President Barack Obama disparaged dirty energy money being pumped into political campaigns in a speech before Binghamton University on Friday, saying that members of Congress’s energy committees didn’t have the public’s best interest at heart because they were bought and sold by “fossil fuel industries.”
“What we’ve seen too often in Congress,” Obama said, “is that the fossil fuel industries tend to be very… influential, let’s put it that way, on the energy committees in Congress.”
He’s right. According to numbers on OpenSecrets.org, the members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources have received political contributions totaling $6,219,543 from oil and coal industries, with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) topping the list with $1,155,084 donations.
This undue influence, Obama went on, has contributed to Congressional resistance to increasing energy efficient appliances, and investing in new clean energy technologies.
“In some cases we’ve actually been criticized that it’s a socialist plot that’s restrict restricting your freedom for us to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs, for example,” Obama said, mocking some members of Congress like Reps. Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Joe Barton (R-TX), who have said essentially that. “I never understood that. But you hear those arguments.”
Overall, the President’s remarks on the environment struck a strong note on climate change and clean energy. “Climate change is real. The planet is getting warmer. And you’ve got several billion Chinese, Indians, Africans and others who also want cars, refrigerators, electricity,” Obama said. “As they go through their development cycle, the planet cannot sustain the same kinds of energy use as we have right now.”
Unfortunately, though, Obama’s policy has lagged behind his rhetoric. While his new climate action plan has indicated that he will take environmental issues more seriously in his second term, the public is still waiting for a final decision from Obama on approving or discontinuing the Keystone XL pipeline, a hotly debated tar sands pipeline set to cut from Canada through the Midwest to Texas. He has also moved to expand fracking projects on public lands despite known environmental and health risks. The U.S. government has also remained a key purveyor of coal under Obama’s administration, despite his detractors’ assertions that he has a war on the fossil fuel.