one would have shifted vehicles to wood gas. But they did. Japan ran airplanes on fuel made from wood.

    A hundred years of addiction to fossil fuels would mean that most rural electricity was not wind power before rural electrification, but it was.

    No, fossil fuels may be convenient, but there has been no hundred years of addiction. There has been an over-reliance on oil partly because we recognized a military strategic value in access to oil reserves after the war.

    Oil companies were cold war partners. They could write their own ticket and they did. The previous president had it wrong too. He said we are addicted to oil (not fossil fuels) but we are really addicted to oil companies. Even though the strategic situation has completely altered, we still treat them with deep deference. Whatever an oil company wants, that is what it gets even when it is against our own interests. Deep water drilling contributes very little to the world oil supply yet we risk it because the oil companies want it.

    There is no particular pleasure that goes along with oil use. Breaking the sound barrier was done with ethanol, not oil, for example. But there is a pleasure of power in colluding with oil companies. It is this self destructive pleasure that is the sign of addiction. The cold war is over. Time to cut lose the unsavory habits we developed during that conflict.

  25. President Obama spoke for 18 minutes in his Oval Office address, which according to the NY Times is long for this kind of speech. It’s one thing to debate whether this was the best possible use of those 18 minutes by whatever standard you’ve got (which is likely to be different from his), but it’s a mistake to judge his commitment to particular policies based only on what he said in this speech. In his economic speech in Pittsburgh, for example, he was very clear on his support for imposing costs on carbon, both to address the Climate Crisis and to set the necessary cost conditions for clean energy. I personally feel there were themes in this speech–especially about trials ahead of us, and what’s necessary to meet them–that will echo through the future.

  26. A comment on other comments I’ve been seeing, about our “addiction” to oil. Artists and scientists both use metaphors, but the difference often is that artists know the functions and limits of metaphors, and oddly, scientists sometimes don’t. But far and away the worst at understanding metaphor are pundits and commentators on the passing scene. All too often, and mostly through repetition, metaphors rapidly take on the appearance of facts.

    They aren’t facts. They are metaphors. They may shed light on complex situations, but they don’t describe them. Take addiction to oil. President GW Bush, who knows from his own experience about addiction, said we are addicted to oil. He should know better. There is no twelve step program for oil addiction. Our economy, our society depend on oil in many forms and ways. Everyone in the country depends on fossil fuels to some extent. So everyone is supposed to kick the habit, and that takes care of it? It’s a colorful metaphor, and once was a shocking one. But it really doesn’t have much more to say.

  27. Steven Leibo says:

    Like a lot of us, I found the speech not nearly as strong as I would have liked, though I have been struck this morning with how much better it sounds as the stronger sections have been pulled by the media into sound bites. Hearing the talk that way, as most Americans probably will seems to accomplish more.

  28. prokaryote says:

    “What did you think?”

    I think it was ok. He connected the disaster with the need for a transition to clean energy and adequate action.

  29. homunq says:

    If I were grading it, sure, a B. But Nature doesn’t grade on a curve, and she doesn’t grade for effort. Unless Obama fixes the filibuster, I’m pretty sure the grade that matters will be a D or D-. (And even if he does, we might only raise that to a C+).

  30. Peter Mizla says:

    Obama’s glaring omission of climate change- made a lackluster speech all the more unimpressive.

    I am sure he has privy to the same information they we read here and other sites- as well as the latest from the IPCC, NOAA, NAS and EPA on the likely coming consequences of climate change. He chose to say nothing.

    He May not have that luxury much longer if something dire ‘happens’.

  31. jcwinnie says:

    He was a good alpha male and stuck with a war analogy, and as we know Smedley, war is a racket.

    There was a lack of accountability, instead defensive assertion of non-action, i.e., “forming a team” and kicking MMS butt.

    Political assurances (read empty) that those injured will be helped. No acknowledgement of regional consequences beyond nationalistic concerns.

