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Published on January 25th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan

50

Obama: Good? Bad? Stupid? Smart?

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January 25th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan 

obama

Obama delivering the 2012 State of the Union. White House Photo, Pete Souza.

We like to stick people in boxes. Well, categorizing where people stand and what we think of their stance is a part of human nature. It is something that helps us to act or not act, spend time with someone or not, trust someone or not. I think that we do this more than normal with presidents. We want to say that our president is either good or bad, want to have a stance, so that we can try to get him or her re-elected or taken out of office. So, we are eager to stick him or her into a box.

But, really, politics is complicated, and people are complicated, and sometimes we have to step beyond categorizations of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (well, hopefully we do so more often than just sometimes).

Unfortunately, watching the 2012 State of the Union address last night was a little impractical for me, considering it was 3:00am here. But I watched it first-thing this morning. I then went on to read a number of editorials on the address. To be honest, I was quite surprised at the lack of depth and sophistication in much of this commentary. It all revolved around some surface issues or a superficial take on the messages of the speech.

I think, looking at the speech, you need to look at it from two different perspectives:

1) you need to pay attention to the fact that this is probably the best chance Obama has to have millions of members of the general public hear what he’s got to say, unedited;

2) you have to take a look at the actual policy implications of his statements.

So, looking at it from those perspectives, here’s my take on Obama’s 2012 SOTU address, and perhaps a bit on him as well:

Speaking to the Public

This is an election year, and this speech was an election-year speech. With that in mind, overall, I think Obama nailed the speech in this “speaking to the public” category (with one exception… below).

While some of the key things Obama focused on were not of my liking, he really took the opportunity in this speech to touch the hearts of ‘the other side’ and swing voters. Anyone who watched this and still thinks Obama is anti-oil (which I wish he actually were) has to reconsider. The following quote certainly didn’t make his own base happy, but it must have created quite some confusion or cognitive dissonance in the heads of oil and natural gas industry lovers, and perhaps brought some over to his side: “Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years.” Does this make me happy? No. Is it something that will score him political points? I lean towards saying ‘yes’. Similarly, anyone who saw him as anti-cars has to reconsider after watching the portion of the speech on the American auto-industry.

Oil & gas within reason is a phrase that doesn’t really make a lot of sense to greens. But it is an approach that helps to explain regulatory oil and gas policies. And this is what he drilled next. “…I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use. America will develop this resource without putting the health and safety of our citizens at risk.” If we’re going to have natural gas drilling (which Obama is for), it seems he is intent on making sure it, at least, doesn’t harm our water supplies (beyond the harm it does through global warming).

Some perspective on the subsidies fossil fuel industries have received and the clean energy subsidies that are needed now is important in this country today, after FOX News and friends completely misrepresented the Solyndra story for months (and continues to do so).

Quotes on this:

“And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of thirty years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”

“What’s true for natural gas is true for clean energy. In three years, our partnership with the private sector has already positioned America to be the world’s leading manufacturer of high-tech batteries. Because of federal investments, renewable energy use has nearly doubled. And thousands of Americans have jobs because of it.”

True & true. (Then throws in nice case study.)

“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.”

Great passion in this section.

“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.”

Pushing Congress to do some minimal work on clean energy, and also growing clean energy without a broken Congress (i.e. hostile opposition).

“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.”

Common sense. Frugality. Love it.

He spoke like a TV personality, not a college professor. While I prefer the style of a college professor, Obama’s much more impassioned (than normal) tone and energy in this speech may have put him on more likeable terms with the majority of the public, folks who are more affected by emotion than intellect. And I have to say, his passion was actually quite inspiring in parts (like the fossil fuels subsidy portion above).

He nailed the bonus-happy bankers who robbed the country, and the one-percenters who rob the U.S. with unethical tax breaks. (I think this was a pretty important and gutsy move and will touch anyone at all affected by the Occupy Wall Street movement,… and further pushes this cause, of course.)

He pointed out the obvious (but, to some, not so obvious) need for regulations in several points — when talking about how the financial industry screwed the U.S., and how he won’t let another Gulf oil spill like the BP spill occur again. He also pointed out how he is working to cut pointless regulation, and made an important distinction between the two (pointless and purposeful regulations) that I think a lot of people don’t get.

