Breaking: Carol Browner, Obama’s energy and climate ‘czar’, to leave White House

Carol M. Browner, President Barack Obama’s energy adviser, plans to leave the White House in coming weeks, White House officials said Monday night.

Browner, who is Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, was EPA administrator for all eight years under President Bill Clinton, and is one of the most experienced Washington hands in the West Wing.

Well, that’s a bombshell.

This is a big reversal from the rumors.  Earlier this month, the NYT‘s John Broder reported the conventional wisdom, “Carol M. Browner, the White House coordinator for energy and climate policy, is rumored to be moving to a new post, possibly deputy chief of staff.”

That said, the catastrophic failure of the administration to pass a climate bill — heck, the failure to even get a vote in the Senate or one damn speech from the President on the gravest threat to the health and well-being of our children and future generations — must have taken its toll.  And that’s without factoring in months and months of dealing with the BP oil disaster or the prospect of two years of a hostile House of climate zombies.

Here’s more from The Politico on Browner:

Her calm, authoritative television presence during the BP oil disaster made her one of the few officials whose stature was enhanced in the aftermath of the Gulf catastrophe. But passage of a comprehensive energy bill, the chief goal of her office, seems unlikely under the House Republican majority.

Her departure comes as the West Wing undergoes a heavy makeover, including the arrival of Chief of Staff William Daley, a rare outsider in the top echelons of this administration.

Browner is likely to stay in Washington, but her future plans are undecided, according to colleagues.

“She will stay on as long as necessary to ensure an orderly transition,” a White House official said. “Carol is confident that the mission of her office will remain critical to the president, and she is pleased with what will be in the [State of the Union address] and in the budget [next month] on clean energy.

“She is proud of the administration’s accomplishments “” from the historic investments in clean energy included in the Recovery Act, to the national policy on vehicle efficiency that will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil and lower consumers’ prices at the pump.

“On the question of what will happen to the position, the president’s commitment to these issues will of course continue but any transition of the office will be announced soon.”

A White House pr©cis on the accomplishments of her office is titled, “The New Foundation for a Clean Energy Economy”: “Expanding Clean Energy to Historic Levels “¦ Making Homes More Energy Efficient “¦ Investing in Advanced Transportation Systems “¦ Modernizing Our Electricity infrastructure “¦ Cleaning up Coal “¦ Expanding Appliance Efficiency Standards “¦ Leading in Sustainability.”

On climate change: “International Leadership “¦ Monitoring Emissions “¦ Climate Change Science and Education “¦ Climate Change Adaptation.”

From Browner’s official biography, released when Obama announced her appointment in December 2008: “Browner is Principal of The Albright Group LLC, where she provides strategic counsel in the critical areas of environmental protection, climate change, and energy conservation and security. Prior to her current position, she served as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet-level position she held for eight years. Browner developed partnerships with business leaders, community advocates, and all levels of government.

“She is widely known for championing common sense, cost-effective solutions to pressing environmental and public health challenges. At EPA, she brought the climate change issue to the forefront and established climate change as an important environmental issue requiring action. Before EPA, Browner was Secretary of the State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Regulation. She also served as Legislative Director for then-United States Senator Al Gore.”

Unfortunately, the otherwise noteworthy resume of the entire Obama administration on energy and climate matters is likely to be irrevocably tainted by the catastrophically bad messaging on global warming (see Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?“) — which was mostly the fault of David Axelrod, I’m told, and the President himself, of course — and the death of the climate bill, for which there is plenty of blame to go around (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“).

31 Responses to Breaking: Carol Browner, Obama’s energy and climate ‘czar’, to leave White House

  1. Wit's End says:

    I’m afraid I am taking a rather dim view of government lately. I once actually thought that most public servants elected or appointed were there to promote the public good.

    It is becoming increasingly obvious that government has become a vast enterprise devoted to serving their corporate, profit motivated masters – and anyone who enlists with more altruistic ideals is either intimidated and corrupted…or driven out.

    Too bad this means doom for every form of life with the possible exception of jellyfish in the sea, and cockroaches on land.


    Highly recommend this read: Climate Change, Driving Straight Into Catastrophe

  2. Deborah Stark says:

    Just got in; catching up with news. This news is very depressing to say the least. Not a good sign. Published about twenty minutes ago:

    Director of Policy on Climate Will Leave

    Joe, thanks so much for always being right on top of things. This venue is invaluable.

  3. David B. Benson says:


  4. Shelly L says:

    This is not good news. Next will be Chu and maybe Jackson. I sure hope not, but I do wonder what the h*** is going on in the Obama admin. lately.