    Yes, Bob Herbert, and we closed the War Bond rally with a rousing rendition of the Battle Him of the Bpublic.

  32. Anne says:

    Please stop calling this a SPILL!!!!!

    It should be called the “hemorrhaging Gulf oil blowout”

    Blowout is the correct technical term for this thing and somehow BP got the White House and the MSM to use the much more benign-sounding word “spill”

  33. john atcheson says:

    The speech was a lost opportunity. The failures of the Republican agenda are now stacking up like cord wood.

    This country needs a debate on the role of government and the need to regulate the private sector.

    We won’t get good financial, climate, energy, health care, policies until and unless we engage and vanquish the Reagan mantra, Gubmint bad, private sector good.

    BP was only one of the latest in a long line of failures of that philosophy — now is the time to take it on.

  34. Anne says:

    This is the comment I posted on the White House site for submitting questions before the speech:

    “Please explain why you are about to squander your only chance to address the “predominant moral issue of the 21st century” by pushing a strong bill that raises preparedness for climate change, defunds fossil fuels & supports and funds clean energy.”

    My prediction is that, in the end, we’ll end up with an energy bill that is essentially another corporate give-away with no Carbon cap, no adaptation/preparedness measures, no aggressive incentives to cut down on oil and coal, and big chunks of money to nukes and “clean coal.” I could almost write the damn bill myself and get it passed.

  35. prokaryote says:

    “My prediction is that, in the end, we’ll end up with an energy bill that is essentially another corporate give-away with no Carbon cap”

    Oil CEO’s Bow Before Obama Government, Call for Energy Tax

    Shell President Marvin E. Odum: “That is why Shell supports legislating a solution to energy and climate issues as a means to create a secure U.S. energy future, reduce dependence on foreign oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. This requires setting a price for carbon, and we recommend cap and trade.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

    ConocoPhillips CEO James J. Mulva: “Another key element of a comprehensive energy policy should be federal action to address global climate change. As you are aware, ConocoPhillips supports passage of a comprehensive federal law establishing a clear and transparent price for carbon.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

    BP America President and Chairman Lamar McKay: “BP supports an economy-wide price for carbon based on fair and equitable application across all sectors and believes that market based solutions, like a cap and trade or linked-fee, are the best solutions to manage GHG emissions.” (Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 6/15/10)

  36. Chris Dudley says:


    I think you must be commenting on more than just this thread but it seems to me that the important thing here is President Obama’s shifting from “addicted to oil” to “addicted to fossil fuels” which could be politically useful but here jumps out as incorrect especially because of the lack of historical accuracy. There are also problems with the present. In 2009, new electrical generation capacity was 42% wind, larger than any other source. That does not sound like an addiction to natural gas or coal. So, the President ends up sounding blamey rather than leading.

    You are correct that metaphors have limits but there are 12 step programs for co-dependency which is where we are at with oil companies so there is some use to be got out of the metaphor still if we apply it with more precision.

  37. Philip says:

    Unlike some others, I did not see the oil rig catastrophe as an opportunity to speak of climate change, but I did see it as a chance to speak about tough oil, peak oil, and the need for energy re-form. I wish the speech had been sharper, more pedagogic, and more concrete. For me the most important part of the speech was this:

    But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean — because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.

    For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

    Obama should have expounded on this and explained what “the tough oil era” means for America’s present and what it will mean for America’s future. He should have made it clear that Americans not only pay for their oil at the pump, but also by maintaining bases in foreign countries whose values they do not share. He should have made it clear that, no matter how much America drills, it will never again be self sufficient. He should have said that doing nothing would result in oil shortages that would dramatically increase the cost of oil and have disastrous consequences for American economy and American society. He should have made it clear that the change to other energy sources was not a choice, but an unavoidable necessity. Instead of doing this and portraying the cataclysmic consequences of inaction, he veered off to mention the commercial consequences.

    The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America.

