Climate Hawk Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act Soon To Protect Future Generations, I Will’

President Says Warming-Driven Extreme Weather Demands We “Act Before It’s Too Late,” While GOP’s Rubio Pushes Climate Denial, Attacks Solyndra!

Below are Obama’s extensive remarks on energy and climate in his State of the Union address. The President has expanded on his strong remarks in his Second Inaugural, asserting “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

Below the jump is the energy portion of his just-released “Plan for A Strong Middle Class & A Strong America.”  There’s a call for doubling renewable electricity (yet again!) by 2020 — and for doubling energy productivity by 2030 (“a new Energy Efficiency Race to the Top for states”). But who knew he’d call for Congress to pass cap-and-trade?

Here is the key part of the speech (as delivered):

Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

Now the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be a part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

Wow! Looks like I’ll be needing a stomach pump — after drinking all this beer, Hurricanes, Damn-The-Weather cocktails, espressos, energy drinks, and, I’m afraid, fracking fluid from Haliburton.

His remarks on climate are very strong. So is his plan for action. Yes, both are four years late, but still….

UPDATE: Carol M. Browner, CAP Distinguished Senior Fellow and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said:

“Tonight’s speech is a big win for those who want action on climate change and believe now is the time to act.  The president was clear about the magnitude of the challenge and resolute in his determination to use his executive authority to take action, especially if Congress won’t.  He pledged to build on the achievements of his first term, including historic standards for clean cars and energy efficiency, and he laid down a strong marker that he intends to continue investments in clean energy technology as part of our economic recovery.”

Comparing the texts with the actual speech, Obama ad-libbed “That’s got to be a part of an all-of-the-above plan.” Sad. “All of the above” is not a plan. It is more of the same — literally.

UPDATE2: In the GOP response, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) goes full climate denier, anti-clean energy:

When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air….

Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration.

Rubio is the GOP’s savior? This is Stone Age stuff.

Here is the energy portion of “The President’s Plan for A Strong Middle Class & A Strong America”:

Slashing Reliance on Foreign Oil and increasing American energy security through clean energy: For too long, our dependence on foreign oil has placed our national security and our economy at risk with volatile gas prices straining the budgets of middle class families. In the last four years, America has slashed our reliance on foreign oil and dramatically increased American production of renewable energy, making our country more energy secure than at any time in decades, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions, and creating jobs. While we won’t solve this problem overnight, the President’s all-of-the-above energy plan invests in homegrown energy sources— from natural gas to renewables—so that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create good jobs here at home, cut the cost of energy for American families and businesses, and take significant action to address climate change.

Build on success and continue to take sensible steps to confront climate change: Building on important progress achieved during the President’s first term, including the doubling of energy from wind and solar and increasing fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025, the United States must continue to take steps to reduce carbon pollution while also improving our ability to manage the climate impacts that are already being felt at home. The President has directed his cabinet to identify additional executive actions from across the administration to help reduce pollution, prepare our cities and nation for the worsening effects of climate change, and accelerate the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, which will be assessed if Congress does not take action.

  • Doubling renewable electricity generation again by 2020: To once again double generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020, the President has called on Congress to make the renewable energy Production Tax Credit permanent and refundable, as part of comprehensive corporate tax reform, providing incentives and certainty for investments in new clean energy.
  • Help protect families from painful spikes in gas prices by establishing an Energy Security Trust: While the United States will continue to rely on responsibly produced oil and gas in the near term, President Obama is committed to a long-term policy that allows us to transition to cleaner alternatives, continuing to increase our energy security. The Energy Security Trust proposal, which is funded by revenue from oil and gas development on federal lands and offshore, has broad non-partisan support, including retired admirals and generals and leading CEOs. It is focused around one achievable goal: shifting our cars and trucks off oil. The trust will support research into a range of cost-effective technologies – like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, and vehicles that run on domestically-produced natural gas.
  • Saving people money by doubling American energy productivity by 2030, starting with a new Energy Efficiency Race to the Top for states: The President is laying out a bold but achievable goal to slash energy waste through increased efficiency. Modeled after a successful Administration approach in education reform, which was designed to promote forward-leaning policy adoption at the state-level, the President’s Budget will include Race to the Top awards. These awards will support state governments that implement effective policies that increase energy efficiency and help decrease waste. Not only will increased efficiency save consumers money, the resulting reforms will drive investments that enhance manufacturing competitiveness, improve grid resiliency, and cut carbon pollution.

He has finally talked the talk to the biggest audience. Now he must walk the walk.

