Obama calls for massive boost in low-carbon energy, but doesn’t mention carbon, climate or warming.

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"Obama calls for massive boost in low-carbon energy, but doesn’t mention carbon, climate or warming."

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment…. I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.”

The good news: Barack Obama delivered a powerful State of the Union speech advocating an aggressive clean energy strategy (text here).  And he acknowledged a fundamental truth:  advances in clean energy “will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling.” Research and development by itself is ineffectual — hence the need for the standard.

The bad news: The President could not bring himself to utter the words “climate change” or “global warming.”  These omissions were depressingly predictable (see “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?“) and thus, predictably, depressing to climate hawks.

The ‘ugly’ news: The phrase “clean energy” has been redefined.

Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all….

Clean coal, of course, doesn’t exist, and it remains a big stretch to call nuclear ‘clean’, but at least this proposal moves the debate forward significantly.  I don’t know whether a serious clean energy standard has a chance, but this appears to be the only plausible way forward in the climate/energy arena, given the death of a serious carbon price and GOP opposition to any funding increases for R&D or deployment.

Obama did defend environmental regulations:

I will not hesitate to create or enforce commonsense safeguards to protect the American people.  That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe.

See also Obama: The benefits of health, safety and environment regulations “exceed their costs by billions of dollars.”

Obama picked up the metaphor Secretary of Energy Steven Chu used in November, when he explained how China’s bid for world leadership in clean energy should be our “Sputnik moment.”

Here are the extensive clean energy parts of the speech:

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.  But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal.  We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.

Already, we are seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard.

Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert’s words, “We reinvented ourselves.”

That’s what Americans have done for over two hundred years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge.  We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities.  With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen…..

The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information – from high-speed rail to high-speed internet.

Our infrastructure used to be the best – but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports.  Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, and constructed the interstate highway system. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down tracks or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.

Over the last two years, we have begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. Tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble these efforts.

We will put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We will make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based on what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down.  As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway…..

Well, of course, we’re not going to do any of those things — thanks to Republicans [and the President is naive if he thinks high-speed rail could avoid security — it’d be a big terrorist target].  As Politico reported today:

House Republicans already have settled on their post-State of the Union message, blasting President Barack Obama’s call for more “investment” as nothing more than another government stimulus.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he is “hopeful that the president has listened to the American people” and won’t embrace a bunch of new government programs that drive the deficit up.

“I’m hopeful that the word investment really isn’t more stimulus spending and a bigger government here in Washington,” Boehner said. “So, I’m looking forward to hearing what the president has to say tonight.”

Given that the President’s major energy investment proposals are DOA — and that the low-carbon standard really only makes sense as a major policy initiative in the world that is trying to reduce carbon emissions — I do continue to think that it is both pointless and foolish, catastrophically so, in fact, for him to refuse to talk about global warming or climate change with so much of America watching.
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104 Responses to Obama calls for massive boost in low-carbon energy, but doesn’t mention carbon, climate or warming.

  1. Barry says:

    Not much “audacity” or “hope” in once again failing to even mention our rapidly destabilizing climate in prime time.

    All we can assume is that Obama doesn’t think it is a big enough threat to Americans to even bother folks with.

  2. Nothing is going to happen if the business community does not get on board. It is the main audience in this, not the people.

  3. Paulm says:

    Starting to despise the guy.

  4. Fred Teal Jr. says:

    It is too late for speeches to be convincing at this point. The only thing that will restore my faith is action.

  5. Crank says:

    “…I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies.”

    Ouch. This should get interesting; I hope he’s able to pull this one off. It could turn out to be an interesting fight, and may be the smart one to pick. Republicans fighting tooth and nail to keep sending taxpayer dollars to oil companies will not paint them in a good light.

    I have to say I think his approach is actually pretty smart, and I don’t concur with the “bad” and “ugly” points being bad or ugly. I think they’re the right tone to take with these issues, for pragmatic reasons.

    The “bad” is just necessary politics, unfortunately. The reality is that any bill that goes to the current congress with the words “climate change” or “global warming” attached to it is as dead as a dodo that’s been run over by a truck, stuffed, buried in peat for six months, dug up again, set on fire and fed into a wood chipper. The only way to get this done is to cast it in different terms, and “reducing dependence on foreign oil” and “creating jobs” might be it. If that’s what it takes, I totally support taking that line….

    As for the “ugly”, it’s certainly unfortunate that “clean coal” is on the list, but it’s probably unavoidable, and may not be as bad as it sounds at first. We’re starting from a carbon emission baseline that’s certainly very ugly indeed; what, 300GW of baseload in the US comes from coal right now? IIRC, 60% of actual electricity consumed comes from coal. There are no solutions that can fix that overnight, so if we can take measures to at least mitigate some of the worst effects of coal generation while working towards a carbon neutral long term solution, we should.

    Bottom line: we need to get something done, and soon. The President’s focus needs to be on getting the best deal that can actually be pushed through congress in the face of a delusional/corrupt GOP that wants none of it. There would be no sense in holding out for the kind of deal that we would like, and ending up walking away with nothing (ie maintaining business as usual).

  6. David B. Benson says:

    Unfortunately, BHO didn’t call for legislation to cause coal to pay for its externalities.

  7. Lou Grinzo says:

    Calling for an end to oil subsidies is just cheap theatrics. He gets credit from “us” for saying it, but he knows the Red House will never pass it, so there’s no real danger of incurring the financial wrath of the oil industry in a post-Citizens United world.

    It’s the Democratic version of the Republicans “repealing” the health care law in the House.

  8. Crank says:

    Lou,
    I’m not sure I agree. Whilst it might not pass, there’s nothing wrong with publicly rubbing the GOP’s noses in it. If they want to keep sending taxpayer money to oil companies, make them vote for it and explain themselves. I think it’s probably a bit late for Obama not to incur the financial wrath of the oil companies; they already know exactly who is looking out for them.

    Of course, it would be great if we didn’t have to deal with this kind of crap and could instead rely on congress to just do the right thing. Unfortunately we do and we can’t, respectively.

  9. Paulm says:

    I guess this is why his climate change envoy resigned. Its all becoming clear now.

    Time to get a new president maybe?

  10. GreenTip says:

    I hate to say it; but I told you so in comments a couple of days ago.

    My White House Press Office contact said essentially that global warming/climate change was a “non starter” for the SOTUA.

    And as we saw tonight he was right.

  11. Philomatt says:

    @crank (#5) I completely agree with all of your points. I thought it was a pragmatic and forward looking speech.

  12. Robert Brulle says:

    Once again, a rhetorical opportunity to build public support for the necessary changes to deal with climate change was lost. As Joe says, why pursue “clean” energy if you don’t mention global warming – because its nice? No – we need to pursue clean energy to avoid completely catastrophic climate disruption. We already have ensured dangerous climate change by our inaction, and another administration without action will lead us into the inner circles of hell. The sooner the real case for action is at least voiced in public, the sooner we will begin to create a real climate change movement.

  13. Deborah Stark says:

    Re: Lou Grinzo | Post #7
    January 25, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    “…..Calling for an end to oil subsidies is just cheap theatrics. He gets credit from “us” for saying it, but he knows the Red House will never pass it, so there’s no real danger of incurring the financial wrath of the oil industry in a post-Citizens United world…..”

    I see your point, Lou, and it’s damned valid. I’m as frustrated as you are, believe me. Don’t get me started. However, since he did “say it”, what about our holding his feet to the fire and letting him (and our state reps) know we want him to follow through on what he has said? Or, to put it another way, let’s back him up.

  14. Crank says:

    As Joe says, why pursue “clean” energy if you don’t mention global warming – because its nice? No – we need to pursue clean energy to avoid completely catastrophic climate disruption.

    Well, I won’t dispute that that is a mighty good motivation. The problem is, the GOP isn’t buying it and without their agreement, nothing is going to happen. Most importantly of all, they’re not going to change their minds, and they’re going to have a deciding vote for the foreseeable future.

    Luckily, that’s not the only motivation: we also have the issue that the world’s oil & gas supply is going to run out eventually, and big chunks of what’s left of it are in the hands of people who don’t like us. Sure, it seems like the lesser problem to me, but if that’s the pitch that the GOP needs to hear to support clean energy, what’s the problem?

  15. adelady says:

    I’m not as disappointed as you guys seem to be. And I’m over the moon about the FF industry subsidies being out in the open in this particular way. Just how many people in the US population even know about these subsidies – or how much they cost?

    And it =will= be a big feature of the bills and debates in congress. Waddya bet that every bill with an expenditure tag has a matching get-the-necessary-funds-from-the-fossil-industries-subsidy paragraph. Members of the houses know about these things, but I’m willing to bet that not many of their constituents do. The mere fact that these issues will be publicly debated in that forum, in bills forwarded by the president, is a great information campaign in and of itself.

    It will be interesting to see how all those people who simultaneously rail against evil subsidies for new industries while getting their expenses paid by companies firmly plugged in to the government coffers will face up to town hall meetings where people get hot under the collar about =all= subsidies.

  16. George says:

    For the 17% or so who are unemployed, or under employed, a stirring call to action on global warming wasn’t going to move the needle very much. It isn’t at all clear that it was going to move the needle very much with many of the rest who have jobs. If it could, then all those global warming deniers wouldn’t have been elected to congress. And even if you are a climate hawk, I have to think that you are expecting that the number of global warming deniers in congress is only going to increase after the next election. At best, the former great liberal hope will hang on to his job as president. At worst, our next president will be a woman (Palin or Bachmann). But hey, wasn’t the world supposed to end in 2012

  17. Robert Nagle says:

    Removing oil subsidies sounds like an issue which climate hawks and Tea Partiers can probably agree on.