    While this is true, it nicely avoids the seriousness of the problem. We’re looking at a potential social breakdown.

  38. Rick Covert says:

    The speach failed to rise to the magnitude of the challenge. Yes, the first priority is plugging the well and yes the cleanup will have to be comprehensive and long term streaching for decades. But he needs to stop reacting to the “drill baby drill” crowd and their mantras that got us into this mess in the first place and explane what a “cap and trade” system means to the country. We need it now so we can get meaningful agreements on global CO2 reductions, in the next two years, according to the IPCC, or we never will. The speach failed to meet the magnitdue of that challenge.

  39. prokaryote says:

    Obama speech from Oval Office urges action on clean energy bill

    President Obama urged the nation Tuesday to rally behind legislation that would begin changing the way the country consumes and generates energy, saying the expanding oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is “the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.”

  40. prokaryote says:

    This, my favourit passage

    In his first Oval Office address, Obama compared the need to end the country’s “addiction to fossil fuels” to its emergency preparations for World War II and the mission to the moon. Hours after the government sharply increased its estimate of how much oil is flowing into the gulf, the president warned that risks will continue to rise because “we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.” He called for fast Senate action on an energy bill that has already passed the House.

  41. PSU Grad says:

    Let’s take a step back and see what we’re all up against. This morning on CNN, two people from the Gulf region were interviewed. Both supported increased drilling. One went so far as to say something like (I’m paraphrasing) “Green energy is good, but we can’t do green energy on the backs of the people down here who will lose their livelihoods”.

    Another example, from anonymous blog posts, but still instructive. One individual pointed out a bill from Sen. Sanders that would remove loopholes allowing big oil companies to avoid US tax payments. Someone else chimed in, actually defending the oil companies, stating that if you increase their costs you increase our costs. In other words…”I want my cheap gas”.

    So on one hand you have “We want those oil jobs”. On the other you have “I want my cheap gas”. No sense of US national or economic security. It’s all about jobs and cheap gas. As I’ve stated elsewhere, no sacrifice by anybody, as usual.

    But this inertia has to be overcome, and I’m not smart enough to figure out how to overcome it. I suspect it’ll take something catastrophic, as it usually does. The BP spill is clearly not it. It’s kind of like Iraq and Afghanistan…people know it’s there, but prefer not to be bothered.

    Meanwhile, a killer flash flood in France adds to the list.

  42. “When ya hafta shoot, shoot; don’t talk.” ~Tuco

  43. mike roddy says:

    Prokaryote #35,

    Maybe I’m too cynical, but I don’t believe what the oil company CEO’s are saying to that committee on the Hill. McConnell, Boehner, and even Scott Brown receive their instructions from the oil companies, and these are very specific: oppose any action that would do something about global warming, particularly any kind of carbon tax.

    If BP can lie about how much oil is coming out of the ocean floor even as video is saying something different, it’s clear that truth is uninteresting to oil company managers. They are obsessed with money, and will tailor speeches to whatever suits their purpose.

    In this case, they bribe Congressmen with campaign cash to oppose any cap or carbon tax, and then turn around and make them the fall guys for inaction on climate. This says a lot about obstruction in Congress, and about ourselves for returning even 40 of these Senators to office.

  44. ToddInNorway says:

    Folks, the metaphor of addiction falls apart because we cannot go “cold turkey” on fossil fuels. At best it will be a 20 year transition to a low-fossil fuel economy, say 15% instead of 80% of all our primary energy needs. So we can become reformed addicts, but we can never become “completely clean” in the next 50 years. That project will take 2 generations. Having said that, if we pick all the low-hanging fruit in energy efficiency, electric vehicles, wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, we could get down to an economy with 50% covered by FF in less than 10 years. The point is get seriously started, watch the transition wave grow and ride it. This will build hope, confidence and momentum, even though the finish line is a long, long way off.

