Climate

Obama Silent On Climate Change In Big Iowa Energy Speech

Last month, the White House edited climate change from Obama’s Earth Day 2012 proclamation. That was after the President omitted any discussion of climate change from his State of the Union address.

But then, in Rolling Stone interview, Obama unexpectedly broke out of his self-imposed silence on climate change, saying he thought climate change would be a campaign issue.

Of course, it would be hard for climate to be a campaign issue if the president doesn’t actually talk about it in public. After all, his challenger Mitt Romney seems unlikely to bring it up, having Etch-a-Sketched his position on that subject many times. And Lord knows that media isn’t itching to talk about climate.

So it was disappointing again once again that on Thursday, the President reverted to form in his big speech on energy at TPI Composites, a wind-blade manufacturing plant in Newton, Iowa.

The speech never mentions “climate change” or “global warming” or even “greenhouse gases” or “carbon” or even “pollution”!

It’s a fairly long speech, over half of which is focused on energy, to argue for extending “tax credits that are set to expire at the end of the year for clean-energy companies like TPI.” Those credits are certainly worth fighting for since 37,000 wind jobs are at stake — as is leadership in a global industry that will be one of the largest job creators in the coming decades when  the world finally start taking serious action on climate.

But as Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Ranking Minority Member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said last year:

If you are a science denier, there is no reason for government to invest in clean energy.

Now it may be that in the current political climate, no argument would win. But both climate action and federal clean energy investment are classic wedge issues that have broad support with the American public, including independents and moderate Republicans, those not aligned with the Tea Party (see “Can We Stop The Collapse of Federal Clean Energy Support Without Talking About Climate Change Or A Carbon Price?” and links below).

Here, are the President’s remarks on energy in Iowa:

The fifth item on my “To-Do” list — I’m calling on Congress to extend tax credits that are set to expire at the end of the year for clean-energy companies like TPI.  (Applause.)  Let’s not wait.  Let’s do it now.  (Applause.)

Many of you know the story of what’s happening here better than I do, but I just want to remind you how far we’ve come.  Shortly after I took office, I came to Newton — some of you remember — and we unveiled an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America.  We said let’s produce more oil and gas, but let’s also produce more biofuels; let’s produce more fuel-efficient cars; let’s produce more solar and wind powerand other sources of clean, renewable energy.  And I came to Newton because Newton is helping to lead the way when it comes to building wind turbines.

And since then, our dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year that I’ve been in office — every single year. (Applause.)  America is now producing more domestic oil than any time in the last eight years.  But we’re also producing more natural gas, and we’re producing more biofuels than any time in our history.  And that’s good for the Iowa economy.  (Applause.) We’re laying the foundation for some of our nation’s first offshore wind farms.  And since I became President, America has nearly doubled the use of renewable energy, like solar power and wind power — we’ve nearly doubled it.  (Applause.)

So this country is on the path towards more energy independence.  And that’s good for everybody.  It’s good for people’s pocketbooks; it’s good for the environment; it’s good for our national security.  We don’t want our economy dependent on something that happens on the other side of the world.  We don’t want every time there’s a scare about war or some regime change in the Middle East that suddenly everybody here is getting socked and the whole economy is going down.

And the best thing is, in the process, we’re also putting thousands of Americans back to work — because the more we rely on American-made energy, the less oil we buy from other countries, the more jobs we create here at home, the more jobs we create here in Iowa.

So let’s look at the wind industry.  It’s so important to Iowa.  This industry, thanks in large part to some very important tax credits, has now taken off.  The state of Iowa now gets nearly 20 percent of all your electricity from wind — 20 percent.  Overall, America now has enough wind capacity to power 10 million homes.  So this is an industry on the rise.  And as you know, it’s an industry that’s putting people to work.  You know this firsthand.  There are more wind power jobs in Iowa than any other state.  That’s a big deal.  (Applause.)

And one of these modern windmills has more than 8,000 different parts — everything from the towers and the blades to the gears, to the electrical switches.  And it used to be that almost all these parts were imported.  Today, more and more of these parts are being made here in America — right here.  (Applause.)  We used to have just a few dozen manufacturing facilities attached to the wind industry.  Today we have nearly 500 facilities in 43 states employing tens of thousands of American workers — tens of thousands.

So we’re making progress.  And you know it better than anybody.  I mean, when I was talking to Quinten and Mark and a whole bunch of the other folks who are working here, they reminded me of the experience at working at Maytag and putting your heart and soul into a company and making a great product, and then, suddenly having that company leave, and how hard that was for families and how hard it was for the community.  But folks made the transition.

And now, when you look at what’s happening here — 700 to 800 jobs, over $30 million being put back into the community — this gives folks hope.  It gives people opportunity.  I met some folks who have been in manufacturing for 30 years, but I also met a couple of young folks who were just getting started.  And that’s what we’re looking for.  Nobody wants a handout.  Nobody wants to get something for nothing.  But if we’ve got a chance to create energy and create value and put people back to work, why wouldn’t we do that?