Related Post:

103 Responses to Climate Hawk Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act Soon To Protect Future Generations, I Will’

  1. Jack G. Hanks says:

    So, how are those solar panels on the White House coming, Mr. President?

  2. Buzz B says:

    Wow. Wow. Wow.

    Listening to the SOU (having not seen this post yet), and I raced straight to CP … you guys already had it. I feel like I’m listening to a different president. I think he’s committed to this legacy. You don’t use this language (twice now counting the Inauguration) without planning to follow through. The GOP House won’t let it happen over the next two years, but we need to force some votes … guilt McCain and Corker and Graham and Collins and Alexander and Murkowski and every GOP Senator who knows there is a serious problem here into supporting something, anything that puts a price on carbon. Otherwise, the EPA hammer looms.

  3. Sasparilla says:

    I was very happy with his speech and the “you guys fix this or I will” angle on climate change (not that he’ll really fix it, but he can turn the momentum so its going the right way).

    I still expect him to approve the XL (along with keeping away all that red tape that doesn’t exist for fracking – since the previous administration exempted it from most regs), but with his history, this was better than I could have expected from him. Nice job Mr. President.

  4. Paul Klinkman says:

    At least he isn’t a denier. However, he’s painting a billionaire’s playground version of the war against catastrophic climate change. Everything is for rich people only. The ordinary citizens of America aren’t really there — let them eat cake.

  5. Lollipop says:

    Ahhh . . . “market-based solution to climate change.” How very Republican of him. Given what we need to do–negotiate robust international agreements, shut down coal mining, and immediately on a mass scale convert households and industry to wind and solar (which will mean a reduction in energy use too, I’m not quite sure how a “market based solution” is going to help . . . unless he means a high and rising price on carbon–which I doubt he intends to promote.

  6. Lollipop says:

    In all fairness, it was also very Democratic of him . . .

  7. Buzz B says:

    I agree and disagree Lollipop. Putting a price on carbon is, I think, the only way we’re going forward … which is of course a market-based solution just internalizing the externalities. That, in turn, allows us to reshape the robust international agreements we need to negotiate. Binding quantitative cuts is not in the post-Kyoto future … but agreeing on a prouction-based carbon border tax adjustment linked to a domestic carbon price would be beyond meaningful.

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    Obama YoMama. After feigning interest in actually doing something about global warming, he brags about all the wonderful oil and gas we’ve been producing, thanks to his cutting “red tape”. What does that mean? Continuing Cheney’s non disclosure for fracking chemicals, or opening up more government land for drilling?

    Obama is not going to fight for a carbon tax, or even propose one. Instead, his game plan is to pass the ball to his replacement, taking credit for the “recovery” while his successors have to struggle with climate chaos and capital destruction. Obama thinks he’s the one who will end up with a halo, but he’s wrong.

  9. Buzz B says:

    Reintroduce the 39-page Collins-Cantwell proposal.

  10. Mark E says:

    “Market-based solution to climate change” is the best we could hope for, but is still delusional.

    There is NO SUCH THING as an environmental solution based on never-ending economic growth, forever.

  11. Bill Wilson says:

    WE can strongly expect a clear NO for KeystoneXL.

  12. Lollipop says:

    And I can strongly expect to win the lottery next week and retire in style.

    Doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

  13. Ozonator says:

    The place probably heats and cools itself with geothermal energy blowing air through the deep “chambers” (hint hint wink wink) underground to heat in winter and cool in summer. Solar panels and wind generation would be mostly symbolic, hard to blend in with security requirements, and would encourage sunbathers.

  14. Ozonator says:

    Chinese solar panels somehow are the cheapest in the market. Cheaper ones have a hint of radioactivity since yesterday…

  15. I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with Obama’s statement on climate. I had hoped for something like this, but my hopes have been dashed so often that I became even more cynical than usual.

    As for Rubio, however, he also did not disappoint. In fact, his response was exactly what I expected and once more, the Republican responder made an ass of himself.

    So now, the work fall on all of us to hold our Congress Critter’s feet to the fire. You had better get kevlar boots, Ms. Lofgren.

  16. David B. Benson says:


    No carbon tax, no nothin’.

  17. Nils Peterson says:

    I’m disappointed. Talk is cheap. He can start to walk the walk by stopping Keystone XL.

  18. Sasparilla says:

    Well said Lollipop….I doubt he’ll cancel the XL, but I’d love to be surprised.

  19. Joan Savage says:

    In section largely about improving infrastructure, Obama included the image, “modern pipelines to withstand a storm.”