  18. OregonStream says:

    If he continues giving credence to “clean coal” despite all the research suggesting it’s infeasible on any meaningful scale (particularly in the absence of carbon pricing), it makes me wonder about the commercial viability of the other technology he touted (turning “sunlight and water into fuel for our cars”). There are several interesting lines of research out there, but what we need are practical solutions today, not another sales pitch for what’s possible down the road.

  19. Alex 77 says:

    Sigh. More of the same. The experience of the last few years has taught me to glean not one scintilla of hope from the words Barack Obama says. His words and stated goals are meaningless. The issues brought up tonight simply indicate the menu from which he’ll be serving the corporations and think tanks that run this country.

    When his administration approaches an issue, Obama effortlessly takes the role of surrender negotiator to see through the sacrifice of any substantive democratic/progressive goals on said issue. This surrender is inevitably labeled necessary “compromise,” but these compromises are actually *defeats.* When Obama says compromise, he means defeats for democrats. It is all political theater, and conservatives and their corporate sponsors *never* lose. Haven’t for 31 years.

    As David Roberts from Grist says, we live in a “post-truth” political era. For millions of Americans, the Barack Obama experience has shattered the possibility of rationally hoping for change, at least within the system. I see no reason for continuing to support him, and I no longer believe that he personally desires the things for America that he says he does. To me he is simply a talented actor, one who will act out whatever part is written for him by his theater directors.

    I will not support Barack Obama in any way in 2012, including at the voting booth. There must be a consequence for selling out all of the democratic ideals this administration ran on. Doing so cannot become a winning political strategy for these democrats, simply because “progressives have nowhere else to go.”

    This is the sentiment of dozens of my progressive friends, along with whom I supported Obama vociferously in 2008.

  20. paulm says:

    Mrs Thatcher’s messaging…. were going to have to suck it up what ever Obama says.

    There’s no Plan B …. echo Margaret Thatcher’s famous economic mantra, ‘There is no alternative’

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1350569/Double-dip-recession-No-Plan-B-UK-economy-says-George-Osborne.html#ixzz1C72fRlWC

  21. paulm says:

    Please support and pass on….
    “Addressing Global Warming, I vow to eliminate all my non-essential flying. It’s a moral issue…”
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/ClimateFlightAction/165484890164497?v=info

    By signing up to reducing your non-essential flying you make a big impact on emissions reduction in multiple ways.
    >Your emissions are substantially reduce.
    >Your resolution highlights and focus the urgency of the issue and the sort of effort that will be required to address the problem with your peers.
    >Lead by example. We can not ask for climate action without making the first move.
    >You reenforce and provide suport
    to consolidate action in tackling global warming.

    http://moralground.com/mission/
    >Yes, our lives must be an expression of what we most deeply value.
    >Yes, we can and must make conscience-driven choices about how we spend our money and time.
    >Yes, we must provide a safe and thriving future for our children.

  22. It doesn’t matter to me that he didn’t mention “climate change” or “global warming” instead favoring “clean energy”. They can call it “Hasenpfeffer Incorporated” for all I care as long as the end result is the same, movement away from fossil fuels.

    But no matter what the POTUS wants to call it, talk is cheap. It’s past time to back it up.

  23. question says:

    I have to agree with Crank (#5). Any bill with climate change as a motivator will simply not pass this congress. It is as simple as that. But Obama can try to bludgeon the GOP with “energy independence”, “building infrastructure”, and “cutting subsidies to the oil companies”. If he is lucky he can even get some of the crucial support for clean energy projects.

    It is hard to imagine that there are many Americans out there that have not heard about climate change one way or the other (unless they have been living under a rock), and probably made up their minds. In such a highly political forum simply repeating the problem, even in very strong terms is very unlikely to make an iota of difference. What Obama is trying to do is to reshape the debate and give himself tools to peal off some of the republicans. If he can get the democrats and even a few of the republicans to go along with revamping our energy structure (for any reason) then he has a win.

    I find it interesting that so many of the responders seem to think that they understand the politics better than Obama does… how many of us have years of experience with bare knuckle politics? how many have convinced more than half the country to vote for us? And how many of us really know what the best way to sway the american people is? Really? As they say, “if you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich?”

    I know how to sway my neighbors. I’ve done it. I might even know how to sway my work place into pledging to be carbon neutral by 2020 (I’m working on it). But I really don’t feel that I know how to sway the American public (they voted for Bush in 2004… they can’t be rational!). And I especially don’t know how to reach this congress, full of intelligent people who refuse to see. I’m happy to add my voice to the call for a carbon tax. But frankly, I trust Obama to decide on the tactics to use more than I trust myself.

    As for “time to get a new president”… that is really a bad idea… splitting liberal vote would be like giving the presidency to the republicans. We did that and probably doomed ourselves to serious climate consequences back in 2000. If we do it again we might as well give up.

  24. It is so interesting that the climate modeling scenarios almost allow predictable foresight — at least enough that so little is actually surprising.

    Now the political reactions seem to be well predicted and not at all surprising.

  25. max says:

    What’s the point of talking about education when America prefers its people stupid. What’s the point of training scientists when you ignore them and don’t believe what they discover.

  26. Andrew DeWit says:

    Is it possible that Obama was speaking in climate code, as Bush used to do with religious themes for the evangelicals? Maybe if you select every 7th word in his speech, there’s sort of a sentence where “global” and “warming” come together or are at least in close proximity?

    Anyway, over here in Japan, even the very conservative Sankei newspaper runs sensible stuff on global warming and the IPCC’s plan to include sections on renewables and extreme weather. The hesitancy to get real about a green energy revolution has been and remains perceived costs, due to determined pollution of the public debate by monopolized utilities that want nuclear power to be the centre of any low-carbon shift. But they, Obama and the GOP look about to run into real, palpable costs in conventional energy.

  27. Glenn Magus Harvey says:

    I think this worked out. Obama is no doubt aware that mentioning the word “climate” will cause right-wingers to go up in arms, and to a lesser extent, the word “global” as well. And along with the bad shape of the economy, any hint that energy prices will be going up will be a very bad idea. So, basically, he has to dodge all of these obstacles, and I think he did so–he framed non-carbon energy sources as (1) a source of technological innovation that can revitalize the economy, complete with an anecdote, and (2) a way to stay competitive against other countries, which is a high priority.

    We all know that there are a lot of deniers among the Republicans’ ranks. The strategy that Obama is using is to box as many of such people in by…let’s call it offering them policy goals they can’t oppose.

  28. Villabolo says:

    Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all….

    He will never learn that compromising has gotten him nothing but his teeth kicked in. He will accomplish nothing and neither will any other political action.

    I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. This civilization is intrinsically irredeemable. The only worthy action is to prepare ourselves and our children and grandchildren for the future and to create a new civilization out of this ashes of this one.

  29. Jay Alt says:

    Clean Energy polls nicely; politicians of both parties notice this. But as joe and robert 11) point out, we need compelling reasons for large changes, to build clean energy capacity and save what we can of our pleasant climate .

    Could Lyndon Johnson have passed the Civil Rights Act with a Trojan horse strategy? Would he and Everett Dirksen (R) have succeeded in 1964 by not mentioning justice and moral imperatives? Could the bill have passed the Senate if the President had never lobbied any Senators? Of course not.

    Obama’s strategy may work but not to the extent needed. Perhaps in his 2nd term (knock wood) he’ll do more. Such pointed reminders of the degree of commitment needed might help (or force) him to prioritize .

  30. Everett Rowdy says:

    It would be great to see an end to fossil-fuel industry subsidies. But the Republicans will frame this as job-killing tax increases – possibly socialistic, and the Democrats, who are totally inept at messaging, would accept that framing and then have to apologize for proposing it in the first place.

  31. Jeff Huggins says:

    I’m Totally Disappointed

    The administration — and indeed, all of us Democrats (mostly, I assume) — should ask:

    With virtually ALL of the bona fide scientific organizations saying that climate change (or global warming) is indeed real and a big problem; and with over 97 percent of the relevant scientific community saying so; and with (as happened recently) a Nobel Prize-winning ‘Sir’ who is head of the Royal Society ripping that dumb dodo from the U.K. to shreds in the recent interview on BBC; and with books out that show that even the oil industry has understood the reality of the problem for many years; and even with Chairmen or former Chairmen of Shell and BP indicating that we have a problem; and even with Rex Tillerson indicating (when it serves his purposes to do so, in speeches to isolated groups) in published speeches that climate change is real; WHY THEN does our President, in the State of the Union Address, not “dare” to mention ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’ and discuss it with the seriousness that the situation — and TRUTH ITSELF — demands????

    I call it a failure. The President is not talking to us AS adults, as an ADULT.

    Tell me, does someone demonstrate moral/ethical credibility if he indicates, or suggests, that the main reasons we in the U.S. should adopt clean energy are ‘competitiveness’, ‘jobs’, and ‘national security’?

    In my view, people who think and say that this was (in essence) practical, tactically speaking, are missing a MAJOR point. IF — (if?!) — talking like this (in the State of the Union) is “tactically practical” at this point, that’s only because the shyness and lack of straightforwardness, and lack of moral/ethical/human straight talk so far, might have pushed us into this dead-end corner where it seems to some that continuing shyness and caution are the “tactically practical” way to go! There is nothing “tactically practical” about avoiding talking like adults, and calling things as they are, unless one thinks he is talking to kindergarten children, and even then the notion is questionable when the stakes are so darn high.