He nailed Republican obstructionism in Congress. On one hand, this puts pressure on Congress to work together a little better. Additionally, with an insanely unpopular Congress, it further separates him from that branch of government in voters’ eyes. Especially given the fact that the current Congress is a bit dominated by Republicans, this is all likely to give Obama a bump in the coming presidential election.

Brave speak regarding our position globally, versus other countries’. Obama certainly wasn’t making friends with other leading countries or ideological enemies in this speech. With so much attention put on ridiculous claims of him not being born in the U.S. and being anti-America, this kind of talk (again, some of which was not exactly something that I would condone) certainly hits the hearts of many of his non-traditional base.

On that traditional base of his, Obama obviously added many points and challenges we’d support. For the shortcomings we don’t support, I think he knows pretty darn well that his potential opponents in the GOP this year are so far off their rocker that he’s not going to lose many votes to them, or even to apathy, if he isn’t 100% tied to fighting for our wishes. Do I appreciate that? No. Do I think Obama fully ‘gets’ the most important issues of our day? No. But do I think this was all a smart political move? Yes, I do. (Again, the actual policy discussion, a short one, is below. More by Silvio in our next post.)

Obama is friends with American jobs and education, and you had to wear some pretty thick ear plugs to avoid hearing that.

Global warming…. Yes, this is the elephant in the room that everyone is blocking out, including Obama. It is the exception mentioned above. I don’t think his brief mutter of climate change is even worth discussing. The U.S. public is behind global warming action, and is increasingly realizing the threat it poses and the problems it’s already causing. But that awareness and support would really grow a ton if our president would make it a prime issue, and if he would force those of us unwilling to look at its threats to finally do so. Obama dropped the ball. And I think that was a grave mistake, politically and otherwise. With more awareness of global warming’s threats and costs, as well as the urgency of action, the policy moves Obama wants to make would get a lot more support. He missed the opportunity to point out the scientific consensus on this issue, or point out how the fossil fuel industry blocks greater awareness and progress.

Why did Obama drop the ball on this topic again? My thoughts are that 1) he thinks it’s too politically divisive (I don’t think it is and also think that leaving it off the table just makes it a political issue for longer); 2) he knows he isn’t meeting his initial goals or claims of change that he promised at the beginning of his presidency (hard to talk about a topic you’ve dropped); and/or 3) he really doesn’t get the urgency of this issue (perhaps the most concerning possibility).

He’s still on the ‘working together’ pitch. Well, not much can be done without working together. And I think he’s good to put the GOP in the hot seat on this one. Not a bad move in my opinion, politically.

Overall, political win. Big misstep: global warming’s invisibility.

Policy Implications

Well, the bottom line is, there are some pretty contradictory policy goals here (from a climate or environment perspective), and Obama’s tenure in office has been a bit mixed as well. We can’t know what rhetoric will actually be turned into policy in most cases, but Obama’s rhetoric last night certainly seemed to match up with his policy decisions up to now. Like it or not, looks like we’ve got more of the same in the coming year or 5. And what exactly would that be?

Clean energy & energy efficiency: Obama’s team has done more for clean energy and energy efficiency than probably any presidential team in U.S. history. That’s a strong suit that he continues to focus on. If it were up to him alone, I think it’s safe to say that we’d be the world’s clean energy leader (we’re far from it today).

Regulation: Obama’s team has been bringing back common-sense regulation the Bush administration dropped (in the energy industry and elsewhere). And it looks like it will continue doing so. But not always.

Fossil fuels: Obama’s happy, once again, to show how much he supports the oil and gas industry. And he really does. He’s done plenty for them, despite killing the Keystone XL for obvious, necessary reasons. Obama touts what was originally a Republican mantra of “all of the above” — and he supports it policy-wise. But “all of the above” equals less clean energy, less clean air, less clean water, and…

Global warming: Obviously, unrestrained burning of fossil fuels and a livable climate don’t go together. And Obama definitely seems to favor the former. That’s where it becomes mighty hard to consider Obama ‘smart’. He has dropped the ball on “stopping the seas from rising,” a big task he said would start doing from Day 1 in office. And, in the end, this may be the most defining matter of Obama’s presidency in history books written a few decades from now…

More SOTU pieces you might want to check out:

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



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  • Bob_Wallace

    How about we take a look at what PBO has done – so far?