    There are many ways to hear that!

  20. David Goldstein says:

    ahem…some nice words from our president around climate change. Of course here is the problem: increasing wind and solar is lovely and makes essentially no difference whatsoever unless we actually and aggressively cut carbon emissions. He did mention that U.S. carbon emissions have reduced somewhat but…look, Mr. President…we need to reduce more than 35% by 2020 to be on any kind of meaningful mitigation trajectory. Ratcheting up natural gas is NOT the way to do this UNLESS you explicitly and strongly and repeatedly state that this is a temporary, stop-gap measure. This does not sound like what you are saying. You seem to be treating this as, more or less, a situation that can be handled in a bussiness-as-usual approach. It is not- it is a crisis- possibly an impending, existential crisis (see permafrost carbon output). All that being said- Obama said as much as I expected and the trajectory he is paining is probably as good a one as we can expect. We are behind the curve and will likely fall farther behind as CO2 goes past 400 next year.

  21. Yes, and it struck an off key note with me…as in, “Here comes Keystone.”

  22. David B. Benson says:

    Definitely the road to Hell, paved with good intentions.

  23. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Dick Cheney’s secret bunker no doubt radiates much heat, if you can take the stench of sulphur.

  24. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    My flabber is well and truly gasted, but there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip, as my old Gran used to say, before she was renditioned to Guantanamo.

  25. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    But Paul-they are his patrons and benefactors. You wouldn’t want him acting all ungrateful, would you?

  26. Mark Shapiro says:


    you note that: “All of the above” is not a plan. But Obama has to deal with the House and Senate as they are. Note that none of us is among that 535. Folks like Sen. Joe Manchin D-WV are.

  27. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s just a religious obligation, to chant the catechism at every opportunity.

  28. Mark Shapiro says:


    BTW, good luck with that stomach pump!

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It was a Parson’s Egg-good in places. If he follows up the good bits with firm action, so much the better. If, unfortunately, he leaves it all to the Market, we could be back to the future. We have to remember that he is an expert at raising expectations, only to dash then later, bit by bit.

  30. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I expected very little from our $23 per ton carbon price as introduction to the trading scheme but have been pleasantly surprised at the results and the speed with which they have occurred. Ecologically responsible innovations are popping up everywhere, efficiency is up and wastage and emissions are down. People get the message pretty quickly, ME

  31. I think this is a giant step forward for Obama and one small step for mankind. For someone who has barely mentioned climate change prior to his inauguration address, Obama has come a long way. Unfortunately, he is being advised by experts like Chu who don’t really let him know how urgent the situation is, and that his “all of the above” approach is a recipe for disaster.

    A little good will come from the President’s new climate campaign. The media will finally be forced to cover some climate issues. (Though it wasn’t mentioned on the PBS follow-up discussion of the SOU.) But there will be some relief from the “conspiracy of silence.” And a few specific policies will be enacted to reduce coal-plant pollution in the U.S.

    But it is unlikely that there will be any restrictions on selling coal abroad, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the feds squash any state efforts to reduce shipments. Gas development is being encouraged, probably because Obama has been convinced that it’s less polluting than coal — and not informed that it’s still way too polluting. And of course “red tape” will be removed to encourage gas and oil development.

    All in all, Obama’s new climate campaign is an improvement over no climate campaign, but I’m afraid it’s a case of too little, too late.

  32. Henry says:

    I’m sorry folks, but I think the president was just doing some partisan ‘hand waving’ with most of the Climate talk while also laying the ground work for the Keystone XL approval. What else would he mean when he said the “Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits”!

  33. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    I didn’t see his line to Congress so much as a pressure tactic but as an excuse to wait two more years so they can go another round with a failed bill. All the while the phase 2 for EPA to regulate existing coal plants is just sitting there. Even NRDC has written up a plan for how to make a very state-freindly and flexible phase 2.

    WHY PRESSURE CONGRESS? Just do it, man. Time is a wastin’.

  34. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but when did we put a price on carbon?

  35. ToddInNorway says:

    Ms. Emery is in Australia, where they have in fact a carbon tax as she stated.

  36. 2qb says:

    Cap and dividend. Go straight to the voters with it as a ballot referendum.

  37. Brian R Smith says:

    mmm.. “Trust, but verify.”, you mean. A phrase Reagan stole from Vladimir Lenin and pretended was his own. Thank god Reagan was the last President to wear brown suits. But all Presidents are actors and speak in political code, which we are obliged to interpret as best we can. “Trust, but decipher.” is more what we’ve got here. Anybody here convinced that he doesn’t REALLY mean All of the Above? I think he does and covering all the bases is not a strategy.

