Podesta to Obama: “Nothing less than your direct personal involvement, and that of senior administration officials, can secure America’s clean energy future.”

Even as Americans see heartbreaking and infuriating images of damage to the Gulf coast, well-funded and powerful special interests have been working furiously to defeat progress and maintain the status quo. They have recruited their allies to help paralyze the Senate’s deliberations over whether and how to reduce oil use and cut global warming pollution, using tactics that have derailed efforts by Presidents for the last 40 years to curtail our ever-growing dependence on oil. A rapidly growing number of our millions of active members are deeply frustrated at the inability of the Senate and your Administration to act in the face of an overwhelming disaster in the Gulf, and the danger to our nation and world.

That’s from a letter to President Obama from Center for American Progress Action Fund President and CEO John Podesta and the heads of several environmental groups.

Here’s the whole thing:

The President

The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

July 2, 2010

Dear Mr. President:

Thank you for your forceful and eloquent expression of the absolute necessity for bold action to accelerate America’s transition to clean energy. Time and again you have described to Americans the benefits of clean energy reform. Your administration has taken important actions by making unprecedented investments in clean energy technology, setting more efficient fuel economy standards, and adopting many other measures. Now is the time to take the next essential steps.

Even as Americans see heartbreaking and infuriating images of damage to the Gulf coast, well-funded and powerful special interests have been working furiously to defeat progress and maintain the status quo. They have recruited their allies to help paralyze the Senate’s deliberations over whether and how to reduce oil use and cut global warming pollution, using tactics that have derailed efforts by Presidents for the last 40 years to curtail our ever-growing dependence on oil. A rapidly growing number of our millions of active members are deeply frustrated at the inability of the Senate and your Administration to act in the face of an overwhelming disaster in the Gulf, and the danger to our nation and world.

The Senate needs your help to end this paralysis. With the window of opportunity quickly closing, nothing less than your direct personal involvement, and that of senior administration officials, can secure America’s clean energy future. We strongly urge you to produce a bill, in conjunction with key Senators, that responds to the catastrophe in the Gulf, cuts oil use, and limits carbon pollution while maintaining current health and other key legal protections. We further urge you to work with the Senate to bring that bill to the floor for passage before the August recess. White House leadership is the only path we see to success, just as your direct leadership was critical in the passage of the recovery plan, health care reform, and other administration successes.

Two weeks ago, in an address to the nation from the Oval Office, you laid out the issue in stark terms: “The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. We cannot consign our children to this future¢‚¬¦ Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.” We emphatically agree. America’s future prosperity, the health of our environment, our ability to create good quality clean-energy jobs and to meet our international commitments, and our national security rest on the action you take in the days ahead.

Maggie Fox, President and CEO
Alliance for Climate Protection

David Foster, Executive Director
BlueGreen Alliance

John Podesta, President and CEO
Center for American Progress Action Fund

Margie Alt, Executive Director
Environment America

Fred Krupp, President
Environmental Defense Fund

Gene Karpinski, President
League of Conservation Voters

Larry Schweiger, President
National Wildlife Federation

Peter Lehner, Executive Director
Natural Resources Defense Council

Kevin Knobloch, President
Union of Concerned Scientists

33 Responses to Podesta to Obama: “Nothing less than your direct personal involvement, and that of senior administration officials, can secure America’s clean energy future.”

  1. Impressive indeed though it’s hard not to believe that the letter would have been even more impressive if a few corporate leaders had been willing to put their names on it. Certainly such people exist.

  2. Rick Covert says:

    The particularly galling aspect of this besides President Obama’s in-naction is the gall of the Republicans to not take advantage of the situation to pass cap and trade legislation. This statement was from the party that used 9/11 to justify everything from tax cuts, an iron clamp down on oil refinery accidents, which was reported on Democracy Now! today by a Pro Publica Reporter and urging people to go out and shop like restless consumers, (apologies to Neil Young). Stop acting like a Jon Stewart parody for Pete’s sake!

  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    Great Letter: Bravo to John, Maggie, and The Others

    A few additional, and relevant, words . . .

    “Hope lies in dreams, imagination, and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”

    – Jonas Salk

    “Anyone who wants a certain result, but is quite happy with the absence of what would bring it about, has obviously no understanding of either causes or effects.”

    – Petrarch

    “The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.”

    – Machiavelli (a paraphrase)

    “Your goodness must have some edge to it — else it is none.”

    – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “When fortune comes, seize her firmly by the forelock, for I tell you, she is bald at the back.”