    I see it (the speech) as a complete failure with respect to climate change. So I am eager to hear what the leaders of the climate and environmental movements suggest doing next! I have offered ideas, again and again, but have not heard back and have no idea what’s being planned next. Are we to simply sit back and “hope” that our political leaders — who have been almost entirely ineffective so far — will somehow change their views and find some courage? I’m waiting. Still waiting. Ho hum … still waiting. Does anyone have a DVD or two or ten thousand that I can watch — while I’m still waiting? I voted for someone who is not being successful at the job I voted for him to do, and he doesn’t even seem to be trying very hard, if you ask me. What am I missing?

    Three years ago, I started working fairly hard, in some ways, to support President Obama’s election. Then I voted for him. When he won, I celebrated, with many others. Just this past year, I joined a very-well-intentioned group of dedicated folks who held a demonstration, in front of the White House!, to plea with the President to talk to the nation seriously and directly about climate change. Now, months later, in the State of the Union Address, he doesn’t even mention the words ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’, and he barely even hints at the central moral/ethical case for facing and addressing the problem, if you can even call it a hint. What am I to conclude? I’m deeply, deeply disappointed.

    Jeff

  32. Wonhyo says:

    Obama has never engaged in a head-on political fight as President. Even with health care, he gave up single payer in advance.

    Viewed through the lens of politics, this has been very smart. By avoiding head-on battles Obama took a low-risk approach that guaranteed he’d get something, even as it guaranteed he won’t get what’s really needed.

    Would it have been better for Obama to fight the head-on fights and risk losing it all? Clinton lost health care reform this way. Who’s the more effective leader? Objectively, I would have to say Obama. 30 million Americans are now enjoying the gains from Obama’s compromise, not from Clinton’s loss in the health care fight.

    Climate is different, though. There won’t be a second chance, as there was with health care. Recognizing this, I think Obama should go all-out, taking whatever political risks are necessary, for the possibility of effective climate legislation. In this case, risking a total loss in pursuit of saving civilization is a much better choice than guaranteeing the end of life as we know it in pursuit of a political compromise.

    Nature does not negotiate, compromise, or play politics.

  33. dp says:

    the official republican response read like a cleaned-up drunk arizona geriatric rant. i was surprised he didn’t bring up phrenology. as a first step toward reaching across the aisle this year, maybe the president should apologize for abolishing slavery.

  34. Crank says:

    I just don’t think this era is like any that have gone before in terms of what can be done by making statements in public speeches by the President.

    At any prior time in history, a President could speak and might possibly have large proportions of the population disagree with him, but they wouldn’t be thinking that it was all part of a plot by the President to destroy America and enslave the population under a one world government run by George Soros and the Illuminati (and possibly Adolf Hitler). Talk to some devotees of Glenn Beck sometime if you have any lingering thoughts that the base that the GOP has shored up for itself can be talked around by merely being straight with them. Conversations with these people are frightening in ways that cannot possibly be understood unless you have actually experienced it for yourself.

    If you really, really, want any bill to be voted down by the GOP majority in the house or filibustered by the GOP minority in the senate, tell their base that it’s about “global warming”. The base has been told over and over again that “global warming” is a giant hoax, a fraud, and is a conspiracy with all manner of implications, and they believe it. There’s no way back from this; Florida could be underwater and they’d still think that it was “just a cycle” (or possibly divine revenge for allowing gay people to exist).

    Does having to be pragmatic to the point of being cynical suck? Sure. But that’s where we are.

  35. Jim Groom says:

    It really does not matter what the President wants or if he pushes for climate change action. The Tea Party, that now rules the GOP, will not allow spending on anything except war and the defense department. The house puts forward the spending bills and nothing Obama or progressives want will get beyond committee grand-standing.

    One amusing item that came up tonite was the comment Rep Weiner of New York made about Bachman’s Tea Potty response. ‘She is clearly not in touch with the mother-ship.’ That is just great and is now one of my favorite political comments these past few years. Such eloquence should be recognized and fanned.

  36. jyyh says:

    I started to plan for a state of the nation speak for the first government of any nation that takes climate change seriously. It starts:”Now, as the Age of private long distance transportation is coming into it’s end, by no fault of ours, it’s time for us…”, but I think even that is too much for the individualists of this world.

  37. NeilT says:

    I see the split here and I wonder if people in the climate sphere really get it. When the President doesn’t say and act the way you want you are disappointed and then go on to say that Obama has to go because he doesn’t communicate with the people the way you want him to.

    OK consider this. Obama understands the people he has to communicate to and the climate action groups don’t. Don’t be offended, it’s a fact. All the science is there yet the tea party gets voted in with an absolute climate denial record. Why?

    Lets look somewhere else. 14% of American adults functionally can’t read. That is 32 million VOTERS who get their understanding by word of mouth or by what they hear on the TV.

    Care to guess what they hear? They hear “Climate change is BS”. If they hear some earnest professor talking about Watts per meter forcing CO2, they change channel and snort.

    To these people you simply cannot have a SOTUA speech, in January, in 8 inches of snow, when the west coast is shivering from top to bottom, telling us that the world is warming. They won’t understand and they will think you are just a lying scumbag who’s having them on.

    Let me reiterate. 32 million voters who can understand being the best in the world, can understand new jobs in a new growing sector, who can understand American pride, who can understand not publicly funding something which is doing well.

    32 Million voters who cannot understand climate variability caused by a warming world.

    So tell me, who understands how to get over to the people? The climate lobby who have significantly failed to get their message over to the people for two solid decades? Who have failed to override the avarice of the US political system. Who have failed to find a message which can be heard and understood by everyone; everywhere, regardless of what looking out of the window tells them about the state of the worlds climate today.

    Don’t judge Obama too harshly. The GOP has ensured that “Climate Change” won’t fly and that’s the state of the union today. So if Obama achieves his goals today by other means; so what?

    You can’t get up close and personal with the climate. You can’t hold hands with the climate and sing. You can’t have an educated climate on TV holding rational and unbiased debate. Equally you can’t equate the Human Rights Act with action on Climate Change. There is no comparison. To the situation, to the understanding of the people or, sadly, to the impact on US citizens if they don’t get this one right.

    If you want a president to get heavy on Climate Change in the SOTUA address, lobby to get the address moved to August!

    The battle for action on Climate Change is not a battle you can afford to lose. Yet to make an impassioned speech on the need for action to avert a warming world, standing in inches of snow and frigid temperatures, is one way to lose that argument.

    In order to get things done and avert this disaster, you will need to simultaneously move the clean tech forward, remove subsidies from dirty tech and get the people to believe that this is a good thing.

    You just heard a man advancing your most earnest goals in a way which you would not choose to do it. If I were to think about what he said, I could probably find those statements on clean tech and old tech both here and on RealClimate, unopposed. So tell me, who is listening to whom and who is getting things done?

  38. toby says:

    That Obama could not use the pulpit of SOTU address to defend science is a bad, bad omen.

    It means he will not defend the scientists if they are dragged before Congresional committees.

    It is a depressing reminder of the impotence of Truman and Eisenhower in the face of McCarthyism.

  39. Raul M. says:

    You mean that beyond pollution gets vast
    Government aid and left the gulf of pollution
    in such a mess.

  40. John McCormick says:

    President Obama is heading towards the 2012 Political Superbowl of all time. And he needs a team that is health and strong behind him. Apologies for the football analogy but it works for me, at least.

    His State of the Union was his best shot at using these 18 months before he begins his campaign to start turning the ship of state away from the storm. We passengers might not feel the change but he has laid out the course for winning in 2012 and focusing on climate change thereafter.

    By not mentioning climate change, he was being as realistic as a responsible adult can. No Democrat, House or Senate, benefits, in the next election, by having to vote on a comprehensive climate change bill that commits the US to serious carbon reductions. And, the truth is, they wont. House repugs are owned by the deniers. There will not be a climate change bill being discussed in the 112th Congress. Take that to the bank!

    Now, get over it and plan how we will hold onto the Senate and deep six some of the repug crazies from the House and get our President reelected.

    We have no idea how far those repug crazies would push our nation into the past if they also win the Senate in 2012 (22 Dems, 10 Repugs, one open seat int he Senate in next election). Were they to control the Congress, Bachmann would have stocks placed on the Mall to humiliate dissenters. Maybe I should not have mentioned that. Her staff might be reading this.

    John McCormick

  41. demosthenes says:

    Jeff @ #20
    “I have offered ideas, again and again, but have not heard back and have no idea what’s being planned next……. What am I missing?”

    It may help to think of it as the politician who stands for election and gets no votes – clearly a reflection of the obtuseness of the electorate.

  42. A Siegel says:

    Joe

    1. Excellent call out for the abandonment of talking about climate change / global warming / climate chaos / looming climate catastrophe. Why invest in clean energy? Why does it matter? No hint of that from the President’s speech.

    2. The continued incorporating of clean coal with clean energy is distressing and a sign that the President actually believes that this chimera is reality.

    3. Rather surprised at the absence of something in the conversation: Doesn’t the speech read like something the Breakthrough Institute would promote? This is deployment by 2035 — not doubling renewables by 2015 or such. This is all about “innovation” rather than (with the slight exception of solar shingles in a small manufacture) about things in hand and being deployed around the nation.

    note: Crank: you write “60% of actual electricity consumed comes from coal” How do we track “actual electricity consumed” since coal represents well under 50% of electricity produced, how does its share of consumption represent about 1/3rd more than its share of production?

  43. Chlduvth70s says:

    Crank, I admire your optimism, though I don’t share it.

    I didn’t watch tonight. I had a long day at work and I wanted to be with my children before they went to sleep. I thought about watching the address with them, but I couldn’t bear the prospect of having to explain why all the people were clapping, and why I was getting so upset. I knew he wouldn’t mention the climate. No one wants to talk about it except the folks here, all of us sad and beautiful kooks, and we don’t know what to say other than to discuss the particulars of this planet-sized train bearing down on humanity, the wall-eyed cow on the tracks, dim-wittedly chewing it’s cud, unmoved and unmoving, looking right at the train looming larger and larger. You see that beast on the tracks and all you can say is that is one dumb-ass cow.