  38. Henry says:

    “Breaking: Senators Boxer and Sanders to introduce climate bill w/carbon tax on Thursday”……
    You heard it here first! I guarantee Joe will be all over this in the morning.

  39. paul magnus magnus says:

    So heres the deal… Give me cap n trade and we kxl goes through. Is that a good deal?

    Btw it was time for this or else we would be burn toast for sure.

    Well done Obama. On and up.

  40. Ozonator says:

    Theoretically, sulfur and CO2 are plant foods above ground in the 1st lady’s garden. Below ground, mushrooms should still predominate is such a skeptic tank…

  41. “All of the above” is a serious climate fail.

    Most of the proven reserves have to be left in the ground, yet we aim to accelerate exploration for more.

  42. My current guess is that he really does mean “all of the above,” and thinks that we can sneak our way out of the danger with a lot of renewables plus some good tech innovations.

    Which would mean that Obama and his advisors actually don’t yet fundamentally understand the fixed carbon budget the world has left to work with, and its basic implications.

  43. The internal (not to mention external) incentives not to see that most proven fossil fuel reserves have to be left in the ground are understandable.

    But it’s not likely to get to an overall functional suite of policies without grasping that.

  44. Alex says:

    Hopefully the new fuel economy standards won’t suffer as much neglect down the road, despite some potential loopholes. It was overall a decent speech, but have we already “doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas”? Maybe it was just meant as shorthand, but some of the phraseology contained hints of embellishment. We’ll see how much action follows.

  45. Brian R Smith says:

    “..we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.” OK, but if we do that we don’t get to drill & frack our way to energy independence, do we? That we need the stomach pump for this carefully ambiguous mix of messages is not a good sign. Sure, it was about what we expected; and it hinted (rather than hammered) at the need for action. So we should be grateful for an opening, a bit of progress. But that’s all it is! Now comes the part where the climate community (your definition) has a real opportunity to grab the baton, return the serve, see him & raise him, gather the clans, ring up the curtain on climate reality.

    Now that Obama has stepped to the mound on climate, sort of, we’re next at bat.
    Climate Forward at the Mall Feb. 17 is well timed and important to raising awareness.

    But we specifically must find a way to focus climate awareness on the task of defeating House republicans in 2014, where failure to do so will guarantee federal inaction indefinitely. For that, and many other objectives, we should consider the merits of grand-scale collaboration.

  46. Brian R Smith says:

    I sent the League of Conservation Voters $20 this morning. They are networking with others on 2014. Lots of orgs in the game. Join up!

  47. atcook27 says:

    Call me a cynic, but my take on this is not good. This whole speech is sent to butter us up so he can slip through the Keystone pipe. No western leader is prepared to cost their economies 1 cent for the sake of the environment. They just DO NOT GET IT! The only reason the Australian government acted was because thier arm was twisted by the green party they had to do a sweet deal with to gain power. They have since become just about the most unpopular government in Australian history. The most likely candidate to replace our current PM is a climate denier who was quoted saying “climate science is complete crap” and has sworn a blood oath to repeal any carbon tax on his first day in office!

  48. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Thanks Todd, I should have clarified but I was simply trying to point out to the cynics and depressed that the most unpreposessing starts can have surprising effects -it’s as much about the effects on human motivation as it is about physics, chemistry and economics, ME

  49. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Listen folks, your President is a politician who is not only about immediate action but also has an eye on future elections and the future of the Dem party. Of course, he talks about ‘all of the above’ because that is part of what his constituency believes in. Look behind the lines and see what the man is intending and for goodness sake, either get to Wshington DC for that rally or organize one in your home town or do something, ME

  50. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Oh dear! History probably creates more revisionists than any other discipline but in the end, most pople follow the facts. And the facts are that the Australian ALP has been determined to initiate some form of carbon trading for years now and it has finally come to pass, and whether you like it or not, it is showing positive results and is here to stay, ME

  51. Robert Callaghan says:

    i would cal you clear-sighted.

  52. wili says:

    So if all your kids were just mowed down by a semi-automatic wielding nut going postal in their elementary school, would your response be:

    “Aha, let’s place a small but steadily increasing tax on military assault rifles so that the market can send its subtle signals to psychopaths that it is not in their rational economic interest to mow down fourth graders”?