So I’m here today because, as much progress as we’ve made, that progress is in jeopardy.  If Congress doesn’t act, those tax credits that I mentioned — the ones that helped build up the wind industry, the ones that helped to bring all these jobs to Newton, those tax credits will expire at the end of the year if Congress doesn’t do anything.

If Congress doesn’t act, companies like this one will take a hit.  Jobs will be lost.  That’s not a guess, that’s a fact.  We can’t let that happen.  And keep in mind that — and this is something Congress needs to understand — Dave Loebsack understands it, but I want every member of Congress to understand it.  These companies that are putting in orders for these amazing blades, they’re making plans now.  They’re making decisions now. So if they’re cutting back on their orders, if they’re not confident that the industry is going to be moving at a fast clip and they start reducing orders here, that affects you.  You can’t wait for six months.  You can’t wait for eight months.  You can’t wait for a year to get this done.  It’s got to be done now.  (Applause.)

So this is a simple thing on Congress’s “To-Do” list — extend these tax credits.  Do it now.  Every day they don’t act business grows more concerned that they will not be renewed.  They’re worried demand for their products is going down, so they start thinking twice about expanding, more cautious about making new investments.  They start looking overseas.  I was talking to your CEO.  We got an opportunity to branch out, but we want to branch out by making the stuff here and then sending it there.  We don’t want to branch out by sending the jobs and the investments over there, and then shipping it back to America.  That doesn’t make sense.  (Applause.)  One company that had plans to invest $100 million to build a wind manufacturing plant in Arkansas — and create hundreds of jobs –- put those plans on hold.

And by the way, this should not be a partisan issue.  There are several Republican governors –- including the governor of this state -– who are calling on Congress to act.  There are members of Congress in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle –- including your two senators –- who support these tax credits.  And that doesn’t happen much in Washington where Democrats and Republicans say they agree on something.  So if you agree, why haven’t we gotten it done yet?

This is not just an issue, by the way, for the wind industry.   Some of America’s most prominent companies -– from Starbucks to Campbell’s Soup –- they’re calling on Congress to act because they use renewable energy.

Well, actually many of those companies are Calling on Congress to act because they are concerned about global warming, for which renewable energy is a core solution — see “Starbucks: Global Warming is Hurting Coffee.”

How lame is it that a high-end coffeehouse chain is more comfortable talking about the gravest threat to the nation’s health and well-being than the President of the United States?

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21 Responses to Obama Silent On Climate Change In Big Iowa Energy Speech

  1. Richard Miller says:

    Obama told Rolling Stone it would be a campaign issue to keep the liberal readership of Rolling Stone happy.

    A month before in a speech in Oklahoma he bragged about all the pipelines his administration had built to keep appease the more conservative population in Oklahoma.

    So the Rolling Stone interview is probably not too revelatory of how he will run his national campaign.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Obama is trapped by his “all of the above” energy strategy. He can’t very well say that he believes climate change is an important issue while promoting drilling for oil in the Arctic, and continuing to allow the plunder of our public lands for coal and natural gas.

    There is no reason to believe that he will pivot upon reelection, either. Curtsying to the fossil fuel companies while saying just enough to make sure progressives vote for him may not just be a political strategy. If so, it’s a bad one, since the oil companies will support Romney anyway, and Obama’s cowardice on this and other issues (such as refusing to prosecute Wall Street criminals) is causing a lot of voters to stay home.

    We’ll find out by about March 2013, since he figures to get reelected. There is no way to know at this point what the man actually believes in. When he occasionally criticizes big oil, it’s accompanied by an apologetic grin, and carbon taxes and global warming have been “off the radar”.

    Roosevelt would not have done that, nor John Kennedy. If you’re going to win against the dark side, you have to fight. We may have to await a leader who understands this.

  3. Mark E says:

    In light of the lip service the president gave to the issue with Rolling Stone, to the charge of “cowardice” I would add “deceit”.

    There’s still time for the president to demonstrate I have mis-judged him. But not much.

    WHERE IS OUR DEDICATED PRIME TIME ADDRESS IN FRONT OF AS MANY NATIONAL ACADEMY SCIENTISTS AS CAN BE GATHERED?

  4. Peter Anderson says:

    Does anybody know if there is different polling that Axelrod is showing Obama which has convinced them that all the polling recounted on Climate Progress, which shows reasonably strong support for action, is wrong?

    If it’s not polling, I find it hard to believe the Administration is so stupid as to believe the fossil boys will back a weak carbon copy when they can get the real thing.

    By analogy, according to the NY Times two weeks ago, Obama was not so stupid that he thought he had a viable partner in Karzai such as to justify all those lives and an expenditure of half a trillion dollars. Rather, he knew it was a hopeless quest from the outset that he was stuck in. Like Kennedy after running his election railing against the a missile gap to establish Democrat defense credentials, had to go on to build 20,000 more missiles that McNamara told him are not needed.