    ENERGY: GREEN:
    BROAD POLICY:

    Established an Energy Partnership for the Americas. ref

    Established the Biofuels Working Group to develop a comprehensive approach to alternative fuels. ref

    Additional measures to advance clean energy/solar investments and job creation (ARRA). ref

    Launched new Climate Service. ref

    Worked toward deploying a global climate change research and monitoring system. ref

    Implemented renewable fuels mandate of 36 billion gallons by 2022. ref

    FUNDING:

    More than doubled federal spending for research on clean fuels. ref
    $60 billion in spending and tax incentives for renewable and clean energy. ref

    Invested in all types of alternative energy. ref

    Increased funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. ref

    Invested $2 billion in solar power, hailed new jobs. ref , ref , ref

    Established consumer tax credit for plug-in hybrid cars. ref , ref

    Provided grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes. ref

    Doubled funding for bicycling, walking projects ref , ref

    (DOL) Dedicated $100 million in Energy Training Partnership green jobs training grants. ref

    (DOL) Dedicated $150 million for Pathways Out of Poverty green jobs training grants. ref

    $8 billion combined public/pvt funding committed to develop Smart Power Grid (part of ARRA). ref

    Incentivized farmers to use more renewable energy and be more energy efficient. ref

    TARGETED ACTIONS:

    Purchased fuel efficient American-made fleet for the federal government. ref

    Ordered 5,000 hybrids for federal fleet. ref

    (NIST) Completed first release of Smart Grid framework. ref

    Created job training programs in clean technologies for displaced workers. ref

    Created Green Vet Initiative to promote environmental jobs for veterans. ref

    Established program to convert manufacturing centers into clean technology leaders. ref

    RESULTS:

    First President to create detailed vision for clean energy economy. ref

    Wind power growth up 39% due to government stimulus. ref

    Study: Almost 5 million charging stations by 2015. ref

    ENERGY: OLD
    BROAD POLICY:

    Ended the previous policy of not regulating and labeling carbon dioxide emissions. ref

    Created Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage. ref

    Set national standards for fuel economy and first ever greenhouse gas emission levels for passenger cars and light trucks. ref

    Set smog limit: new strict proposal to replace Bush-era rule (EPA). ref ref

    Regulated greenhouse gases for large industrial sources (EPA). ref

    Raised fuel economy standards. ref

    Required states to provide incentives for utilities to reduce energy consumption. ref

    Allowed states to enact tougher fuel efficiency standards than federal standards. ref

    Established Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. ref

    FUNDING:

    Pledged more than $8 billion for new nuclear reactors. ref

    Tax breaks to promote public transit. ref

    TARGETED ACTIONS:

    Dismantled the Minerals Management Service, cutting ties between industry and government. ref , ref

    Reengaged in global warming and greenhouse gas emissions talks. ref , ref

    Offered 17% U.S. emissions cuts at climate summit. ref

    Pledged 28% cut in federal greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. ref

    Expanded greenhouse gas reduction targets for Federal operations

    -13% reduction from indirect sources by 2020. ref

    (FTC) Toughened anti-greenwashing rules. ref

    Instituted “Cash for Clunkers” to spur auto sales and promote fuel efficiency . ref , ref

    Ordered inspections of mines with poor safety records. ref

    Closed loophole that allowed drilling in Rockies without environmental review. ref

    (EPA) Sharply limited mountaintop mining. ref

    (EPA) Announced historic plans to regulate coal ash. ref

    Required electric utilities to produce 20% of their electricity demand from renewable energy sources by 2020. ref

    (EPA) Limited mercury emissions. ref ref

    ENERGY:OIL
    BROAD POLICY:

    Introduced Oil Spill Recovery Bill to remove oil company liability cap. ref ref

    Created offshore drilling safety review board. ref

    Created new drilling agency with investigative arm. ref

    Ended previous practice of having White House aides rewrite scientific and environmental rules, regulations and reports. ref

    FUNDING:

    Ordered $20 billion escrow fund by BP to reimburse lost incomes in Gulf. ref

    Ordered $100 million to compensate those hurt by drilling moratorium. ref

    TARGETED ACTIONS:

    Dismantled the Minerals Management Service, cutting ties between industry and government. ref , ref

    Mandated new safety rules for offshore drilling. ref

    Opened civil and criminal investigations into Gulf oil spill. ref , ref
    (Congress) Launched investigation into gas drilling practices. ref

    Established the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. ref

    Amended Oil Pollution Act of 1990 authorizing advances from Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ref

    Expanded oil rig workers’ families abilities to sue and recover. ref

    Fined BP subsidiary $5.2 million for false reporting. ref

    (EPA) Barred Texas’ authority to issue refinery operating permits. ref


    From other non-energy categories…

    Provided $5 billion for Weatherization Assistance Program for low income families. ref

    Provided grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes.