    Or would you want a ban on weapons whose intended function is indiscriminate slaughter of children, women, men and anything else living that happens to be in range of their spray of bullets?

    Really, even if–especially if–you honestly think that a carbon tax is the most appropriate response to our beyond-dire predicament at this very late date, you should even more be in favor of the president threatening direct regulation of carbon fuel use.

    Because it is only when such a viable threat is on the table that anyone in industry will be willing to support your carbon tax.

    And without industry support (and even often with it), nothing much ever gets done in Washington.

  53. Robert Callaghan says:

    there is no room for optimism, we can’t expect the best and prepare for the worse. weak starts mean weak finishes – only if you make it pass the finish line. folksy homilies will only make us feel better, for a while.

  54. Buzz B says:

    What I truly believe we can expect is the Prez proposing to tether Keystone approval to some form of carbon pricing. Or even the proposed EU rule that at least treats unconventional crude differently than conventional crude (giving it a higher CO2 per megajoule rating) so as to make it less attractive to EU refineries.

    It probably won’t fly with the GOP, but that’s the proposal I expect to see.

  55. Robert Callaghan says:

    all of the above or
    all thing to all people
    everything or nothing not
    everything is nothing

  56. Robert Callaghan says:

    the EPA is not “shy” about using its power. it was told not to use it by power. there is no power if you are told not to use it.

  57. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Just put your feet or your money or something in there to back him up, just get this thing going over there – enthusiasm is extremely contagious you know, ME

  58. toby says:

    Start talking about a prominent Green Nader-style candidate for 2016. Now is the time to scare the cr*p out of the Democrats!

  59. wili says:

    Time to stop hoping and get active.

    It is likely only with a very strong political wind at his back that Obama will be able to make any headway on CC initiatives.

    As a political commenter pointed out recently, Boehner can point to the wack-job mob of Tea Partiers (astro-turf though they may be), and say that he is politically constrained by his base to do (or not do) such and such.

    Obama has no such force strongly to his left on just about any issue that he can point to and say – “I’d like to be more centrist here, but my base compels me to do X”

    Even if X means saving the world for future generations to enjoy – or at least giving them a shot at having a marginally survivable world.

  60. Mark E says:


  61. wili says:

    The only place I see that claimed is on denialist sites like WUWT, Junkscience, and climatedepot. Do you have any more legitimate sources for this?

  62. Mark E says:

    Indeed… why pressure Congress…. JUST DO IT

  63. Robert Callaghan says:

    reading tea leaves, looking nuance, hidden inference and meaning. parsing, deciphering, reading into… etc. while the threat to act sounds great, it is dissolved of all meaning within the context of the speech.
    all of the above + all things to all people = nothing.

  64. Robert Callaghan says:

    XL is not to bring Canadian bitumen for Americans to use, it is for oil giants to export for profit pure and simple. it’s all Obama can do to refuse them. he won’t say no unless there are contingency plans in place. XL will not stop the tar sands, it will only affect how much profit the oil giants make. If Canada refined the stuff before piping, nobody would squawk, except the refineries in Texas.

  65. Robert Callaghan says:


  66. Robert Callaghan says:

    they also plan to double coal exports just as Germany exports automobile carbon using green energy. Cap’n Trade Bad. Cap’n Dividend Good.

  67. John McCormick says:

    Brian, 2014 is where our future really begins. Failure to take the House and hold the Senate will decide humanity’s fate.

  68. Joan Savage says:

    Obama’s all for speeding up oil and gas permits, remember?

    That means western states with oil shales will want to pipe to refineries, too. Alberta tar sands and the Bakken in North Dakota aren’t the only ones looking for a way to reach refineries and markets.

  69. Will Fox says:

    The usual moronic nonsense from the GOP. Solyndra failed precisely because solar has been so successful. The company couldn’t compete!

  70. Joan Savage says:

    I believe us die-hard climate hawks urgently need to understand the political/social/economic nuts-and-bolts of transition to low-carbon. The president’s “all of the above” makes us uncomfortable not only because it allows more CO2 generation, but because he’s offering the public a view that allays some real anxieties that we have not adequately addressed.

    Too many climate hawks snap back with, “They should install solar panels or wind turbines,” in a way that is just as ugly and insensitive and uninformed as, “Let them eat cake.”

    There are whole communities utterly dependent on coal-fired plants for their electricity, and even though it’s like living in bondage, the community members have to be able to see a path through the proverbial Red Sea to get to something else.
    We need a Moses who walks among the people.
    A low carbon version of Johnny Appleseed would help.

