JR: Obama apparently has to go to Australia to talk about the reality of climate change and the benefits of carbon pricing and emissions reductions.
President Obama said Wednesday that policies to curb carbon emissions bring economic benefits but acknowledged that crafting an international deal that imposes commitments on China and India will be a “tough slog.”
Obama, at a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, touted U.S. policies including increased auto efficiency standards and green energy research investments.
“As we move forward over the next several years, my hope is, is that the United States, as one of several countries with a big carbon footprint, can find further ways to reduce our carbon emissions,” Obama said in Canberra, Australia.
“I think that’s good for the world. I actually think, over the long term, it’s good for our economies as well, because it’s my strong belief that industries, utilities, individual consumers – we’re all going to have to adapt how we use energy and how we think about carbon,” Obama added, according to a White House transcript.
JR: Ya think? Here’s more from Obama, including his strongest remarks on climate in a long time:
Obama noted Australia, which is moving ahead with a carbon pricing and trading system, is pursuing a “bold strategy” and also affirmed his belief in the threat of climate change.
“I share the view of your Prime Minister and most scientists in the world that climate change is a real problem and that human activity is contributing to it, and that we all have a responsibility to find ways to reduce our carbon emissions,” Obama said.
Already under fire for granting a $535 million federal loan guarantee to Solyndra, the Department of Energy now faces a critique from within.
On Tuesday, the department’s inspector general, Gregory H. Friedman, issued a report calling for a wholesale restructuring of the department’s far-flung laboratories and other operations. He warned that “painful” staff reductions were certain to come as Congress sought deep federal budget cuts in the months ahead.
In one of his more striking criticisms, Mr. Friedman wrote that the department spent nearly $13 billion a year to run 16 separate laboratories but that only about half of that money went toward actual research, with 49 percent paying for overhead and capital spending. That ratio is “out of sync,” he said, and could be improved by combining some operations. The report noted that the Energy Department has three centers for nuclear weapons work, two for Navy propulsion reactors, five for energy technology and 13 for general science. “The department’s research complex is organized essentially as it has been for over a half-century,” it said.
Mr. Friedman called for the creation of an independent panel to examine ways of consolidating the labs.
Over the last year, images of Randy Thompson in his cowboy hat have become a symbol of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline and the source of the rallying cry, “Stand with Randy.”
As he took a break from fencing chores on Tuesday, Thompson acknowledged that TransCanada’s deal to move the pipeline out of the Sandhills might not make any difference on the portion of route where his family owns land in Merrick County.
“Ironically, I may have helped save the Sandhills,” he said, “but I might not have done myself any good.”
Uncertainty about where TransCanada goes following Monday’s announcement could be expected to run high among people who live east of the original route and west of the first Keystone pipeline, now carrying oil across the Missouri River and into Nebraska near Yankton, S.D.
Spokesman Shawn Howard confirmed that there are no plans to change Nebraska’s entry point for Keystone XL in Keya Paha County. Beyond that, there really is no plan, at least not one the company is ready to make public.
Gone are the days when carbon trade was seen as a vital policy tool to cut emissions at the cheapest cost, and not many people talk about its prospects for overtaking the oil market in terms of traded value anymore.
Its reputation has been battered by a €50 million, or $69 million, scandal over permit thefts and a €5 billion fraud in the European Union’s emissions trading program, the world’s largest.
The United Nations’ main carbon offset market, the Clean Development Mechanism, has also been tainted by an association with land grabs and human rights abuses in poor nations.
The prospect of a second European recession in four years has compounded these woes, slamming the price of carbon emissions permits to near three-year lows.
The slump has prompted an exodus of brokers and traders and means few companies will now switch from coal to cleaner power generation or invest in zero-emissions technology, like carbon capture and storage.
Yet the idea of buying and selling pollution remains attractive, as recent events in Australia show. One-third of global emissions could be capped and traded by the end of the decade, according to some estimates, up from current levels of 6 percent.
“The carbon market is not dead,” said Wolfgang Sterk, a policy analyst with the Wuppertal Institute in Germany. “It is still seen by many as the most flexible way to cut emissions. Australia and California don’t care how low prices are in the E.U.”
When Energy Secretary Steven Chu appears on Capitol Hill on Thursday to defend the Obama administration’s solar energy subsidy program, he will face questions about the solar panel firm Solyndra, which went belly up this summer.
The Energy Department has drawn stiff criticism over a government loan guarantee program that lent the company half a billion dollars, but the government has a long history of subsidizing many forms of energy.
Chu says he does not believe Solyndra should alter U.S. support for clean-energy companies.
“The government should play a role in this because it’s a competitive world out there,” he says. “Other countries are helping their companies. In order to even just level the playing field, the U.S. government should play a role.”
The State Department is creating a bureau to focus exclusively on energy, a sign of the growing importance of energy issues to U.S. foreign policy and national security.
The new Bureau of Energy Resources, which opens shop Wednesday, is designed to help shore up stable supplies of affordable energy for the U.S. and avoid crippling effects of supply shocks and disruptions.
The agency also will promote clean energy and changes in markets to make alternative-energy technology more competitive, an effort to open the door for U.S. exports in a fast-growing sector. It will also promote sustainable energy in developing countries as a way to boost economic growth.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flagged the creation of the new bureau in a speech last month, saying: “You can’t talk about our economy or foreign policy without talking about energy.”