    The cognitive dissonance is beginning to wear me out. I am beyond rage. I daydream about moving north, the safest walking routes out of California, growing food without soil, ways to make sure water is potable. What will we all do? Really. What can any of us do? Whether it’s in two years, five, ten, or twenty?

    The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals, and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust? I wonder also if we’ve been here before, and, if so, how many times. Is it so strange to think that humanity has destroyed itself before? Are we so different than lemmings? What reason do we have for holding ourselves in such high esteem? I’m pretty sure that even lemmings know better than to shit where they eat.

    You’re a good man, Joe. Don’t give up. Never give up. I’m not giving up, I’m just stepping back and considering what the proper allocation of my energy is; it is certainly not to go along with the massive mob shuffling stupidly over the cliff.

  44. DrJeannette says:

    I don’t know how I would cope without your blog. I feel like I am at the front of the Titanic and I am the only one who sees the iceberg. I am so disappointed in Obama and the politics in the U.S. I moved my family to upstate NY but now don’t know what to do — join an eco-village? Grow food in the basement? Ignore it all, in a Dr. Strangelove way?

    [JR: Know that there are many out there who feel as you do. And we are all struggling to figure out what the best way to move forward is.]

  45. catman306 says:

    Status Quo you can believe in. Witness the 3 economic advisers placed during the past 2 weeks.

    The olde cynic always votes for the politicians who claim to be diametrically opposed to what the cynic wants because he knows all politicians lie and do exactly the opposite of what they say they will.

  46. steven p says:

    Obama, ignored climate change as an issue for its polarizing of the political process (like just about everything else these days)

    What may be a good political strategy – is a bad decision for the huge problems we are beginning to see- he can only hope he is out of office before the warming in the pipeline and C02 beyond 400ppm begins to hit us.

  47. John McCormick says:

    RE # 25

    NeilT,

    you said what some of us refuse to hear. Better to whack Obama than criticize ourselves.

    Yeah, start bitching the day before that the State of the Union will not address climate change. Great. Make political demands on a President who’s hands are tied with political reality and whack him when he doesn’t jump. Great. Keep pushing Dems to self destruct before the next election and lose the Senate. Great.

    Folks, we’re in the foxhole and the bullets are whizzing over our heads. And, the repugs haven’t hauled out the heavy weaponry yet. Not a good time to jump up and say “climate change or die”.

    Yes, I know delay means we will see death of critters and ecosystems and humans. But, look at where we are on the battlefield. Not outnumbered. Just out foxed.

    I believe, in fact I know, that a second term President Obama will throw himself into fixing climate change.

    He has to get there to do it.

    And, it is our job to stop bitching and start registering young voters and non-registered adults and make them vote for his reelection and for all Democratic Senators up for reelection and vote out the House weasels.

    Do you know how many new repug governors will be in charge of redistricting before the next election?

    NeilT, keep talking. We need adult supervision.

    John McCormick

  48. John McCormick says:

    RE: # 5

    Crank, you raised an interesting issue that needs clarification.

    Using DOE numbers,

    In 1999 Us consumed 3,694,810,000,000 kilowatts of electricity; of which 1,881,087,000,000 kilowatts was coal fired. That’s 51%.

    In 2009,Us consumed 3,953,111,000,000 kilowatts,of which
    1,764,486,000,000 kilowatts was coal fired. That’s 44.6%

    So, the coal contribution shows a 6% drop relative to total electric generation. When, in fact it really dropped only .067% coal-to-coal. More electric demand in those 10 years.

    Look at your annual electric bill and see what a hill we have to climb.

    John McCormick

  49. John McCormick, Crank, NeilT:

    What nonsense! We’ve been told countless times that whenever Obama freely gives away our human rights, our environment, he’s merely playing some secret game of 11-dimensional political chess which’ll end in a total victory for the progressive cause.

    It’s been two years. Why isn’t there any hint of this “victory” in sight?

    frank

  50. PSU Grad says:

    @Robert Nagle #17:

    “Removing oil subsidies sounds like an issue which climate hawks and Tea Partiers can probably agree on.”

    Precisely. By that one issue the “Tea Party” will no doubt reveal itself for what it truly is. I expect thundering, deafening silence on the part of the Tea Party devotees, which will send a powerful message to those Americans paying attention. “Tea Partiers” are not grass roots, they’re not “just like you”, they’re bought and paid for.

    I expect some conservative think tanks to likewise expose themselves.

    And I’m with NeilT. My parents immigrated to this country from Eastern Europe, and one of their (very few) complaints about this society was the desire for “instant” everything. It’s like weight gain/loss….it didn’t happen overnight, don’t expect results overnight. Many things in life are a long slog, this will be no exception (how can it be with the entrenched interests and lifestyles?).

    John McCormick is also right, I think. Stop the whining and get to work. Because if Obama isn’t reelected, I can virtually guarantee the next president will most definitely not be to your liking.

  51. John McCormick says:

    RE: # 49

    PSUGrad, yes, we will not like a repug President. And, he will not like us.

    Furthermore, if we lose the Senate and they keep the House, those repugs are going to repeal…………..

    John McCormick

  52. A Siegel says:

    John McC — you make quite a few good points.

    However, re the point on coal (#48), interesting to look perhaps at more recent numbers for trends.

    In 2007, for example, electricity demand was 4,156,74 gigawatt hours (http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table1_1.html) and then fell (for a variety of reasons, mainly the economic crisis) to 3,953,111 in 2009.

    Coal (for a number of reasons) fell from 2,016,456 in 2007 to 1,764,486 in 2009. E.g., coal and electricity use kept increasing through 2007. Both have fallen since but coal has fallen disproportionally (e.g, both in total kWhs and in % of generated electricity). We still, as per your point, have a very long way to go but looking at the more recent trends gives reason for a (little) bit more optimism.

  53. brooks bridges says:

    To all those saying they won’t support Obama in the future I once again ask: Who WOULD you support who could 1) get elected and 2) get more done?

    I’ve YET to get a response to this question.

    A rough quote of Paul Krugman: If Obama has not turned out to be the president of your dreams, the alternatives look like your worst nightmare.

  54. Jeffrey Davis says:

    Barak … I am disappoint.

    It’s as if Obama believes that we can go to 550ppm of CO2, but as long as Democrats are in the White House from here to there it will be ok.

    CO2 and GHGs are the problem. There’s already too much of them. Adding to the store of them in the atmosphere will make things worse and maybe quickly much worse. That’s what makes the problem difficult.

  55. Mike Roddy says:

    I’m interested in details about Obama’s pledge to end subidies to the oil and coal industries. Can this be done at the executive level? Congress certainly won’t do it.

  56. Leland Palmer says:

    I’m pretty disappointed in the Trojan horse strategy, but what matters is billions of tons of carbon. The climate speaks the language of billions of tons of carbon.

    As far as clean coal goes, “clean coal” is developing the technology necessary for BECCS (BioEnergy with Carbon Capture and Storage) and BECCS is the only way to get the math to work out. Like it or not, we have to put massive amounts of carbon back underground to stabilize the climate. Nothing but the coal fired power plants can move enough carbon from the biomass carbon source back underground, and do so while making a profit.

    BECCS

    The negative emissions that can be produced by BECCS has been estimated by the Royal Society to be equivalent to a 50 to 150 ppm decrease in global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations[3] and according to the International Energy Agency, the BLUE map climate change mitigation scenario calls for more than 2 gigatonnes of negative emissions with BECCS in 2050.[4]

    The concept of BECCS is drawn from the integration of biomass processing industries or biomass fuelled power plants with carbon capture and storage. BECCS is a form of carbon dioxide removal, along with technologies such as biochar, carbon dioxide air capture and biomass burial.[5]

    The main appeal of BECCS is in its ability to result in negative emissions of CO2. The capture of carbon dioxide from bioenergy sources effectively removes CO2 from the atmosphere.[6]

    The ability to put carbon back underground has a huge synergistic effect on the math. Not only does BECCS displace fossil fuels, it does it while putting carbon back underground, and producing electricity which if applied to electric vehicles could displace still more fossil fuel use. BECCS applied to trash and other forms of carbonaceous waste could also solve the problem of methane coming from landfills.

    So, like it or not, I agree with Obama and Chu. We have to develop clean coal technology- but take one final step, and apply that technology to BECCS.

    Many coal fired power plants are on rivers. River transport of bulk materials is the cheapest form of transport, most often. Gravity assisted and river transport of biomass could move biomass and charcoal from anywhere upstream on the watershed to the converted BECCS power plants. The biomass could come from forest and crop waste, or from dedicated biomass plantations. Biomass also contains hydrogen, and that hydrogen, along with gravity assisted transport, could fuel the transport of biomass and charcoal to the converted BECCS power plants. The hydrogen and other combustible gases could be released by pyrolysis of the biomass, then collected and used directly, or used to generate electricity and dumped into the grid. This electricity could fuel electric vehicles to assist with the transport of the biomass or charcoal to the BECCS plants.

    Regardless of the Huffington Post and the “clean coal is an oxymoron” slogan, we have to develop CCS, so that we can develop BECCS.

    Overall, I’m not too disappointed, except in the Repugs, who refuse to admit reality. Apparently they’re going to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

  57. Scrooge says:

    In my opinion he may have done the best he could. It doesn’t matter how we progress as long we do progress. Yes it would be nice if we were treated as adults, but he was also speaking to the conservatives and the GOP. So he may have tried to go with the lowest common denominator.