  71. Tami Kennedy says:

    “I Will” believe when I see it. Also, we still got the overstatement again of oil and natural gas going to be the transition future. Then stating the future can be very damn long, just look how much we have. Less reliance on foreign supplies while increasing domestic production. Bill Clinton’s math instruction please… I read the quantity of carbon fuels to include the tar sands. He is major permit signer for new exploration. Coal plants might get action but coal just goes overseas. Free market system competition with Australia. Increased wind production but matched with natural gas. Did I reference Clinton math? If coal will just be exported then natural gas becomes liquid and shipped from the country as well. Economic growth you know…

  72. Tami Kennedy says:

    I am expecting executive action by EPA to be tied up in court reviews.

  73. an estonian says:

    [ Obama has no such force strongly to his left on just about any issue that he can point to and say – “I’d like to be more centrist here, but my base compels me to do X” ]

    Or, you know, Obama could just cite poll results which show that he has support for revenue neutral carbon tax to his left, right and right in the middle to the tune of 60%.

  74. Ken Barrows says:

    All this political stuff is the worst sort of nonsense until the politicians stop blabbering about “growth.”

  75. Henry says:

    Well, obviously now Joe has posted it here, is that legit now?

  76. fj says:

    Yes he has “talked the talk”.

    Let’s hope that when he walks the walk he’ll find that running the walk will be a lot easier than he’s imagined.

    It’s amazing how people get used to doing things the difficult way and we’ve been running civilization the hard way for many years.

  77. RH says:

    It’s really all about Keystone the rest is “poppytalk” designed to get that “feel good” sensation before he heads to Nebraska to show more jobs being created – sorry not buying.

  78. John McCormick says:

    Joan, I agree with your entire comment. Yes, people in Ky, In, WV are just about entirely dependent on old, dirty coal-fired power plants that will not be shut down as if the President could confiscate them.

  79. Endofmore says:

    The planet has already recognised homo sapiens (wise man?????) as an infestation that is disrupting the global; biospheres
    Heat, water and wind are being used with increasing ferocity to get rid of us.
    Well meaning platitudes about reversing climate change have come a tad too late I fear

  80. Joan Savage says:

    We have a lot of aging infrastructure that needs replacement, so I dearly hope it is not all as you say, poppytalk.

    In my city, century-old sewer and storm water lines crack and leak, particularly under excess water pressure from a storm. The two main pipes for the fresh water supply from a lake over twenty miles away have been leaking.

    A natural gas distribution line for a suburb is slung onto a rusty bridge that is only a few feet above high water levels in a local creek.

    We have plenty of that kind of pipeline that needs to be safe from storm.

  81. wili says:

    Yep. Thanks.

  82. Tim in CA says:

    That is undoubtedly true. Problem is, as President, he can’t just come out and say he’s in favor of ending economic growth as we know it. That’s just way too far in front of public opinion to get any traction. So he says stuff like, “we can maintain strong growth while confronting climate change,” which isn’t true. It will be a long time before the endless growth meme dies. In the meantime, any POTUS must pay homage to it. So I’m not so concerned that he makes comments like that, as long as he convinces people that taking action on climate change is the urgent and moral thing to do, and that he uses his presidential power to take action.

    In other words, what we heard last night is about the best we could hope for in the world of reality. He needs to follow his rhetoric with action now.

  83. Greatgrandma Kat says:

    We can not save our planet or ourselves without a clear understanding that the growth of the world economy is going to be the thing that kills it all. Until we start to use way less of all natural resources and turn from the throw away mentality we currently embrace to the a conservation of what is left there is only one way this can end BADLY. The baby steps we are using right now will not cut emissions fast enough to stave off the next lurching jump the climate will make in our very near future. One step forward two steps back and the Co2 number just keeps on rising, 400ppm by next year anyone?

  84. fj says:

    Yes, the challenges ahead are daunting but the onrush of science and technology and advancing human intelligence forced harder by climate change will likely advance even faster for a truly astounding future.

  85. Endofmore says:

    our society can only function on energy input
    science and technology consume energy, most people make the mistake of thinking they produce energy
    they don’t.
    without energy, we cannot rebuild what nature destroys. (Sandy will cost $50bn–thats $50bn of energy burning)
    eventually we must reach the stage where whatever nature knocks down, stays down

  86. wili says:

    Of course, it is possible to keep talking about growth, but just subtly keep shifting the meaning till it actually means de-growth.

    Since most people associate economic growth with good things, just start talking about the good things themselves–jobs, meaningful work, engaged communities…–and call that ‘growth.’