    Provided grants to encourage energy-efficient building codes. Ref

    $8 billion combined public/private funding committed to develop Smart Power Grid (ARRA.) ref

    $8 billion combined public/private funding committed to develop Smart Power Grid (ARRA.) ref

    Study: Almost 5 million charging stations by 2015

    (All the ‘ref’ stuff – links on the source page.)

    http://obamaachievements.org/list

    What hasn’t PBO done?

    Signed a strong climate change bill. He would, if Congress would write one.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/6Z5SATNOV2NUAJ3FULS7QTMPFE Alexa

    There’s so much more to all of these issues than what this article cares to cover. And it isn’t Obama’s responsibility to educate ignorant people who don’t understand the complexities of the oil trade, global warming, and so on – sure, he isn’t 100% green, but I don’t think that’s the point. I think the point is that he’s trying to make America more independent from countries we buy oil from without completely souring relations, while also initiating movements that discourage oil’s impact in America. And global warming is a completely hot topic because even scientists can’t agree one whether it is nature’s course or if humans actually have made this significant of an impact on our climate. He was smart not to brush upon it… I think Obama is doing a lot of important groundwork to improve America. And he shouldn’t have to talk like a professor, like I said. He’s trying to speak to already educated people who are supposed to have some sort of knowledge about the issues he is addressing..

    • Bob_Wallace

      “even scientists can’t agree one whether it is nature’s course or if humans actually have made this significant of an impact on our climate”

      That humans are largely driving observed planetary warming is settled science among climate scientists.

      People who have spent time studying the problem view human-caused global warming settled science and have moved on to studying the details.

      If you wish to expand the meaning of scientist to include anyone with a graduate degree in some branch of science, e.g. a botanist or retired geologist, then you might be partially correct.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      And this is exactly why Obama should be stating the facts for what they are. This is not a hot topic in science. It is settled.
      http://planetsave.com/2012/01/16/more-science-on-human-vs-natural-global-warming/
      http://planetsave.com/2012/01/12/what-causes-global-warming-human-or-natural-factors/

      • Bob_Wallace

        Job #1 – Win the Election

        Job #2 – Save the World

        ———

        I don’t get very caught up in what politicians say. They cannot offend too many people and gain office.

        I try to put more of an emphasis on what politicians actually do.

        Yes, PBO has said little to piss off oil, coal and nuclear interests in his speeches. But, as far as I can tell, he’s done them no favors in his practices.

        When I look at the first 3.x years of President Obama’s first term I see pretty much nothing that he’s done to assist either the fossil fuel or nuclear industries. He’s done some significant things that cramp their style.

        He’s required deep water oil to stop drilling until they get safety measures in place. He’s required companies that wish to build new nuclear reactors to ‘put more skin in the game’, he’s made them put more of their capital at risk. He’s allowed the EPA to do some significant clamping down on coal burning.

        And at the same time PBO has assisted renewable energy and conservation.

        He’s made it easier and quicker for renewables to get permits on federal lands. He’s steered stimulus money toward renewables, especially EV battery manufacturing. He’s spent a lot of time at renewable energy sites and equipment factories giving them publicity. He created “Cash for Clunkers” which got some of our most inefficient vehicles off the road and brought about a very major increase in fuel efficiency standards.

        (Those lists are only examples. There is more….)

        • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

          I definitely think he’s done more good than harm. But he’s opened up huge swaths of land to coal mining and oil drilling, and his OIRA has been perhaps the worst in history for relaxing or indefinitely stalling regulations that come to its doors: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/nov/28/report-obama-broken-environmental-promises
          these 3 things are big, and a huge disappointment.

          bottom line: i think Obama wants to do what’s good for the country, and he’s doing his best at that, but that he doesn’t get the urgency of global warming nearly enough and also stuck some people in office who he really shouldn’t have. (in the OIRA case, old friend Cass Sunstein.)

          on GW: i’m in the Joe Romm boat — you can’t solve this crisis without talking about it.