    But, we need to know what story line is in their minds rather than just railing against the Administration’s being AWOL in what is really the biggest battle in history.

  5. Peter M says:

    Obama remains tied to the corporate interests of the last 20th century. It will be another decade or two before we have a political leader who has the courage to evolve beyond the narrow greed of the last 32 years. Any such leader by then will have to deal with problems far beyond what Lincoln faced in 1861 or FDR in 1933. Good luck.

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    The guys credibility is shot.

  7. Mark says:

    “So it was disappointing again once again that on Thursday, the President reverted to form in his big speech on energy at TPI Composites, a wind-blade manufacturing plant in Newton, Iowa.”

    Only disappointing if you expect something better from Obama. I don’t.

  8. kob6 says:

    This summer’s weather may force the issue.

  9. jEREMY says:

    He is a astute politician and playing the game as it is handed to him. After all, he is only the president.

  10. Roger says:

    Dear Climate Progress Readers,

    Please sign this petition urging President Obama to give a climate leadership speech.
    http://www.change.org/petitions/obama-please-educate-and-lead-on-climate-change.

    Thank you,
    Roger

  11. Denise says:

    I am disappointed that President Obama isn’t willing to address this issue openly. If we are ever going to end our reliance on fossil fuels, we need some solid policies regarding renewable energies.

  12. Ozonator says:

    Didn’t he come out against GOP cowpies?

  13. Toby says:

    He changed the game on gay marriage with no impact on is polling numbers.

    Why not climate change?

  14. Raul M. says:

    leading like the weather and following like the climate?
    If it’s four wheeler and suv parking lot is a hint to the climate how deep do opinions lead actions?

  15. Mark E says:

    Because the LesBiGay community is far better organized with people power in the streets than the climate people, and he gains more campaign workers than swing voters he will alienate. Unless the pres himself starts changing the climate story with forceful leadership, we won’t be able to say the same thing about climate for a few years at least.

  16. Mark E says:

    I read it. The ambiguous wording in the petition letter does not “urge” any specific action, much less the specific act of giving a speech, and does not even hint at the need for a declaration of war on global warming. You can’t get bold statements from the pres by making vague demands.

  17. SecularAnimist says:

    Toby wrote: “He changed the game on gay marriage with no impact on is polling numbers. Why not climate change?”

    Because unlike the opposition to gay marriage, the opposition to action on climate change consists of the wealthiest and most powerful corporations in the world, who literally control much of the world’s economy from the ground up, who expect and intend to rake in trillions of dollars in wealth from several more decades of business-as-usual consumption of fossil fuels, and who will do whatever it takes to obstruct and delay the urgently needed phase-out of fossil fuel use.

    Pretty much any one of those corporations could buy both Obama’s and Romney’s entire presidential campaigns out of petty cash and not even miss it.

    And they are already, in fact, pouring unlimited amounts of money into “Super PACS” and such, to oppose Obama merely because he has proposed slightly trimming their massive government subsidies and slightly tightening safety regulations, and he has dared to encourage their competition (renewable energy and efficiency).

    And they are doing this even though Obama’s administration is pursuing a “Drill Baby Drill” policy of expanding fossil fuel extraction that in some respects goes beyond even the 2008 McCain/Palin energy plan — because they know that Romney would be even more obedient to their agenda.

    What do you think they would do with their billions of dollars if Obama actually started saying that the entire fossil fuel industry needs to be put out of business within ten years to prevent the collapse of human civilization?

    Because, when you get right down to it, that’s the “inconvenient truth” about global warming and climate change, and if you start talking honestly about it, you really cannot avoid that truth. You really can’t blather on about “all of the above energy policy”. And you really cannot pursue the massive expansion of fossil fuel extraction that Obama has made the cornerstone of his energy agenda.

    That’s why Obama won’t talk about climate change.

  18. Roger says:

    Great comment!

    Just for fun: What do you think would happen if Obama decided, despite what you say, to do ‘the right thing’ and ‘out’ the above situation in a nationally-telivised speech in which he also anounces that he is going to nationalize the oil companies?

    Anybody?

  19. Mark E says:

    He doesn’t need to nationalize them. He just needs to tell the truth about them. Given the right leadership, Americans have an amazing ability to want to do the right thing, and that is the left’s most under-utilized resource. Wave the flag, ya’ll. Big Oil is unpatriotic, an attack on all that makes America great.

  20. ltr says:

    President Obama cares only about getting elected again and policy means nothing to him set against that. Besides Obama has done nothing to educated people about climate change from the beginning. We have a President who is more like George Bush than George Bush.

  21. ANGRY BADGER says:

    I totally agree, Mark. Obama’s silence just leads to more mischief, like the ALEC/ATR/ATI attacks on the renewables industry. I’m headed into the renewables training program and I’m concerned that there won’t be a job when I come out. I’d really like to know who is keeping the lid on. It just makes matters worse.