    This even as you achieve these goals through de-growth strategies–

    >mandate working fewer hours per week so that full employment can be achieved immediately;

    >promoting activities based on conservation, reduction, recycling, reclamation…rather than on consumption;


    >encouraging slow everything movements;

    >retraining out of earth-destroying jobs into life affirming and sustaining ones;

    >much greater focus on nearly everyone being involved in growing at least some of their own food, and making some of their own clothes;

    >much greater emphasis on arts and education…

    If we can do all these and more while vastly decreasing the amount of energy and materials (i.e. of the natural world) we use up, who cares if we call it ‘growth’ or ‘de-growth’?

  87. fj says:

    Good to have a sense of history . . .

    Did Climate Change Shape Human Evolution? – Day 2 – Session 1 April 20th

    From fossil teeth to carbon traces of plants in the soil, scientists are studying how changes in climate may have influenced early human evolution in Africa. Researchers from around the world gathered for a symposium held recently at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The workshop was organized by Professor Peter deMenocal, a paleoclimatologist at Lamont-Doherty and vice chairman of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia.

  88. Ken Barrows says:

    I understand what he cannot do. But I don’t know what he really thinks. Maybe he does think growth (GDP increase) is the way to go. If he does, I think he’s very deluded and beyond hope. But the idea is right: redefine growth as something else. Problem is, media puts out GDP, new cars, and housing starts as the symbols of “progress.”

  89. Ken Barrows says:


    Why? Because you say so? Let’s do some net energy analysis. Don’t see any? Interesting.

  90. Good thinking. I’d only been thinking about the yes or no of the pipeline, didn’t think of it as a a potential bargaining chip. Boehner has a lot of personal investments in companies that will profit if the pipeline goes through — thus his wild exaggeration, even beyond the numbers put forth by TransCanada, of the number of jobs that the pipeline would create.

    It might be worth putting the pipeline through if Obama can get a conciliation that would SIGNIFICANTLY reduce carbon elsewhere. But when you add in all the environmental problems of the pipeline, including the carbon emissions, the tradeoff would have to be significant indeed.

  91. Tim in CA says:

    Agree. Given political reality, Obama’s comments last night were about as strong as we’re likely to hear. Most impressive to me was that he mentioned as a goal getting the US off oil COMPLETELY. I realize it was a passing, aspirational comment, but it’s still, by far, the strongest climate language I’ve ever heard coming from the mouth of a POTUS. Is the overall “all of the above” plan woefully inadequate, given the scale of the problem? Yes, of course. But we need to start somewhere. His strong statements on the issue, both in his inaugural and last night, have the potential the move the needle of public opinion in a meaningful way. Compare to the gay rights issue. He was slow to step up on that too, but we he finally voiced his views in support of gay marriage, the issue was rapidly transformed in the mind of the American public. Less than a year later, support for gay rights have become one one of the strongest talking points for the Democratic Party, and Republican opposition is withering. Obama may be following a similar trajectory on climate. I’m not sure why he waited so long to get fully behind both issues, but it’s better late than never.

  92. atcook27 says:

    Exactly right Robert. The ALP released its energy white paper late last year. Low and behold it included exporting ever increasing amounts of coal to be burnt overseas over the next 50 years. Watch “Enron, the smartest guys in the room” and you’ll see what trading in energy markets is all about.

  93. fj says:

    You may want to consider the London School of Economics in particular Tim Jackson’s “Prosperity without Growth”

  94. fj says:

    Another might be from the New Economics Foundation

    The Great Transition
    A tale of how it turned out right

  95. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Coal is experiencing increasing difficulties and as China and others substitute renewables, will have nowhere to go. I am not an apologist for the ALP and was simply correcting the record, ME

  96. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Political parties can write any policy they like atcook27 but they are irrelevant if nobody wants to buy the stuff, ME

  97. Merrelyn Emery says:

    No room for optimism? That would be a bleak, miserable little world. And I seem to remember that the tortoise won that race against the hare, ME

  98. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    Ah Todd, that would have been in a different comment up the thread. I skim for brevity sake.

  99. Eve says:

    I hope you understand that refined oil is more corrosive than bitumen. Refining the bitumen and then flowing it along a pipeline would be very dangerous.
    Canadians would rather not sell Alberta’s oil to the US or China. We need it. Please Obama, reject Keystone XL and please implement a carbon tax. That should finish off the last manufacturing in the US. They can come to Canada.