  45. Thomas says:

    I liked the speech. I don’t think it was the time to say that the climate is in fact changing. Maybe if it was a speech about the nightmarish weather patterns, but it wasn’t, it was a speech about the spill. That being the case, the focus on shifting to clean energy – especially comparing this mission to WWII or the moon landing (comparisons which people on this forum have been clamoring for) – was appropriate.

    The thing we need to remember is that the goal is to move the American people on this issue, and that means appealing to whatever it is that will get them to move. National security, floods, oil spills, jobs, who cares, as long as we get a strong bill passed.

  46. Alan says:

    I was very disappointed in the speech. I was hoping the president would explain the scope of the problem, which no one has done yet. Why do the leak estimates keep going up? Is is because we were misled or is erosion causing the leak to increase in intensity? By saying that BP will be able to contain 90% of the oil leak within days seems to me to be naive or misleading. He is giving the impression that this problem is or will be under control shortly. I am afraid that the magnitude of the problem is far greater than we are being led to believe. If Obama was not straight with us last night, that will reflect very poorly on his leadership.

  47. lizardo says:

    I’d give it an A- or B+.
    I thought it was interesting that he didn’t seem very comfortable with the first half, and was really more relaxed and inspiring once he turned to peak oil and getting off it.

    Given that this was not SOTU which is scheduled far in advance to take an hour in the prime time schedule, this was 15 minutes with programming delays (and in one case shifted an 8 pm NC Dem Candidates for Senate runoff debate from 8 pm to 7 pm)…. there really wasn’t time to address climate change because to convert the unconverted, well gosh….

    So I think the fact that he didn’t address climate change was fine. He did address peak oil and that ought to be reason enough. I was watching on TV so mercifully there wasn’t a post-play analysis etc., blah blah.

    The connection between this spill oops, oil volcano and (a) our mistaken reliance on self-regulation and (b) the end of easy oil seems glaring. The connection between this spill blowout and climate change is not obvious at all. And I think would be hard to make even in a longer speech.

    Now if one of the recent 1000 year floods we had had was on equal scale and duration and impact with the spill, that might be another story.

    I agree that there’s a problem with appearing to “use the spill [blowout] for political reasons” or whatever the GOP/RW/etc want to call it, because those people who need to have their minds changed are not going to be affected by anything Obama says in a speech. On the other hand he did address the people who recognize that we have a peak oil problem (and a climate problem) but who have been persuaded that we have to kick it down the road.

    I personally think that the Senate Bill is such a grab bag and so uncertain about how it will evolve that if I were him I wouldn’t necessarily want to embrace it as my own. This is not Obama’s bill.

    There IS a website and it was launched a year
    There is also
    Not that you’d notice…

  48. Chris Dudley says:

    Another problem with the speech is that what President Obama calls new ideas, Building Energy Efficiency, Renewable Portfolio Standards and more energy research are already included in the Waxman-Markey legislation that passed the House. These might have been mentioned to try to get them included in what comes out of the Senate, but since the only legislation mentioned was Waxman-Markey, calling these ideas new makes the President look out of touch. Perhaps this is lack of clarity as Joe put it but it is a worry.

  49. robhon says:

    I have to give his speech a high grade. Delivery, as always, is excellent. He’s a masterful speaker. Reading through these comments everyone seems annoyed that he didn’t take on climate change. But, if I were a professor grading a paper I’d have to take away points for addressing climate change in a piece whose topic was the oil spill. Admittedly there is a relationship but it’s not a direct relationship. He did, though, use the oil spill issue to address the importance of our use of energy and creating a new clean energy future. Those are all winning issues.

    Think of it this way, if Obama had used the oil spill as a platform to address climate change, that would have (IMHO) been as big a disaster as the oil spill itself. It would have served to drive a wedge deeper between the political parties and set the stage for LESS action. But, what Obama has tried to do here is create a win-win. He addresses issues on clean energy that begin to accomplish what we need to do on climate change without creating such acrimony that nothing could be accomplished. He’s setting a stage for actual accomplishments in this area.