  5. Leif says:

    Flash mob for Climate Care: Drop a note to the White House and tell the President what you think.

    Try to get 5 others to do the same. Do the math, we can get a bunch of folks by tomorrow night. Do not let the opportunity pass you by. Light up that board!

  6. Solar Jim says:

    Hey, since corporate financial fascism goes better with Koch, maybe one of the brothers would be willing to serve (up the public). Foreclosures and unemployment ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Let’s go atomic, the fix is in, all hail the six remaining oxymoron investor banks. Anyone for clean uranium, besides Iran that is.

    With Browner, Axelrod, Emanuel, Volker etc. headed out maybe we should just report who’s staying.

  7. It was clear for more than a year that this administration selected good people to serve on the environment as just a cover-up, then muzzled them up and does not allow them to do the job needed. So, to me it is better to know reality and not allow the President to cover his inaction with nice people such as Dr. Steve Stu, Dr. Holdren and Carol Browner too.
    I continue to believe that the President is unable to grasp the facts of Global Warming and his pre-election promises was just so, promises to get the votes.
    He can talk well but can not act with clarity and in the national interest to save our globe.
    thanks Joe for telling it like it is.

  8. Joan Savage says:

    I hope this allows Carol Browner to work in what might be a more effective new position.

  9. Roger says:

    These are all good comments above. No, this can’t be good news, but persevere we must.

    I agree especially with Leif: It can’t hurt to contact Obama about the need to move the energy/climate agenda forward. One can also call 202-456-1111 to leave a comment.
    (Volunteer human operators are standing by during normal EST business hours only.)

    Also, add your name to a popular petition asking Obama to “Educate and Lead on Climate Change” at Every time someone signs this petition, a message containing the petition is sent to President Obama.

    A while ago I asked Dr. John Holdren if President Obama knew what Holdren knew about climate change. Holdren said he did. Dr. Holdren is a respected scientist who I believe to be an honest man. Having heard some of his lectures at Harvard, I also know that Holdren has some no-nonsense, dire views about where climate change is taking us.

    So, what’s Obama’s game plan? I’m not a betting man, but it seems like a huge gamble, with a livable climate at stake, to place all of the cards on reelection, followed by an all out war on climate change. Even if he is reelected, we’ll be that much further down The Road (an ugly movie) towards, or beyond, the tipping points. If not this, then what?

    As more and more folks are beginning to recognize, it’s all about climate education. If voters KNEW the actual scientific stakes, they’d complain that they hadn’t been told (more forcefully that is) many decades ago–then they’d pull together and get on with the task of saving ourselves, working together, one would hope, with China, India, et al.

    All together now, dial 201-456-1111 and say: “Hello, I’m a citizen and I have a message for you to give the president: Hey, Obama, lead the nation; give us climate education!”

    Catch 22: White House polls say that citizens aren’t concerned about climate change. But citizens aren’t concerned about climate change because, by definition, it’s not a problem if the president doesn’t mention it. Question: Whose move is it to break the death spiral?

    Possible answers: a) Obama’s, b) the Kochs’, c) the API’s, d) Congress’, e) CP Readers’ or??? If you chose any of the first four answers, we don’t have “a snowball’s chance…!”

    Warm regards,


  10. jorleh says:

    Obama is taking us dead as a species. Mysterious. Knowing the facts, no acts.

    Who is saving the species? Or better trying to save? No use, we have misery awaiting round the corner.

  11. Dan Allen says:

    The political process has failed us. Check out Chris Hedges’ newest essay at

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    Belgium-based Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

    The CRED found that the summer heatwave in Russia was the second deadliest disaster of the year, leaving 55,736 people dead according to figures it compiled from insurers and media reports of official sources.

  13. with the doves says:

    I had hope for the government, but it’s gone. It’s hard to see progress from the admin or Congress over the next two years on climate/energy.

    We need to engage more people. Politicians will do the right thing if they are scared for their jobs.

  14. Bob Wallace says:

    You people are blaming the wrong parties.

    The reason that there was no good climate bill passed and signed during the previous Congress was because there were not enough Senators willing to vote one through.

    The reason we are almost certain to not see a good climate bill during this Congress is that there are not enough votes in either the House or Senate.

    You want a climate bill? Then figure out how to get American voters to send the right sort of people to Congress in 2012.

    Blaming President Obama for failing to sign a bill he didn’t receive is like blaming Joe when a newspaper publishes a piece of denier-junk.

  15. with the doves says:

    re “You people” –

    Most would agree that Congress has been negligent regarding climate and energy.