    – Leonardo da Vinci

    “Aut viam inveniam aut faciam.”

    – Hannibal, Oedipus, Francis Bacon, etc.

    My TV is presently broken. In my view, Obama and his team should speak so clearly, so compellingly, so broadly, and so repeatedly on this subject — and on what we must do — and on what he WILL do — that I (and we) should be able to easily “sense” the change in the air without needing to watch TV. People should be talking about his vision and direction, they should be inspired by it, they should be awakened by it, they should be moving on it, and I should not need to watch the cable news channels to figure out that change is finally in the air. The streets should be a-buzz with talk, with the new story, with “hope backed by action”, and with substantial forward movement. My barber should mention it to me the very next time I sit down for a haircut. People who want real progress want real progress, and nothing less. If we don’t see positive action in the streets, we’ll know we haven’t done enough and Obama hasn’t done enough.

    Thanks for the great letter, John and etc. Now we will see if the Administration steps up to the plate.

    Be Well,


  4. fj2 says:


  5. BBHY says:

    Forget politicians, take the case directly to the people. Once the people lead, the politicians will follow.

    If we wait for leadership from the politicians then we will never get anywhere.

  6. wag says:

    But it’s not just Obama – we need to be calling our Senators to press them on it. Show them that we care. Joe – here’s a model for how a blog can help the effort:

  7. Bob Wallace says:

    There are a number of national and international problems which need solving. In order to do so it is important for Democrats to maintain control of Congress for the last two years of Obama’s first term if at all possible.

    Does it make more sense to not try to push a climate bill through between now and the fall elections but wait for the lame duck session after November if it would help Democratic candidates?

    After November many Democrats (perhaps even a couple of Republicans) will be able to vote for such a bill and not have that vote to defend in tight races this fall.

  8. thomas says:

    it’s very tragic that the US has to lead on this issue. Very very tragic.

  9. Steve Bloom says:

    The GISTEMP June anomaly is posted, Joe. The anomaly is .86, tied with 1998 for warmest. The net anomaly is for the year so far is .87 ahead of 2005, so at this point it would be very hard for 2010 not to be a new record. IMHO the most notable thing about 2010 is the consistency of the warmth.

    [JR: That’s the wrong link. Try this.]

  10. catman306 says:

    Great idea getting some corporate leaders to sign the letter. And why stop there? Publish the letter online and allow Americans of all stripes to sign on the bottom.

    Of course, the biggest problem is that admitting human activity is ruining the climate worldwide is to admit that the science of climate change has been mostly right all along and that it is through direct propaganda, at great expense, that some Americans think otherwise. That would expose a great American lie.

  11. Prokaryotes says:

    This is the biggest national security crisis in human history. In order for the survival of the human race we need to update existing technology and infrastructure – today!

  12. Steve Bloom says:

    Oops, thanks for the correct link. So June is tied for third (with 2005, but lower than 1998). The basic trend continues.

  13. Bob Wallace says:

    catman – there is this ad signed by 3,000 large and small businesses.

    How will America take back control of its energy future while enhancing our national security?

    When will the U.S. economy regain its competitive edge instead of letting other countries corner the emerging global clean energy market?

    How can we get the U.S. back on track by creating American jobs in the new low-carbon economy?

    How can we protect our natural resources and future generations from climate change?

    These are the questions we’re asking our policy makers as America faces a once-in-a-century opportunity to lower greenhouse gas emissions and become the world’s leader in a burgeoning clean energy economy.

    We are a broad and diverse group of leading businesses, environmental organizations, national security experts, veterans’ organizations,labor unions and faith-based groups.

    We believe it’s time for Democrats and Republicans to unite behind bi-partisan, national energy and climate legislation that increases our security and limits emissions, as it preserves and creates jobs.

    It’s a question of American leadership.

    Some of the large include Google, Nike, Ford, General Electric, General Motors, Gap, Johnson & Johnson, Michelin, Shell, Whirlpool and Timberland. There are also multiple energy suppliers and an interesting mix of other companies.

  14. Leif says:

    The Anti-Science Folks have had 30 plus years, numerous sympathetic Administrations, and a very supportive economic system, to kill any possible “False Hood” that might have been embedded in the scientific effort to expand the climate knowledge base in professional fashion. All effort has come to naught. Therefore surely basic principals can be accepted as given.

    REALITY BITES! In this case kind of like one of those poisonous critters that will not let go.