    My suggestion to everyone here is, read between the lines. Don’t get stuck on whether Obama used the actual term “climate change.” Remember, a journey of a 1000 miles begins with one step forward. He’s not taking a step backward. He’s taking a step the direction we want to go. Celebrate it.

  50. SecularAnimist says:

    So, why is BP’s Atlantis oil rig still operating?

    Enough words, actions speak louder than.

  51. prokaryote says:

    Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.

    Add your name as a strong supporter of comprehensive energy and climate reform:

    I stand with President Obama to pave the way for a clean-energy future that:

    • Combats climate change;
    • Creates a new economy powered by green jobs; and
    • Ends our dependence on foreign oil.

  52. jcwinnie says:

    @SecularAnimist Because we can trust BP to do the right thing. And, the other companies drilling in the Gulf, and wanting to drill in the Arctic, we can trust the. Just as Nobel prize winner Al Gore trusts that the Senate now will do the right thing. Because greed is good and we are able to put aside that we have to pay the piper.

  53. catman306 says:


  54. jcwinnie says:

    Pay no attention to those cries from the Niger river delta. Just keep repeating your mantra: “In Tony We Trust”, “In Tony We Trust” “In Tony We Trust”

  55. Michael Tucker says:

    The most astonishing statements from the speech:

    “…we’ve directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. And in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well.”

    90 PERCENT! – Using what technology? Weeks and days? So is it two weeks or less or is this just thrown out to make people happy?


    “…develop a long-term Gulf Coast Restoration Plan…”

    Not just clean up but restore! I am not aware of any coastal region contaminated with crude oil that has been restored. We have tried to clean the oil and, as can be seen in Prince William Sound, that has not been successful. Actively restoring an oil contaminated coastline to its original, pre-spill, state has never been done. I bet that will take a long time to plan and implement. Who will the chief restoration biologist be? I would love to get their ideas of how that will be accomplished.

    Even though President Obama mentioned issues important to all Americans, I think he was really trying to carry the message to the folks of the Gulf region that: they would not be forgotten, BP will pay, the environment will be cleaned, and we will do whatever it takes. That IS good for the Gulf but the folks who live there were not reassured. THE PEOPLE OF THE GULF WANT TO END THE DRILLING MORATORIUM NOW! They hate the oil on the coast. They hate the oil in the water. They hate the oil smell. BUT KEEP DRILLING! THE DEEPER THE BETTER!

    The speech had some good points but for the most part I thought the speech was vague and did not carry the message I was hoping for; a call to pass the Senate Climate Bill.

  56. Raul says:

    Hi Lewis #22,
    Around here the public policy is to drive a car nice as one can afford.
    To keep the air turned as cool as one can afford. To ignore any reasons
    beyond bank account for change. To be arrogant about it as it is all
    Certainly, many in the policy departments of government have noticed
    the rank and file of the employees.
    How was the president shown that gov. employees support anything that
    is more comprehensive.
    I did hear a man ask a woman once “Where is your modesty?”
    Possibly he was thinking of self control that she needed.
    It is as shame for this country that climate would preempt someone
    from ever learning self control.

  57. Climate must be the new four-lettered word. Sad.

    Almost half of the US trade deficit is oil imports. Even if climate change were not a coming disaster (it arguably already is) one would think that the oil monkey must be removed from our backs.

    Where are the fiscal conservatives? Alas, only in name.

    Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
    Selden, NY
    My Global Warming Blog

  58. Roger says:

    It wasn’t the “State of the Climate” speech that we need, but it was a start.

    So, let’s keep pushing Obama, by all means, to “Educate and Lead” the American people on climate. Public comprehension of the extent of the problem will enable stronger action and legislation.

    A good 30 minute speech, followed by a billion dollars worth of public education ads, would do wonders for this ‘mother of all problems.’