    However, it does not follow that the administration is beyond criticism. There is much the admin could do that does not depend on Congress. First thing imo is to speak up. A presidential address with follow-up would do wonders to focus the nation and bring out support for making necessary changes.

  16. John McCormick says:

    Everyone, take a few minutes and go back to #11 and access the link Dan Allen gave us. Thanks Dan.

    My take on Chris Hedges piece:

    We need truth tellers. Instead, we have groups and leaders who put up a good image but haven’t accepted that our motif has failed us. So we bitch at Obama because we need a pinata to whack at and hope to get treats.

    John McCormick

  17. Anonymous says:

    My guess is that Browner got tired of beating her head against oil company employees like McConnell and Boehner, and not getting enough support from Obama.

    It’s going to be up to the people. We have to take back our media, and somehow figure out a way to tell the American people that dark and psychopathic people are in charge.

  18. Nell says:

    The failure is that we don’t have a free press anymore. It’s the press that should be informing us. Without it, voters are sitting ducks for the likes of Limbaugh.
    With ill informed voters we get climate zombies in congress.

    “A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself.” – Joseph Pulitzer

    I’d also like to point out that if even a small percentage of the people woke up to the impending disaster we are facing, the panic would destroy the economies required to defend against it. What a fine mess we’ve made.

  19. Wit's End says:

    #16, seconded. A painful but accurate evisceration of the great liberal/progressive fail.

  20. Mossy says:

    # 7 Matania

    I agree that the administration has been muzzled, but it includes even Obama. Chu, early on in this administration, spoke about the entire Southwest becoming a desert if we didn’t act, but I haven’t heard this lately. Obama linked the Red River floods in ND to GW several years ago, but hasn’t made such a linkage lately.

    So who’s muzzling the entire administration, Obama included?

  21. Sasparilla says:

    Bad news about Browner…ugh.

    #14 Bob Wallace, I think there are some serious reasons for blaming the administration here.

    After making the issue a pillar of his campaign (one of 3 primary issues he was going to take action on), the administration had to be goaded into lobbying House members to vote for the bill (House leadership was very surprised by this, they expected the President to jump at this chance based on what he had said previously – but it already showed that the administration had cut the rope on the climate issue – they’d go along with it if it was done by someone else at this point, already the battle was over we just didn’t know it).

    The administration then would not push or lobby Senators for the passage of the climate bill and let it die without even pushing the Senate to try and pass it. Of the senators that were trying to piece the legislation together the administration kept kicking the legs out from under the legislation (even though those Senators were trying to coordinate it with the Administration) by offering what would have been incentives to industry that the Senator’s were hoping to package into the bill as separate freebies (the offshore drilling rights is one example but there were several others). The cynical might say that was on purpose, but it was probably just ineptitude on the Administration’s part.

    Could the Administration have lobbied the Senate hard and passed a climate bill in 2009 shortly after the house passed it, before the Republicans had solidified around their don’t let the President accomplish anything strategy that Rush was preaching? We’ll never know, but it at least looked possible at that point.

    I think there’s another aspect of this issue here that’s important – this issue is so bloody important (basically whether the US will even be around in 100 years) and the time so late (so close to tipping points coming) that even if the President didn’t think he could get it passed, he needed to at least push the Senate to try, as his duty as our President, so it was out there on the record, instead of hoisting the white flag when it looked like it was going to be hard or a long shot at best. Our chance to address this for the first half of this decade is gone because of this, without even trying.

    The Republicans and the coal Democrats did what we were expecting them to do – what the Administration did was totally unexpected and a true betrayal of our future, our children’s future and the President’s own words.

    As you mentioned, the odds of anything happening now at the Federal level are gone, we’ll need to wait till the planets align and we get supermajorities in the House and Senate and a different President (presumably) to even try again (that’s a long time). Instead we have to wait and see if this administration, which said it was open to compromise on EPA’s authority to regulate CO2 last fall will totally sell us out. My guess is that if the administration thinks it can score political points somehow by letting the EPA mandate for CO2 get eviscerated, that’s exactly what they’ll do. Hopefully that political calculation doesn’t add up that way for them so they don’t. Just my $0.02.

  22. Barry says:

    Obama has done what he always said he would do.

    He has been very clear from the beginning that his game plan is about “compromise”. He has aimed for the middle path, looking to find common ground across the political spectrum of Americans. It is a fine and noble strategy, except where the problem doesn’t lend itself to human whims.

    Here again is what Hansen said a year ago about Obama: “let me tell you: President Obama does not get it. He and his key advisers are subject to heavy pressures, and so far the approach has been, “Let’s compromise” … Unfortunately, nature and the laws of physics cannot compromise — they are what they are.”