    I keep thinking, if the Democrats got some stones and acted decisively it would help them a great deal at the polls. Polls show growing green awareness and, because of the Gulf, more and more “fence sitters” re-examining their values. It is a very important time to get a coherent message out.

    Green Energy = sustainability = a future for Humanity…

    Global warming is just one side of a multi-dimensional coin that gets solved with green energy. Improved agriculture, soil retention and quality, water retention; prevention of ocean acidification is yet another face of that coin. I have heard roomers of methane tipping points, I suppose that should go on a face some place. How about preventing the Polar Ice from melting? Another face? …?

    All addressed with the very same solution. Green energy = Sustainability = a Road to a Future!

  15. Mark says:

    A powerful request by these people.

    Thank you for posting it. Do you think he will be reading it?

    Obama seems to be quite timid, unable to do anything on the scale required. always nudges, little steps partial ineffective solutions.

  16. Jim Eager says:

    NASA GISStemp June 2010 data update has just been released:

    GlobalL Land-Ocean Temperature Index

    June + 0.59, tied with 2005 for third behind 2009 (0.62) and 1998 (0.69).

    Land-Ocean, Nothern Hemisphere only:

    June + 0.78, displaces 2005 (.76) for record

    Land stations only:

    June + 0.86, tied for first with 1998

    Land Stations, Nothern Hemisphere only:

    June + 1.04, blows away 2005 (.97) for record

  17. john atcheson says:

    It is not enough to urge action and appeal to reason — Americans need to also be told what the opposition is doing and why.

    And what they are doing is taking the side of corporations against the interests of people in every issue of importance — health care, financial reform, energy, environment, climate, credit card debt and soon, social security.

    As long as Conservatives are allowed to cloak there arguments in faux concerns about costs, about impact on the economy, about the evils of big gubmint, all the eloquence and all the hands on involvement of the President will be meaningless.

    A vital part of communicating this issue is to disarm the fears being stoked by Conservatives. Fear-based messages appeal to the limbic part of the brain and they have a deeper impact than reason. Left unchallenged, they will carry the day. Moreover, three decades of Democratic reticence, cowardice and/or collusion have allowed Republicans to create a deeply held belief system in much of America that says private industry and free markets deliver all good things by pure serendipity and that Gubmin’t cain’t do nothin’ right.

    How do you win a debate when you don’t rebut a deeply held bias that works against you, and allow fear-based messages to go unchallenged?

    Answer: YOU DON’T. Never have, never will. It’s time to take off the gloves and take on the two myths that have been destroying America since Reagan.

  18. Bob Wallace says:

    “Obama seems to be quite timid, unable to do anything on the scale required. always nudges, little steps partial ineffective solutions.”

    You could look at his style that way.

    Or you could review what he has been able to accomplish in a year and a half and then compare that to what any other presidents have been able to get done in their first two years. You might find one or two who have done more.

    The grand journeys are made one step at a time….

  19. “Obama seems to be quite timid, unable to do anything on the scale required. always nudges, little steps partial ineffective solutions.”

    that’s what you see if you believe the corporate media, that is paid to get the corporate friendly party back in power.

    By contrast, if you simply subscribe to the EPA and DOE news releases, you will see a gushing torrent of de facto climate legislation, bypassing the 60 vote standoff that prevents actual climate legislation.

  20. Right now we are in mid-blunder.

    To ignore this much more is a folly that will require increasing energy, more cognitive dissonance. The issue will soon be full on, right at the forefront, commanding our full attention.

    It is just a matter of when, and who will lead and what role will leasders play. I would think that any leader, anywhere, would see clear needs.

  21. with the doves says:

    for an interesting (and depressing) view of why Obama’s presidency has underwhelmed, check this article by Eric Alterman:

  22. Christine says:

    I commend the signatories of the letter. They continue to work tirelessly for a better future – a tremendous thank you for your leadership.

    Also, in agreement with BBHY from above: “Forget politicians, take the case directly to the people. Once the people lead, the politicians will follow.”

    Just finished watching the doc FUEL before clicking over here. The quote above was used in the film and it made me realize how a variety of tactics must be in place and used daily for change to come about. I reflected on what action I’ve personally taken since the BP Gulf Oil Disaster occurred and determined I can still do more – just by talking to the people closest to me.

    Pressuring politicians is not the [sole] answer. We need to scale up the push back against the corporations who commit these crimes while simultaneous supporting the socially responsible businesses as alternatives. We vote every minute, hour and day with our dollars. Every one of us has the initial choice to use our dollars differently before passing them on for someone else to use them against us.