  58. Anne van der Bom says:

    The ‘jobs’, ‘competitiveness’ and ‘energy independence’ arguments will be easily countered by the Republicans by simply pointing out that allowing more drilling within American borders will address all these concerns. The ‘clean’ part will countered by saying: well the air is safe to breathe, what’s problem is there to address? The answer to that question would be The Issue That Cannot Be Named.

    The only convincing reason for doing clean energy is climate change and nothing else. Obama denies himself the use of the one and only convincing argument. Whether that’s a smart tactic is yet to be seen. It might turn out to be clever pragmatism. Or it might turn out to be short-sighted cowardism.

  59. Daniel Ives says:

    RE: brooks bridges #52

    I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of having to choose the lesser of two evils in every election. “Let’s see, what’s less-bad for our future, the turd sandwich or the giant douche?” We have a choice between the openly corporate red guys or the secretly corporate blue guys. Is that really a choice?

    It doesn’t look like Obama will get a primary opponent, so for now we are probably stuck supporting him especially since the alternative is so scary. But when are progressives going to learn that they need to do to the Democratic party what the Tea Party has done to the Republican party?

  60. Nell says:

    We need the climate equivalent of Pearl Harbor to get the factions to pull together… and the voters behind them.

  61. Mark says:

    I thought it was a good speech even though I wish he had started to educate the public on climate change.

    I’m not worried about the mentions of nuclear and clean coal. All you have to do is look at the track record of how much new renewable energy generating capacity vs. how much new nuclear or “clean” coal generating capacity was brought on line in the last few years. Record growth for renewables vs. Zero for nuclear and clean coal.

    We know that there is no such thing as “clean” coal, and even if technical problems could be solved, it would be a non-starter economically. Nuclear is a non-starter economically, even with the loan guarantees the administration offered over the last couple years.

    I like the idea of removing the subsidies for the oil industry, both politically and because it is one small step in the right direction from a climate perspective.

  62. SecularAnimist says:

    Leland Palmer wrote: “Like it or not, we have to put massive amounts of carbon back underground to stabilize the climate.”

    Like it or not, I disagree with that assertion.

    We certainly do need to draw down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of atmospheric CO2. We can do that by working with natural processes — namely organic agriculture and reforestation — to capture CO2 while at the same time restoring the biosphere to health.

    CCS is (1) unlikely to ever work and (2) an excuse to perpetuate coal-fired power plants.

    The coal corporations are not pushing for massive government funding for CCS because they want to be put out of business by biofuels. They are pushing for it because they know very well that they will never have to use it, because it will never be practical. It’s nothing but a stalling tactic.

    And it’s completely unnecessary, as is nuclear power. The USA has vast wind and solar energy resources, far more than needed to provide all the electricity we currently use with plenty more to electrify ground transport, in perpetuity.

  63. Wit's End says:

    Anne, #58…

    Of course climate change is an existential threat but it is not actually necessary to invoke it to fix it, because in fact, the air is NOT safe to breathe.

    For just one recent example, this NYTimes article:

    “Filthy air in California cost federal, state and private health insurers $193 million in hospital costs, according to a RAND Corporation study released last week.

    The report is the first to show how California’s failure to meet federal clean air quality standards is increasing hospital expenses and its impact on insurers, said John Romley, the study’s lead author and a RAND economist.

    Medicare and MediCal, California’s Medicaid program, paid for more than two-thirds of the costs, while private insurers paid the rest.

    Los Angeles County spent the most in the state on air pollution-related ailments, followed by the counties of Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Sacramento.

    Air pollution led to almost 30,000 hospital admissions and emergency room visits for asthma, pneumonia and other respiratory and cardiovascular ailments from 2005 to 2007. Three quarters of the complaints were related to fine particulate pollution, or small pieces of soot that get trapped in the lungs, and the remainder were caused by ozone.”

    http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/12/health-costs-of-california-air-pollution/

    This doesn’t include the many studies linking air pollution to cancer, and there are studies emerging that link air pollution to diabetes and autism, both epidemics, as well.

    It’s a myth that we have cleaned the air. Much of the visible pollution has been removed by cleaning up sulphur from coal plants and regulating auto emissions – but the invisible background tropospheric level of ozone is rising, rising, rising – and it’s even more toxic to plants – agricultural products and trees – than it is to people.

  64. Raul M. says:

    Yes, the old star promotion of he or she
    is Godly is having new problems now
    That the weather may not be as nice
    as we would like. Some who run for
    Office may think that being “blustery”
    is a good approximation of having
    Gods backing. But steps forward
    are probably harder when
    pulling such an unwieldy audience
    from the hall on fire.

  65. Wonhyo says:

    I’ve reconsidered my earlier thoughts (#32) and have an alternate take. If Obama has given up on
    truly effective climate saving legislation, the way he gave up on single payer health care, his omission of “climate change” from his speech makes perfect sense. An approach that guarantees some small wins on energy, without mentioning climate, may produce better results (though still inadequate) than to risk losing it all by acknowledging climate change.

  66. Wit's End says:

    This mysteriously arrived in my email, I’m curious as to whether people think it’s a serious solution?

    Conflicting problems of the Economy, Energy, Environment, Security, Inflation, Food, and Spendable Income, seem Insurmountable, but are they?
    The Wisest Response is to select a new course of action that allows economic expansion now, without harm to the environment, at a price we can afford.
    Sea Solar Power, is an innovative company that has designed an economically efficient, environmentally friendly system, to harness solar energy from the tropical oceans, 24 / 7 / 365, to generate electricity, produce high quality desalinated water, and grow a variety of fish food for most of the world’s population.

    Sea Solar Power

    seasolarpower.com

    [JR: A very useful, niche strategy.]

  67. llewelly says:

    [and the President is naive if he thinks high-speed rail could avoid security — it’d be a big terrorist target].

    The pat-downs done at airports are not security. They are 100% theater. This is not to say rail will somehow avoid theater – perhaps for a time they will. But please don’t buy in to delusional language. The nonsense that goes on at American airports should not be called “security” for the same reason “FutureGen” type ideas should not be called “clean coal”; they are both pure propaganda.

  68. Barry says:

    Fighting climate destabilization is going to require some sacrifices by society before the irreversible impacts slam us for good. Hello?

    People are not going to do this if they aren’t informed of the threats we face. When a president never even mentions the concept in major public events over many years…it says clearly that it isn’t a problem he sees threatening Americans.

    It is a standard role of Presidents to rally a nation to move out of their temporary comfort zone and pull together to meet a looming menace.

    Kennedy and Johnson did it with civil rights. Churchill did it with UK in WWII. Heck Bush even managed to do it with Iraq when there wasn’t a threat. Effective presidents seize their opportunity to lead and use the bully pulpit to move the nation.

    Joe and others are right when they say that the continued silence by Obama on climate destabilization will go down as his biggest failure when those threats arrive fully blown — as they definite will.

    Nobody in that future is going to say “oh yeah, I can understand why the President didn’t even mention it when he had the world stage.”

    And why exactly should we “hope” that he will change his stripes in a second term?

    The “audacity of silence”…

  69. Tom Lenz says:

    It is Hansen’s opinion that Obama just ‘doesn’t get it’ and I agree. We all watched as he swept all the damage from last summer’s oil disaster right under the rug the minute the well was capped and the MSM returned to business as usual. His priorities were perfectly clear. If he has any environmental concerns at all they seem to have evaporated since his election campaign. So we’ll hold our noses and support his re-election on the theory he will do the right thing in a second term. Does anyone here expect him to run for re-election on a climate change platform? Will he even bring it up this time? Not if he doesn’t have to I’m afraid. I sincerely hope I’m wrong about him but I’m not impressed.

  70. Berbalang says:

    Crank @ 34:

    There is a lot of wisdom in what you write. I have had those type of conversations with those people. One has to choose words very carefully because they don’t mean to them what you think they mean and they can change meaning without warning. They can’t see themselves as making a mistake, so once they make a mistake they are stuck with it. So they have to introduce another mistake to compensate for the first one. and then they have to introduce another mistake to compensate for it. It winds up being ERRORS ERRORS ERRORS all the way down!

    I am reminded of a saying, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.” The GOP has taken stupidity and turned it into a formidable weapon.

  71. Rob Honeycutt says:

    People people people! Come on! Look at the composition of the lawmakers Obama has to deal with. This is not going to be a pretty two years coming up. The mere fact that he even touched on energy issues is fantastic! Remove $4B in subsidies from oil companies! A million electric cars on the road!

    We should be dancing in the streets!!

    You have to learn to read between the lines. The words that Obama could have used to make all of us, here on this blog, the most happy would have also been the words that would have ensured that absolutely nothing could happen in the legislative process.

    Let’s celebrate what he did say rather than gnaw our legs off about what he has YET to say. Give it time. The guy is on our side.

  72. Rob Honeycutt says:

    I want to repost what BrooksBridges posted above quoting Paul Krugman because I think this is the crux of the whole issue…

    “If Obama has not turned out to be the president of your dreams, the alternatives look like your worst nightmare.”

  73. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Regarding “clean coal” technology… This is something else we should be celebrating! But not the way you might think.

    “Clean coal” is three things: 1) Expensive, 2) A long way off, and 3) No one will want sequestration in their back yard.

    Let the coal companies chase that rabbit! In the meantime wind and solar will become cheaper and cheaper. By the time coal companies have wasted billions on something no one wants wind and solar will dominate.

  74. Jay Alt says:

    Here are Monday’s polling numbers on Australian issues.

    Three percent of the AU public says climate change should be the top priority, another 3% rate it 2nd, 4% for #3. This is probably better than the US but these are small numbers behind concern for the economy. The Australian media has a full assortment of deniers, cranks, astroturfers and Rupert Murdoch. Their coal industry and exports are immense. Retired geologist Bob Carter spreads climate confusion across the nation. And the opposition is headed by a proud denier.