    Nobody’s climate plans should hinge on Obama coming to the rescue.

  23. Barry says:

    Roger (#9): “citizens aren’t concerned about climate change because, by definition, it’s not a problem if the president doesn’t mention it”


    Obama isn’t even going to mention climate threats in his “State of the Union” [sic] speech. Epic fail as Joe has repeatedly pointed out.

    Now the question is how many of us are taking about climate threats in our discussions with friends, family, co-workers and local leadership?

  24. Wit's End says:

    Isn’t is possible that Obama was informed upon taking office that we have PASSED critical tipping points and that consequently the best that can be done is to buy time by avoiding public hysteria leading to a run on gas stations, and the grocery and gun stores…culminating in riots?

  25. Leif says:

    CP has ~40k+ viewers every day. If each contacts the White House today and gets only one other in turn, times 10, we get ~40 million prods before the SOTU. Such is the power of the Pyramid. Do your part.

  26. Sasparilla says:

    #24 Wit’s End – A very interesting comment as it is a situation that (considering our emissions path we’re on) will occur at some point for a President. Unless that particular President was particularly politically brave and honest (like Jimmy Carter), he / she would probably just run from the problem – ignore it.

    I’ve often thought about this with regards to President Obama and the actions of the administration. My guess is, that if it was really too late the information would have gotten out (leaked out – at least to the “crazies” myself included there) since this isn’t the CIA keeping the information, its scientists and politicians. Somebody would have figured it was their duty to let people know the situation.

    In one sense it would almost make the President’s actions seem less horrible (if this hypothetical situation was happening now) than they’ve been, but I think that’s probably not the case and we just have a President who’s made an incomprehensible choice (except from the administration’s own political view of things).

    The sad thing is that we’re on an express elevator to this situation Wit’s End posits, in the not so distant future (decade or two or less?) even though we’ve been warned, had time to stop it and our politicians have chosen not to.

  27. llewelly says:

    Barry, January 25, 2011 at 11:06 am:

    He has been very clear from the beginning that his game plan is about “compromise”.

    But Waxman-Markey itself was a compromise between what was necessary, and was perceived to be “politically feasible”. It would have been an important step in the right direction, but it was much closer business-as-usual than to the rapid and drastic emissions reductions that are actually needed. Had Obama genuinely been the compromiser he claimed to be in, for example, The Audacity of Hope, he would have supported Waxman-Markey much more agressively, and, one hopes, gone directly to the public, doing what he does best, and campaign for widespread public support of Waxman-Markey – because it was a compromise.

  28. Michael Tucker says:

    I think he was told that we have time to wait. No one is calling for seaports to be moved to higher ground so all is well. The economy is much more important than a bill to limit GHG emissions. Jobs are more important and if we can get a few ‘green’ jobs going so much the better.


    Cleaning coal – SOLVED!
    Modernizing Electrical infrastructure – SOLVED!

    Those are two huge issues and so we are well on our way to a brighter tomorrow! I’m so glad we no longer have to worry about generating electricity from coal. THANK YOU Carol Browner and President Obama!

    Nothing the President has seen in the past two years has sufficiently alarmed him into action. No briefing from any member of his cabinet, security council, or science advisers has convinced him we must take action to limit GHG’s.

  29. Mike says:

    I just got an e-mail from the White House announcing that there will be a live call feature after the speech.

    “Immediately following the speech, stay tuned for our live Open for Questions event with policy experts from the White House answering your questions about key issues in the speech.

    Watch the speech and submit your questions:

    From the link:

    “You can send in questions during the address or throughout the panel.
    1. On Twitter: Reply to @whitehouse using the hashtag #sotu
    2. On Facebook: Post your questions to the White House wall
    3. On through the webform” “

  30. Once again we are brutally reminded that politics and elections are the only things that count, and provide the only solutions to our big problems. Nothing, or nearly nothing will happen to combat global warming until after the next national election. We must begin now, as Obama is obviously doing, to prepare to elect more liberals (or at least Democrats). Scientists must continue their climate science work, of course, but all their supporters must get to work on the coming election.

  31. Michael Tucker says:

    The Civil Rights Act and ending the Viet Nam war all had strong political support from a very few but important group of politicians. It was because of their relentless work that we finally saw laws passed and the war ended. Well, the public had to hold Nixon’s feet to the fire but we eventually got it done. Remember Nixon could not have been elected without a promise to end the war.

    So what politician is relentlessly working for a climate bill? Who is out front keeping this alive with the American public?