January 25 News: Only Mentioning Climate Once, Obama Pledges He “Will Not Walk Away” from Clean Energy

Other stories below: Bernie Sanders pledges to roll back fossil fuel subsidies; Not all wetlands are created equal

State of the Union 2012: Obama speech full text

…Our experience with shale gas shows us that the payoffs on these public investments don’t always come right away. Some technologies don’t pan out; some companies fail. But I will not walk away from the promise of clean energy. I will not walk away from workers like Bryan. I will not cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China or Germany because we refuse to make the same commitment here. We have subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s rarely been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that’s never been more promising. Pass clean energy tax credits and create these jobs.

We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives. The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change. But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted. Well tonight, I will. I’m directing my Administration to allow the development of clean energy on enough public land to power three million homes. And I’m proud to announce that the Department of Defense, the world’s largest consumer of energy, will make one of the largest commitments to clean energy in history — with the Navy purchasing enough capacity to power a quarter of a million homes a year.


Of course, the easiest way to save money is to waste less energy. So here’s another proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, and more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.

Obama steers clear of climate change talk in speech

President Obama’s State of the Union address outlines a series of energy proposals aimed at promoting renewable energy, but steers clear of a broad call to tackle climate change.

Obama speech makes only one direct reference to climate change. In it, the president acknowledges that a broad climate change bill is politically dead on Capitol Hill and criticizes Congress for failing to pass legislation mandating that a large portion of the country’s electricity come from low-carbon energy sources.

“The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change,” Obama said, according to prepared remarks. “But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation. So far, you haven’t acted.”

Obama’s remarks reflect the new political reality in Washington. After climate legislation collapsed on Capitol Hill in 2010, prospects for major energy bills became dim.

Sen. Bernie Sanders Pledges to Introduce Legislation Repealing ‘Absurd’ Fossil Fuel Subsidies

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders pledged Tuesday to introduce legislation that would repeal federal tax breaks and subsidies to the enormously profitable fossil fuel industry, declaring at a Capitol Hill rally that “the most profitable corporations in the world do not need subsidies from the American people.”

The Vermont senator was one of several speakers at the demonstration, which was organized by the environmental grassroots organization to call out members of Congress who have supported the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline while accepting millions in campaign contributions from oil companies. The rally featured hundreds of protesters decked out in black-and-white referee shirts aiming to “blow the whistle” on the oil industry’s purported power over Congress.

Keystone pipeline talks curtailed by Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday said he isn’t impressed with Republican congressional proposals to approve the Keystone XL pipeline over the White House’s objections.

“If we want to wean ourselves from foreign oil, why would we allow a pipeline to be built for 1,700 miles to manufacture petroleum products to be shipped overseas?” Reid told reporters after the weekly Senate Democratic policy lunch. “That’s the purpose of this.”

When asked about any Republican efforts to include Keystone language on this upcoming payroll package, Reid responded more generally about GOP ideas to boost domestic energy production.

“If they have some reasonable proposals, I’ll be happy to look at them,” Reid said. “But that doesn’t sound reasonable to me,” he added, referring again to the Keystone pipeline.

Signs of New Life as U.N. Searches for a Climate Accord

Critics and supporters alike agree that the U.N. forum for negotiating international climate change policies is an ungainly mess, its annual gatherings marked by discord, disarray and brinkmanship.

Each year, exhausted delegates and observers return home thinking that there has to be a better way to address what they believe to be one of the defining challenges of our time: the relentless warming of the planet and its impact on the world’s inhabitants.

But the recently concluded meeting in Durban, South Africa, which established a new mandate for concluding a binding agreement of some sort by 2015, has given the process new life and hushed many of its critics. For now.

“Apart from the fact that we took 36 hours longer than we expected, I actually think Durban will be proven by history to be the most encompassing and farthest reaching agreements that any climate conference has ever reached,” said Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who leads the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body that oversees the negotiations.

Not All Wetlands Are Created Equal

To many, it’s a familiar scenario: a strip mall suddenly pops up in what was once a desolate quagmire or boggy boondock.

But people are coming to realize that these seemingly wasted plots where land meets water provide a valuable ecological service. In addition to nurturing biodiversity, wetlands purify water, produce fish, store carbon dioxide that would otherwise contribute to global warming, and protect shorelines from floods, storm surges and erosion.

Since the early 20th century, development has claimed over half the wetlands in North America, Europe, Australia and China. To repair the damage from those construction binges and regain the benefits of wetlands, restoration has become a booming business.

Yet new research calls into question whether manmade versions can ever compensate for wetlands buried beneath parking lots and subdivisions. In an article published on Tuesday in PLoS Biology, scientists write that restoration efforts often fall short of returning wetlands to their former biological complexity and functioning.

Climate Change and Farming: How Not to Go Hungry in a Warmer World

Climate change might hit us in the most vital place of all — the dinner plate Why do we care about climate change? Obviously we worry about what warming temperatures might do to the geography of the planet — particularly melting polar ice and raising global sea levels. We fear the impact that climate change could have on endangered species, as warming temperatures speed the already rapid pace of extinction for wildlife that have been pushed to the edge by habitat loss and hunting. We focus on the changing risk of extreme weather, of more powerful storms causing billions of dollars of damage in richer nations — and taking thousands of lives in poorer ones. Sometimes we’re simply uneasy with idea that our actions are altering the Earth, changing the rhythms of the seasons, shifting weather patterns we’ve been accustomed to for as long as human beings can remember.

All of that is important — but not as important as the impact that climate change might have on the most vital function of any species: feeding itself. The human population broke the 7 billion mark late last year, and the reason that happened — and the reason we can and will keep growing, barring major changes — is that we’ve become amazing proficient at raising food. Our distribution is far from perfect — which is the reason the world is simultaneously home to 1 billion hungry and more than 300 million obese people — and the side effects of large-scale farming can damage the environment. But food production still remains humanity’s most amazing accomplishment.