  100. rollin says:

    In the meantime, the news was just released that 38 million acres of the Central Gulf of Mexico will be leased by the feds to oil companies. Drill, baby, drill! Sort of counterproductive and counterintuitive.

  101. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    I rather wish I could share your enthusiasm Buzz, but having read through the speech carefully, I’m unable to see any significant change of direction. The presentation has progressed a notch – but the framing, and the issue’s priority have not.

    SOTU is the primary opinion forming opportunity of the year for the WH, so framing on each issue is of course very carefully arranged. In this speech we had a mention of various climate impacts on the US, which was new. But rather than declare the thousands of temperature records, hundreds of extreme rainfall events, dozens of massive wildfires, plus the mega-drought and the 500-yr Superstorm Sandy as being either ‘a huge number of flukes or an outcome of AGW’, the entire record of extreme impacts was combined as either “a freak coincidence” or an AGW outcome.
    Then we’re told its a matter of choosing to believe in the science or choosing to believe in the coincidence – thus further boosting the controversy while indicating his own ‘belief’.

    On the degree of urgency he repeated the line from the innauguration about duty to our children and the future – thus giving a horizon of concern of several decades – i.e. this issue not a current priority that people need to get worked up about.

    Much of the strong focus on energy security was closely interwoven with climate by the false pretense that renewable energy deployments cut carbon emissions – which of course they don’t – any fossil fuels locally displaced by renewables will continue to be bought and burnt elsewhere – until a climate treaty is agreed which sets tradable national emissions quotas under a declining global carbon budget. Notably there was no mention of any effort to advance that treaty or of its necessity as the sole basis of effective global mitigation.

    The veto given to the GOP on executive action, in the form of calling for bipartisan legislation under threat of executive action, was not open-ended, it just lasts as long as is meant by “soon”. This is likely at least a year, and perhaps two or more. It indicates that Obama lacks any intention of utilizing climate as a potent wedge issue in the 2014 mid-terms to take both house and senate, that would enable enactment of fully appropriate legislation. To succeed in that he’d need to start pushing the climate threat seriously and quickly, which of course he now cannot do having just called for a bipartisan legislative effort.

    In terms of WH policy priority, climate is now plainly at best fifth, behind economy, immigration, gun-control, and “energy security” framed in terms of “all of the above”, and it may not even be fifth. Compare this ranking of climate to that in February 2009, when it was second or third, or even November 2012 when it was third or fourth, and the speech clearly looks very regressive; the issue’s political priority is being further lowered while the actual urgency is rising exponentialy.

    Compared to what his duty demands it was a travesty of a speech. He has to know (because it is very diligent peoples’ job to tell him) that Asia in general and China in particular are facing extreme drought and crop failures within a decade, affecting regional -and predictably global – food security. He also has to know that Munich Re’s 40yr database shows the number of catastrophic climate impacts continuing to rise much faster in America than anywhere else on the planet – meaning that the US will quite likely fare worse in the coming decade than China, India and other nations.

    Overall, the speech’s section on climate was plainly not addressed to climate hawks, but to lemmings, who need to hear that the president is alert to their shallow level of concern, and who need encouragement to maintain a focus on the fabricated circus of denial – rather than actually demanding that the WH rapidly initiate the stringent regulations required, alongside negotiating in good faith to achieve the commensurate global climate treaty.

    I’m left wondering just what it will take for progressives to recognize that Obama is highly informed of the threat but remains opposed to its early resolution, and that the last thing he wants is strong demand for commensurate action on climate. Maybe if he was a weasel-faced white-skinned person people might be a little more discerning ? As it is, he is plainly anything but a climate hawk; a title of climate weasel would not seem unduly harsh.



  102. May Hem says:

    obama says “Now the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth.”

    that’s bad news.

  103. Jan says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. He is a consumate doublespeaker. He talked about “working with Congress” to see natural gas be safer for water, but yet his own administration’s policy on it allows the toxic mix used to frack the rock to go undisclosed. If he really cares then reverse their immunity from the Safe Drinking Water Act and work to stop fracking as it is already poisoining many communities and water supplies in this country and also releasing methane that exacerbates climate change. Perhaps renting Gasland and actually watching it would help. This is just more political grandstanding to try to get himself off the hook from doing absolutely nothing on this for the last four years while this planet continued to warm to the point where we are seeing dangerous feedbacks we may not be able to reverse. This shouldn’t be about his “legacy” this is about out children. If he really cared about this and saw the moral imperative he would sign an executive ordernot continue to doublespeak us about the EPA doing anything now when they had the last four years to do it as well.