  23. Wonhyo says:

    While switching to clean, renewable energy is important, we need to do more to stay ahead of the unfolding situation. Even if we were to switch to 100% clean energy today, many devastating climate change effects are already in the pipeline and will take effect. In parallel with the switch to clean/renewable energy, we should also be preparing for the inevitable effects of climate change that are already in the pipeline.

  24. Fire Mountain says:

    The problem with the Democrats is clear – lack of courage. When Bush and the R’s wanted to do something, like tax cuts for the wealthy, they had the balls to do it and hang the “60-vote rule” in the Senate. But the D’s generally have lacked the cajones and guts to do just this. When they concluded they had to pass some form of health care, they finally were willing to break the rule. But that was the exception, and they passed it with a political ticking time bomb, mandatory health care coverage with no public option.

    Now anything from leaving for July 4 break without renewing unemployment coverage for 1.3 million, to failure to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation, can be tied to the Senate Dems not challenging the 60-vote supermajority. So their hands are tied by the most conservative among their own ranks, and by the Republicans. I guess preserving Senate rules counts more than the entire future of the planet.

    We will long remember when the Dems had the White House and strong majorities in both houses of Congress, and threw it away, because they just didn’t have the guts to do what they supposedly believed in. I guess the only consolation come November will be that the more conservative of their Congessional delegation will likely suffer the greatest measure of defeat. I just hope it stops not too far from there.

  25. Chris Winter says:

    The full list of 3,000 companies that support American Businesses for Clean Energy is found in a link on this site:

  26. john atcheson says:

    #19 Susan:

    As an ex EPA and DOE employee, I stay in touch with folks in both places. They don’t see the piecemeal dribs and drabs of action being taken as a torrent, and they don’t see it as sufficient to meet the challenge of global warming.

    The most ambitious effort — the energy aspects of the stimulus bill, had the potential to be a down payment on enduring and fundamental change, but the administration’s short termism has sabotaged even this effort. Much good will come of it, of course, but huge opportunities will be lost, and folks know it. They continue to do a great job with pride and professionalism, but they know that we could have done much more if we could have focused on high-leverage and enduring investments in the creation of new infrastructure, rather than quick fixes and instant returns.

    They feel this way because they know what the science demands — a comprehensive, economy wide fundamental shift in the way we generate and use energy.

    We have — perhaps — a year left to avoid positive feedbacks that will trigger irreversible heating. Maybe not even that. Your “torrent” of individual actions is a woefully inadequate response to this reality.

    This was Dr. Pachura’s estimate a few years ago when he said we had until 2012 to take dramatic action to forestall GHG emissions. Since he made that statement, the science has gotten grimmer, the time frame tighter. that’s our collective reality.

    And make no mistake, this is a reality, not opinion; it cannot be negotiated away; it cares not a whit for political reality or political possibilities. It is simply a near scientific certainty.

    Anything short of a comprehensive, economy-wide shift toward efficiency and clean energy, done on an emergency pace is tantamount to trying to jump the Grand Canyon in 10 foot leaps.

  27. Dan B says:

    John Atcheson;

    Bravo to you!

    Kennedy did not suggest small steps to get to the Moon. He appealed to reason with a rhetorical flourish that leapfrogged “reason”.

    Now we have two challenges: Building a 21st Century Clean Green Energy Economy and unleashing the creativity that will remove Greenhouse Gases from the atmosphere.

    Goodbye fossil fuels. Hello clean sustainable energy. (West Virginia and Texas are you listening?)

    Thanks again John – you echo my continuing frustration with the “Players” in the White House.


  28. Bill Allen says:

    I have just finished Eric Pooley’s book “The Climate War”. This shows the enormous difficulty of designing and adopting complicated energy legislation in Congress that will actually do some good. The House bill passed last year might meet that standard, but it is highly unlikely that anything produced by the Senate this year would be better than nothing. In the process of getting a bill, there would be irresponsible deals like the one cut with Senator Ben Nelson for health care. As with health care, this would increase public opposition to a program we really need.

    The public wants Washington to focus on the economy this year. Jobs and mortgages are more important than climate change.

    I believe we need a bold national program to phase out fossil fuels and build a sustainable 21st century economy. The most visible reason today is the tragic oil spill in the Gulf. The most important reason is to slow climate change. There are many others.