    Despite these familiar factors, PM Julie Gillard had the intestinal fortitude for a long speech on Climate Change policy last summer. And the first words from her mouth were ‘Climate Change’. The scope she covered is impressive. If Obama could touch on 1/4th what she spanned, I’d be delighted. The purpose of her speech was to begin dialogue and move toward common action.

  75. Tom Lenz says:

    He says our air and water are safe and clean? In the SOTU? I could not believe my ears when I heard that. My faith in him is shaken to the core.

  76. Flash says:

    Peabody Energy credits “coal supercycle” for soaring profits
    January 25, 2011

    Source: Peabody Energy

    Peabody Energy has reported full-year 2010 EBITDA of $1.82 billion, a 41 percent increase over prior-year levels. Income from continuing operations rose 76 percent to $805.1 million, with diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of $2.87. Adjusted diluted earnings per share from continuing operations increased 59 percent to $3.05. The company also set a new record for revenues of $6.86 billion on sales of 245.9 million tons.

    “Peabody delivered the second best year in company history, with record safety performance, strong cost containment and margin expansion in every operating region,” said Peabody Energy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gregory H. Boyce.

    “While heavy rains and other supply disruptions create near-term logistics challenges, they also result in significant market upside for Peabody’s unpriced metallurgical and thermal export coal beyond the first quarter. At the same time, our platform is in expansion mode to serve the seaborne Pacific markets, which have the greatest sustainable growth opportunities and pricing leverage,” Boyce continued.

    RESULTS FROM CONTINUING OPERATIONS

    Revenues for the full year increased $847.6 million to $6.86 billion, driven by higher volumes and pricing from mining operations in both the United States and Australia. 2010 sales volumes totaled 245.9 million tons compared with 243.6 million tons in 2009. Australia shipments grew 21 percent to 27 million tons, including 9.8 million tons of metallurgical coal and 11.1 million tons of seaborne thermal coal. Australian revenues rose 50 percent on rising prices for both metallurgical and seaborne thermal coal. U.S. revenues increased due to higher average realized prices in both the Midwestern and Western regions.

    Consolidated EBITDA totaled $1.82 billion compared with $1.29 billion in the prior year, led by record Mining Operations contributions.

    Income from continuing operations was $805.1 million with adjusted income from continuing operations climbing 60 percent to $852.7 million. Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations reached $2.87 compared to $1.64 in the prior year, a 75 percent increase. Full-year adjusted diluted earnings per share rose 59 percent to $3.05.

    GLOBAL COAL MARKETS AND PEABODY’S POSITION

    Peabody believes the world is in the early stages of a long-term supercycle for coal as China, India and other emerging nations dramatically increase energy use, steel consumption grows globally, oil becomes increasingly scarce and expensive and alternatives lack the cost and scale to effectively compete.

    “The long-term supercycle for coal is strengthening with each passing day,” said Boyce. “Nations such as China and India are growing 8 to 10 percent per year off a much larger base. Hundreds of millions of people each year are moving to the cities, switching on technologies and extending coal’s role as the fastest growing fuel.”

    Economic growth in emerging Asia is expected to be the driver of large increases in thermal and metallurgical coal. Through 2015, approximately 390 gigawatts of new coal-fueled generation are expected to be built globally, requiring 1.2 billion tonnes of annual coal supply. Global steel production is expected to rise more than 30 percent during that time, requiring approximately 300 million tonnes of additional metallurgical coal supply annually. [Metallurgical coal is coal that is particularly suited for making into coke, which is used to turn iron ore into steel. Coke is essentially pure carbon. In the process of turning iron ore into steel, the coke becomes CO2, which, of course, goes into the air. Evidently, the making of steel contributes a nontrivial amount to the man-made CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere.]

    Demand for U.S. coal rose approximately 75 million tons in 2010, led by a 5.5 percent increase in coal-fueled generation and an 18 million ton rise in exports.

    U.S. coal generation accounted for nearly two-thirds of the growth in total power output, outpacing natural gas and all other fuels. The higher coal demand was related to new coal-fueled generation, favorable weather, and a partial reversal of 2009’s coal-to-gas switching.

    Indexed U.S. coal prices continued to rise in 2010 in all regions, with increases ranging from 30 to 50 percent.

    Peabody believes U.S. coal demand will increase modestly in 2011, led by colder winter weather in the first quarter and stronger GDP growth in the back half. The company anticipates more significant economic growth in 2012 and beyond, resulting from stronger consumer spending and industrial activity.

    Additional near-term export opportunities are developing, with favorable current economics for Illinois and Colorado coal to Europe and Powder River Basin (PRB) coal to Asia and Europe.

    For 2011, the company is targeting total sales of 245 to 265 million tons including 28 to 30 million tons from Australia, 195 to 205 million tons from the United States and the remainder from Trading and Brokerage activities.

    Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private-sector coal company and a global leader in clean coal solutions. Its coal products fuel approximately 10 percent of U.S. power and 2 percent of worldwide electricity.

  77. Ken Hayes says:

    I teach physics at a small conservative liberal arts college in the Midwest. About two years ago I became seriously interested in the problem of global warming and have committed myself to trying to educate my students and my community about it. I have given questionnaires to my students and have measured that about 80% of them deny anthropogenic global warming. The rural county in which I live has a large majority of Republican voters, and I assume a majority of them also deny anthropogenic global warming. My siblings passionately deny it.

    I have tried two different approaches towards educating my students and community members on the global warming issue:

    APPROACH 1: DIRECT DISCUSSION OF THE PROBLEM

    When I first tried this approach, I thought it seemed logical. So I tried it in my introductory physics course for the non-science students. I presented to them the survey results that showed the great majority of them denied anthropogenic global warming and then showed them evidence that the Earth was warming primarily due to anthropogenic emissions of CO2.

    RESULT: MISERABLE FAILURE. A wall immediately arose between the students and myself, and although they remained polite, the great majority resolutely refused to hear what I was telling them. I tried this near the beginning of the course, and I had to work hard the rest of the semester to try and rebuild some trust between us.

    APPROACH 2: INDIRECT PRESENTATION OF THE PROBLEM

    I was given the opportunity a few months ago to speak to a local community service club. I decided to attempt a very small step towards educating them about the problem: my goal was to show them the graph by Huang, Pollack, and Shen of the average global surface temperature over the past 500 years reconstructed from borehole measurements.

    http://www.globalwarmingart.com/wiki/File:Borehole_Temperature_png
    http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/…/Huang_boreholeTemp_Nature’00.pdf

    In July, 2009, I dug a very shallow borehole in my backyard (0.7 m deep!) and have been recording 24/7 the surface air temperature and temperatures at three depths in the borehole with the goal of being able to discuss this local data with community members and students. The idea is that nearly everyone is interested in their local weather. Most of my presentation was about the last 15 months of local weather as measured in my little borehole and the physics of how the ground stores a record of the surface temperature. Near the end of the talk I then switched to data from deeper boreholes, and finished with the above graph. Never did I mention global warming, greenhouse gases, or CO2. I believe that to this population those words are—at the present time—emotional triggers that will shut down communication.

    RESULT: COMPLETE SUCCESS. The vast majority gave me their complete attention and remained polite and warm towards me both during and after the presentation. One comment from the question session was, “Why haven’t I ever heard of this borehole method before?” !!!!!!!!!! Also, I was asked several times by different people in the audience, “Why is this happening?” I did not answer them because I didn’t wish to damage the progress that had been made, and instead asked them to invite me back this spring to give them a series of physics demonstrations about why it is happening. They happily agreed to do so!

    This is the story of my brief experience in discussing the global warming problem with students and people in my community. I watched Obama’s speech last night and thought to myself, “HE GETS IT. HE UNDERSTANDS WHO HE IS SPEAKING TO.”

  78. Bill Woods says:

    … Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. …

    “Clean coal, of course, doesn’t exist, and it remains a big stretch to call nuclear ‘clean’, …”

    As opposed to calling natural gas ‘clean’?

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/25/gas-leaks-on-the-path-to-a-post-fossil-future/

  79. John McCormick says:

    RE # 59

    Danial Ives, you asked:

    “But when are progressives going to learn that they need to do to the Democratic party what the Tea Party has done to the Republican party?”

    I know the answer: When progressives drink the hemlock, they can do whatever to the Democratic Party because they won’t be here to see the horrendous results. The rest of us adults will have to live with your wish.

    Never forget that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the Florida votes he needed to win the White House.

    How many times do we have to repeat the same things before people understand what is at stake in 2012.

    Oh, Yeah. 13 times. That’s the magic number of repeated messages people need to hear in order to hear the message.

    John McCormick

  80. Crank says:

    Crank, I admire your optimism, though I don’t share it.

    LOL… it didn’t occur to me that I was being optinistic :-o.

    I think that Obama’s strategy is the only viable one. That doesn’t mean to say that I think that success is in any way guaranteed.

    There’s some very powerful stupid arrayed against us…

  81. John McCormick says:

    RE #65

    Wonhyo, good call.

    There is a method to President Obama’s approach to politics and he has two great daughters. He gets it. We have to believe in him. Our job these next 21 months is to assure he has the team, in the 113th Congress, to achieve the next steps towards protecting the futures of the world’s children.
    Why is that so hard to understand and accept?

    A big part will be his quiet diplomacy with China and India because the Chinese government gets it and India knows its future is locked in the remaining ice in the Himalayan Range.

    John McCormick

  82. Michael Tucker says:

    Haven’t you heard? The Republicans and their minions have decided any mention of ‘investment’ is progressive code for spending and they are against any new spending.

