Obama Punts on Climate

The most important thing to keep in mind about the sort of “major” presidential speech we saw last night is that they don’t matter. At all. They don’t move votes in Congress. They don’t move public opinion. The bully pulpit method of governance doesn’t work. And that’s about the best I can say about Obama’s speech — even if it had been much better, it wouldn’t have done much good.

But as long as someone speaks in public, he’s inviting you to analyze his words. And on that score, the evaluation just can’t be very good. I understand that the Senate isn’t going to pass a comprehensive climate/energy plan that puts a price on carbon. I get that. Nevertheless, the right thing to do is to pass such a bill. A discussion of energy policy should say so. A discussion of energy policy should mention climate change. There’s more to be said about the benefits of energy reform than its role in averting climate catastrophe. And there’s more to improved energy policy than carbon pricing. But climate change is really important. And putting a price on carbon is really key to getting a handle on it. If you’re talking about these issues, you should say that stuff. And Obama didn’t.

Yesterday, the EPA completed its analysis of the American Power Act and found that it’s a highly affordable way to reduce emissions from greenhouse gasses. That would have been worth mentioning. If you’re not going to talk about this stuff, then why talk? There’s nothing wrong with settling for less than you wanted, but it’s downright weird to not even discuss what really needs to be done.