    This program should be our first priority. Because this program will stimulate new technologies and generate good American jobs, I call it “ReEnergize America.”

    A bold program needs a bold leader. I have written to President Obama and urged him to call for the program to ReEnergize America. Set the goal to stop burning fossil fuel by 2050. Declare the rest of 2010 to be period for national dialog on the program and the means to implement it. It can become an issue in the fall elections. It can reenergize those who supported him in 2008. Call for enabling legislation from Congress in early 2011.

    By doing this the president will provide the leadership for the energy issue that many believe is needed. At the same time he will let Congress off the hook for energy legislation this year.

    The legislation currently being considered rests on a system of carbon cap-and-trade. This is complicated and makes many concessions to special interests. The public will probably see it as unfair and will not support it. This legislation should be withdrawn.

    Many business leaders and economists believe that the best way to discourage the use of fossil fuels is to raise their prices. If done slowly and steadily in a way that provides clear price signals over the long term, all participants in the economy can plan and respond constructively. For many years this fee has been called a carbon tax.

    A tax is a political non-starter today. A better proposal is for a carbon fee-and-dividend. Impose a fee on all fossil fuels, collect it at the source (mine, well, port of entry), and return the revenues to the people as dividends.

    Legislation designed in 2011 should rest on carbon fee-and-dividend and not include cap-and-trade. It should be simple and make no concessions to special interests. This system has many advantages relative to current legislation. Most important: It will be fair and the public will see it that way.

    It will be difficult to get a good energy bill thru Congress. With public support in 2011 this will be more likely than today.

    If President Obama leads, Americans will follow. If America leads, the world will follow.

  29. john atcheson says:


    I agree with everything you say, except your time frame. We keep falling into the trap of figuring out what is politically possible given the popular sentiment today.

    The Earth doesn’t care about that. Physics doesn’t care. Absent dramatic change within the next year, it’s too late to avoid catastrophic climate change.

    So the leadership you’re calling for has to start now. We have to change the public sentiment so Obama can lead, not accommodate it.

  30. john atcheson says:

    Dan B.:

    “Players” in the White House. Perfect! that captures it.

  31. Bill Allen says:

    #29. John, I agree with you, almost.

    I really don’t think anything of value can be achieved in Congress this year. If there is a drawn out struggle to do something and it fails, the political situation will become worse.

    To be successful over the long term an energy program must have broad public support. The public is confused now. A few months of serious dialog could change this. If President Obama steps up and leads this summer, in the way I propose in #28 above, then we will enter 2011 much better prepared to take serious action on energy than we are now.

    I believe you and I are in total agreement on the need for us in the public to do everything we can now to promote serious action.

  32. homunq says:

    #31 – A failure this year could be a good thing – under two conditions. First, it would have to raise the public’s consciousness, which means that the White House would have to be much more willing than it has been to push back when the right wing “works the [media] refs” with disingenuous demands for equal-time-for-lies. And second, it would have to include explicit discussion of the next step if the Republicans stay obstructionist – which means filibuster reform.

    So far, Obama’s “yes we can” hasn’t meant anything that pushes the envelope of conventional wisdom. Since actual public sentiment is often significantly to the left of the media’s falsely-balanced CW, and the climate action needed is far to the left of that, Obama has to get back the upstart spirit of his campaign, or history will not be kind to him (and the future will not be kind to anyone).

  33. john atcheson says:


    I think we may be in violent agreement — nearly. I agree that a public debate needs to happen, but I believe the only time people will pay attention to that debate is when there’s something on the line — like a Bill.

    Unlike you, I think that even if we lose the debate in this term, we can leave ourselves in a better position for the next time, and in a better position for the mid-term. Look, debating energy forces Republicans to show their cards. And when Americans see that hand, we’ll do better. Not having the debate allows them to hide behind vague homilies about the evils of big gubmint and the power of the miraculous and magical free market

    Exposure and transparency, when you have the facts on your side, can only help.

    Look at the Republicans — they lost and their philosophy lost big-time with Goldwater in 1964. Did they hunker down? Drift to the middle? No. they pressed the fight, honed their message and now we have a built in bias for the consecrative Republican perspective — government is bad; magic markets are good.

    For some reason, progressives believe that not confronting that frame is a successful strategy — it’s not. And it will take a lot to change it — after all, we’ve got to take on 3 decades of appeasement, cowardice and capitulation on our part.

    The sooner we start, the sooner the facts will out.

    Not to mention we don’t have the luxury of time.