    If the President expects to get to clean energy production by government investment WITHOUT emphasizing the supreme need and moral imperative for such action he will lose.

  83. Brooks Bridges says:

    President Obama didn’t mention peak oil either. Here is a quote suggesting why from:

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/05/15/peak-oil/

    Key quote:
    “Public Unaware. Except for a few stories in financial pages such as London’s Financial Times, this earth-shaking news has yet to reach the Mainstream Media. While “Peak Oil” researchers have long warned of approaching oil shortages, the difference now is these dire warnings are being validated by the highest government and oil company officials. Yet, no political leader has had the courage to make a major announcement to prepare the public for what lies ahead.

    This public blindness is tantamount to the isolationism that gripped the U.S. in the years preceding WWII. While the highest government leaders did their best to prepare for inevitable war, they were hamstrung by the resistance of a public unable to accept what really lay ahead. Similar to today, some politicians advanced their own careers by feeding on the public’s desire to believe no coming storm could ever reach them. Yet, the storm came anyway.”

    Also a reminder that we have so much crap (besides “just” AGW) heading for so many fans and so fast it’s mind boggling and sobering.

    A Buddhist quote I think relevant to the discussion:

    “Do not judge. See only your own actions, done and undone.”

  84. OregonStream says:

    Interesting approach, Ken. Of course, there’s the question of how much support we can expect for wholesale change without eventually getting to the root issue. People who are resistant to the concept of human-induced climate change may have a problem with ending subsidies for domestic oil production, and making a strong push toward efficiency and renewables. They’re perhaps more likely to support continued exploration for fossil fuels, including pushing into the Arctic, cleaning out the tar sands, and developing any promising oil fields at home. For some, it’s all just part of God’s bounty to be exploited. It’s easier to think that than consider the possibility that fossil fuel reserves are something we need to wean ourselves from, or even dumping grounds for God’s/nature’s removal of excess carbon.

  85. Shelly L says:

    Nuclear power most certainly is clean energy. Non-existent clean coal is clearly not. Natural gas is a carbon-emitting fossil fuel that pollutes water as its extracted, so not that either. Why the bias against Bill Gates-style or James Hansen-style new generation nuclear? Nuclear waste is a tiny amount compared to the massive tons of radioactive toxic coal ash waste produced every year.

    That said, Obama needs to drop the idea that clean coal exists. Surely he knows better.

  86. Rob Honeycutt says:

    Shelly said… “Obama needs to drop the idea that clean coal exists.”

    He absolutely knows it. Everyone knows it. But it’s a political statement to ease the minds of folk in coal producing states who have representatives in the Congress and Senate.

  87. SecularAnimist says:

    Shelly L wrote: “Why the bias against Bill Gates-style or James Hansen-style new generation nuclear?”

    Because such technology doesn’t exist and won’t exist for decades.

    Because existing nuclear technology is vastly expensive and will take resources away from much more cost effective solutions.

    Because with today’s existing, mature, powerful wind and solar technologies, we can harvest America’s vast wind and solar energy resources to produce more electricity than we currently use, with plenty left for electrifying ground transport, in perpetuity — and we can do it faster, cheaper, more reliably and more safely than with nuclear.

    That’s why.

  88. SecularAnimist says:

    Rob Honeycutt wrote: “Regarding ‘clean coal’ technology … Let the coal companies chase that rabbit! In the meantime wind and solar will become cheaper and cheaper. By the time coal companies have wasted billions on something no one wants wind and solar will dominate.”

    With all due respect, I don’t think you get it.

    It’s not the coal companies who are going to waste billions chasing the rabbit of “clean coal”.

    It’s the Obama administration. With billions of our tax dollars. And while the Obama administration is spending our tax dollars on “clean coal” R&D, the coal companies will point to that as a reason that they should be able to go on operating today’s decidedly unclean coal-fired power plants.

    And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather that my tax dollars were spent to accelerate the development and deployment of solar and wind, not to perpetuate the “clean coal” hoax.

  89. Alex 77 says:

    brooks bridges says:
    January 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

    To all those saying they won’t support Obama in the future I once again ask: Who WOULD you support who could 1) get elected and 2) get more done?
    ——————————————————
    I assume that readers of Climate Progress well understand the immense scale and extreme urgency of the climate crisis. We are already well beyond the point at which major disruptions are guaranteed. Each passing day without action brings disaster closer, while making it larger. Moreover, we also must acknowledge that the US (still) has the leading int’l role in climate negotiations and treaties – or, at least, the ability to disrupt/derail such attempts. Nothing will happen globally until we allow it to.

    Given these realities, and accounting for the fact that Obama will continue to, at best, throw paltry clean energy crumbs our way, how can we in good conscience support him?

    An instructive moment in his administration took place when climate change legislation was being worked through the senate. It was going very badly for proponents, and Obama received a letter containing a desperate plea for his direct involvement in the fight for the bill’s passage. This letter was signed by countless heads of scientific academies, all major environmental NGO’s, and delivered by John Podesta from Center for American Progress. A more powerful consortium of climate action backers does not exist. And in that crucial moment where Obama was asked to lead, to join the fight, or to at least back up his promises with action…nothing. It was ignored. He preferred to stay at 30000 feet above the fray. The outcome was inevitable, and our best chance at even marginally effective climate legislation blew away. This is what he did in a far better political environment than we have now.

    Obama has been educated on the science and the urgency of the problem. His choice is to take precious little action and to show no passion, for the sake of political calculation, or perhaps because *he just doesn’t care*. No matter how strong of a constituency exists on the left for a given cause, Obama *will* split the legislative difference with conservatives, no matter how far to the right that “center” is pulled by the republicans. This is a losing strategy for climate, which cares little of our “political realities.” I’d rather fight political realities than physical realities, any day.

    Two guys in Obama’s admin whose relative silence on all of this seems stunning are John Holdren and Steven Chu. They seem to be being used as ornaments, whose simple presence lends Obama climate credibility, but really who have no real power or voice. Perhaps a simultaneous and loud resignation by those two (and others) from the admin would demonstrate and draw attention to its inadequacy and corruption on climate action. Their presence otherwise lends Obama the same credibility on climate that Juan Williams lends Fox news on issues of race.

    There is no chance that Obama and his gaggle of wall street banker advisors will do what is necessary on climate change. In fact, it likely won’t even be mentioned. 4 add’l years of this in 2012 are nothing to fight for. I’d rather hasten the arrival of the next republican president. Because life under Obama is no less painful or fictional than life under Bush was.

    Lastly – medical analogies are frequently used in service of persuading deniers that accepting the guidance of the scientific consensus is the only rational course. “If 97 out of 100 doctors said you were running a worsening and ultimately fatal fever which required a specific albeit uncomfortable treatment to cure, would you choose not to believe them because the treatment is unpleasant, and because there are 3 doctors claiming there is really no problem? “No” you say? You would follow the 97? Then why doubt climate scientists?” And so on.

    Well, within the same analogy, Obama is the chief medical director, and while he doesn’t deny the fever diagnosis from the 97 doctors, he only pushes for inadequate and painless treatment courses which everyone knows will lead to the patient expiring – only slightly less quickly. Your condition has worsened considerably under his care, with now 99 of 100 doctors agreeing on their initial course of remedy, yet the director now counsels an even weaker treatment course.

    However an opportunity to change medical directors is pending, and your choices are:

    -sticking with Obama and hoping for the best
    -elevating one of the 99 doctors to be chief
    -picking the 1 “doctor” who says you are fine, and who promises to close the hospital while he is in charge

    What would you do?

  90. John McCormick:

    There is a method to President Obama’s approach to politics and he has two great daughters. He gets it. We have to believe in him.

    Obama’s supreme secret political “method” is, um, exactly what cost his party the midterm elections. Do you sincerely believe that the same “method” will work to reverse the failure it created in the first place?

    frank

  91. John McCormick says:

    RE # 88

    Alex77, you said: “I’d rather hasten the arrival of the next republican president. Because life under Obama is no less painful or fictional than life under Bush was.”

    You are kidding. Aren’t you? That is an absurd comment unless you are so insular that you see America only from your vantage point of global warming.

    Please, think about the rest of America and how a repug President can harm them and our children aside from the impacts of global warming.

    If we believers become “one trick ponies” we become less than useless to the larger fights that most Americans also care about: needs of low class families, public education; food stamps.. am I making a point or am I ranting.

    I’m getting sick and tired of people who have no strings to pull but are cavalier about dumping Obama and taking what comes next. I want to scream. I will in the next few seconds.

    John McCormick

  92. Alex 77 says:

    Re: # 90

    Let me unpack why living under Obama is no less painful than under Bush.

    The Bush years were absolutely calamitous for our nation, and are something we’ll likely never fully recover from. Witnessing the Bush admin wreak their havoc was utterly agonizing and heartbreaking.

    Obama positioned himself as a change agent to all of this, and genuinely inspired “hope” that things would be better in myriad ways. He said so many of the things that progressives desperately needed to hear, and I was legitimately persuaded that he is an honest, moral, and humane individual. His laudable community organizing background persuaded me that he was a tenacious fighter. The fact that his campaign raised so many millions of $’s from so many millions of people, shattering all records, gave me hope that he would actually do the people’s work. To actually politic on behalf of the desires and best interest of the American people. And that lobbyists and corporate cash would actually be significantly disempowered in policymaking.

    Perhaps the hope he established in me was naivete, and I was wrong to ever feel this way. But the reason I find his tenure *so* painful is that I have learned that I was totally naive to believe in Obama and his story. He is a great actor, and I for one haven’t the slightest clue what he believes in. He continuously surrender all battles, racing to a “compromise” that is actually a defeat. For these defeats then to be labeled “progress” or “victories” is what is so agonizing. Call a spade a spade. Do not ask me to participate in labeling continuous policy defeats as victories. My integrity cannot take doing so.

    The institutions in this country that are causing so much harm (ex: R wing think tanks, wall st., coal/oil/gas industries, big insurance, big war, etc.) need to experience some defeats for me to be convinced that progress is being made by Obama. But they never lose. These institutions and their influence has only increased under Obama. His resistance to them seems only to be posturing. Utterly insincere.

    A great thing he could do for this country is to give an Eisenhower-esque speech (or 50) about the undue and unwarranted total influence of corporate lobbyists in American politics. They are all that matters any more. Please prove otherwise.

    Obama is more painful than Bush because he has shattered the notion that we live in a democracy responsive to the will of its people.

  93. Leif says:

    Two Palms Up, Alax 77.

    I continue to hope however…

    Perhaps Michelle is an in.
    She is a smart lady with lots of paper and two kids.

  94. Leland Palmer says:

    Re post #62, and other comments about how Obama must know better than to support “clean coal”.

    Uh, guys…Energy Secretary Chu has a Nobel Prize in Physics.

    He is also absolutely truthful, so far as I can tell. He doesn’t seem to lie at all.

    Chu supports “clean coal”.

    Surely that fact alone makes understanding the potential of CCS worth the effort?

    The truth is, without BECCS, costs to get back to 350 ppm atmospheric concentration of CO2 rise asymptotically to levels which are simply impossible.

    We can’t get there without BECCS, IMO. We need to move billions of tons of carbon from the biosphere back underground.

    The scale of the problem almost precludes the use of solutions which do not make a profit.

  95. itzel says:

    do you think Barack Obama was effective in his speech?

  96. John McCormick says:

    RE # 91

    Alex77, I want to respond specifically to what you said here:

    “Obama is more painful than Bush because he has shattered the notion that we live in a democracy responsive to the will of its people.”

    It’s early and I haven’t had my coffee so this is a good time to further my comment. I am emphatic about not letting our disappointments, anger and rage against the President get out of hand and it based on a misconception of the real powers of the Executive Branch.

    After reading enough of the criticisms they begin to sound like Palin: “So, how’s that hopey, changey thing working for you.”

    I have lobbied for enviro groups on Capitol Hill for nearly 40 years. I have some working knowledge of what a President can and cannot do with a Congress of antagonists, detractors, marginal seats having won their last election by hundreds or maybe a few thousand votes and reelections costs going from the tens of thousands of dollars in the 70s to millions today.

    That all said, I know you understand ours is not an empire and as a republic we elect 535 people to speak for us and one person to enforce the laws, keep the ship afloat, sign the checks and provide national security.

    So, the Executive offers up a budget and any legislative initiatives that are needed but the Legislative Branch has many options, including ignoring the President (and not necessarily at their peril). Legislation goes to the floor of the House and Senate not at the will of the Executive but at the pleasure of the majority parties in the House and Senate. Their agenda and political goals determine the fate of any legislation and the will of the people is becoming less and less a factor in their decisions to move or not move a bill.

    Individual legislators have to decide how to vote and their skill levels and time may not be up to that needed to make a reasoned decision. So, they rely upon influence peddlers and their party’s leadership to convince them. As we know, lobbyists bring money and party leaders bring threats of reprisal. It’s that simple. On rare occasions, a party member will go against their party leader, even their president and that is political courage that comes with a price…loss of standing in the party, being ostracized, cut off from campaign contributions and support from the party. Some take that step. Most wont.

    What is the Executive to do? He can pull out a military base from the disloyal and not much more. There is a separation of those powers.

    You know how low global warming concerns are when even Pew polls the public. But, you don’t know how many votes can be assured by either party on any amendment or bill being debated on the floor. That is secret information but obviously people talk and the word gets out that the measure has no chance. So, marginal seats beg not to have to vote for some thing that will be defeated or filibustered.

    Falling on one’s sword is not a popular instinct among politicians, especially when they know it is a futile gesture and will add a few million more to campaigns they will possibly lose. And, why do they feel that way? Because, they are front line witness to how polarized we electors have become. You and me and any one who wants a climate change fix have to see the burden is not on the President. It is upon we voters to send people to Congress who agree with us.

    Spend a few hours reviewing what the President has accomplished in his first term by using executive orders, making appointments and nominations, negotiating with foreign powers, keeping order in the streets and managing the cash flow.

    Good Lord, imagine his first ninety days and the clamaty he had to deal with. Two wars, a near loss of the auto industry and the millions of jobs that would be lost, a collapsing stock market, massive layoffs and the Bush deficit and all the while he was trying to find his way to the cafeteria.

    Think what you will about the man but know his job is nearly inhuman because he cares about people and the issues and promises he campaigned on. What he did not have, in his hands, was a loyal and courageous Democratic House and Senate willing to go to the wall for us, for you and me. Instead, some went to the bunker and hid out while people like Sen. Boxer and Chairman Waxman did our heavy lifting…..lifting that we were supposed to be doing.

    We must have thought it was a done deal when the climate change bill passed out of Committee because the national cry for its support that summer was silent. People went on vacation. Where was the all out, juggernaut assault on Senate members who opposed the bill and the brute force by their constituents to make them support it. It wasn’t there. You remember that summer? And, that is because, in my experience, these legislative battles rarely go outside the beltway any longer.

    The door knocking and lobbying citizens to call and demand their reps and Senators support the legislation is no longer a part of how the big green operate. We went inside and became negotiators ourselves and did less and less community and grass roots organizing because it takes time , hard work, lots of staff and money.

    Obama, in his second term, can chain himself to the rail at the steps of the Capitol but that will not get him the votes he needs to do anything. WE have to provide the team that LEGISLATE so that he can EXECUTE the law we want.

    That’s how it works and we seem to not understand. He does not have a vote. He has a voice but too many don’t hear, wont listen, don’t like, some hate. Change that and we’ll get legislation.

    Meanwhile, I do believe he is quietly negotiating with India, Brazil and China to sort out a “compromise” that will get the train rolling. Rolling would likely not be enough but it breaks the inertia.

    They are not stupid nations and their leaders see the future will be destroyed by drought and sea level rise. If you doubt that, you are not paying attention.

    And, if you doubt Obama cares and believes himself, you are wrong. It is with us he probably has some doubt. Will we deliver the votes in the 113th Congress when he needs them.

    He aint got a vote. Only a veto pen. And, if the repugs take the Senate, he’ll need a basket full of veto pens.

    We get the Democracy we work for. It isn’t easy living in a democracy when we citizens detach from the game when we get tired, bored or disillusioned.

    The Kroch brothers know us too well and they are going after it all.

    John McCormick

  97. Cinnamon Girl says:

    I’m a little disgusted, so a bit of a diversion. Exxon CEO says natural gas will replace coal, so sorry KochCoalHeads: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/01/27/2801848/exxon-chief-gas-to-overtake-coal.html

  98. sailrick says:

    Everyone here has some valid points. While I would have liked to see a teaching moment on climate change, maybe science teacher Ken Hayes @77 is right and Obama knows what he’s doing. I liked that Obama began talking about clean energy early in the speech, and gave it a decent ammount of time. Of course in a more rational world, global warming would be the main topic, so we have a ways to go.

    Democrats need to spend the next two years turning the GOP’s climate change denial against them. Americans are about to witness witchhunts against climate scientists(not that it’s new), obstruction of environmenal, attempts to kill the EPA etc. All out efforts should be aimed at making sure climate change is what wins the next election.

    I watched Chris Mathiews on MSNBC reporting on polls on Obama’s speech. Apparently 85%-90% of Americans liked the speech.

  99. John McCormick:

    Look, I have even less power than the oh-so-powerless Obama. The only real power a (non-rich) US citizen has is the power of the ballot, and those outside the US don’t even have this power. I can’t even sign executive orders, I can’t veto bills, I don’t have a bully pulpit. And now Obama and you are complaining that we are ‘whiny liberals’?

    Also, constantly jumping up and down ‘The Republicans are worse! The Republicans are worse! The Republicans are worse! The Republicans are worse! The Republicans are worse!’ isn’t going to convince anyone. Really, do basic human rights suddenly become optional just because ‘the Republicans are worse’? Is it suddenly acceptable to condemn future generations to severe climate disruption just because ‘the Republicans are worse’? Is every action or inaction by Obama suddenly excusable because ‘the Republicans are worse’?

    Bottom line: Progressives can, and should, pressure Obama to give climate change the attention it deserves. And if Obama won’t do that, then progressive can, and should, find and support a candidate who does.

    frank

  100. espiritwater says:

    Neil, #37– I come in frequent contact with highly educated individuals and also with very poor, uneducated people. It has been my experience that the more highly educated individuals (who have a lot to lose when BAU ceases) almost always refuse to acknowledge GW (they’re extremely close-minded!) Poor, less educated indivduals, on the other hand, DO “get it”. They are very open minded. In other words, it’s not a matter of education/ literacy, it’s a matter of GREED.

  101. Raul M. says:

    Gainesville Sun reports 2/3 of county’s
    Have declared farming disasters for
    Current crops.

  102. Raul M. says:

    Winter crops couldn’t just say we’ll
    Try harder after the couple of cold
    Spells.

  103. SunMan says:

    Here, here, John McCormick. I also agree that the majority of negative comments are devoid of understanding how laws are made with regards to votes.

    We need to act without using the trigger words that set off the fireworks of the ignorant right.

    Personally, the President not using those words is EXACTLY what he must do. Has to do. If this group insists on specific vernacular that simply acts as fuses to set off the opposition, what IS your goal?

    Let’s get the job done without getting hemorrhoids over the wording.

  104. SunMan, my response over at another thread applies.

    frank