          • Bob_Wallace

            In terms of climate and physics I think Romm is a smart guy. When it comes to politics I think he’s dumb as a post.

            You do not move society by getting way out on one end and scream at everyone else for not seeing things the way you do. The way you make progress is to go to where society is and start them in the direction you think things need to move.

            Romm is like other “true progressives” who do not understand that making progress is a process of small steps and when a step it taking it should be celebrated. He and others like him see a step taken and then dump all over the people on their side who didn’t make it two giant steps or a leap to the finish.

            Now, I don’t think that climate change has been PBO’s number one priority. I don’t think it was reasonable for it to have been. Number one priority was to get the country back on its financial feet. And I think he chose health care because he felt it somewhere he could make a major change at that point in time.

            I think that PBO was wise to not talk a lot about climate change. It seems to me that is was smarter to deal with economic and health care issues out in public and work quietly on climate change while the economy recovered.

            Again, you’ve got to get elected in order to make change.

            I see his opening of lands for oil and coal exploration as a political necessity. We won’t quit using oil and coal because the government says to. We’ll quit because alternatives become almost as cheap or cheaper and, possibly, because we get worried enough to put a small price on carbon.

            Society will not accept a large carbon price unless there are reasonable alternatives. We will ruin the planet before we submit to major lifestyle changes. Yes, that’s too bad, but I think it a realistic summary of how people behave. (Just look at the folks who smoke, who drink too much, who eat too much, ….)

            I see PBO as a master of timing. He plays a longer game than most of us are used to. Let’s look at why it might not matter that he’s been fairly quite on climate change.

            First, the economy so sucked that we had little resources to throw at the problem.

            Second, many of the technologies we need to keep the climate from getting worse were not mature enough. Solar, up until mere months ago, was very expensive. EVs/batteries are not ready to replace ICEVs on a large scale. Tidal and enhanced geothermal are still unsolved technologies.

            It seems to me that there has been enough research and development money available to mature technologies. The solution most likely is not to build out that technology with public money, but to make them financially attractive to private money.

            Buffett has put $6 billion into renewables in the last few months. He’s been joined by some major financial corporations.

            Wind is cheap and solar is getting cheap. I see very promising developments in battery storage that will make wind + solar + hydro + geothermal + storage very affordable alternatives. They may not, in toto, be as cheap as fossil fuels but they may be close enough allow utilities to be forced over.

            We’re seeing coal drop out. I suspect we’ll see an increase in natural gas prices over the next few years and when that happens utilities will turn up the speed of solar and wind installation.

            I think we’re within five years of affordable EVs that give us adequate range. When that happens I think we’ll see a rapid transition away from oil.

            I don’t think PBO could have done anything more than he did to make the price of solar fall faster or EVs mature quicker. I think he made the resources available for development, knowing that once we had alternatives it would be time to go loud.

            (Am I impressed with the guy? Yes, I am. I see over and over that he works quietly on problems and then drops his finished work on our desks.)

          • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

            I respectfully disagree on a number of these points, but I don’t think we’re going to change each others’ minds, so i’ll leave it at that. :D

  • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

    Kevin,

    The Obama administration saved our economy after Bush’s put it on the fast track to collapse. Please, lay off the FOX.

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  • CleanEnergyInvestor

    Obama let all that oil spill into the gulf – just so they could recover the blow out preventer. They could have capped it very early on – but they waited until they built one that would allow them to recover the BOP. That was inexcusable.

    Obama showed his ignorance about both the environment and American history when he said that was the greatest environmental disaster in American history – when in reality it wasn’t close – what about mass deforestation – the dust bowl – mass extinctions?

    Obama also continues to support nuclear – even after the Fukushima disaster.

    His energy policy is weak and so unfocused that it is ineffective…

    Of course, the alternative would be someone who not only doesn’t care about the environment but would actively contribute to it’s destruction…

    Obama is no environmentalist – we can’t look at him as a genuine leader on environmental issues or climate change. He is weak – but again – he is better than the alternative. I just look at things for what they are – others should too.

    • Anonymous

      “Obama let all that oil spill into the gulf – just so they could recover the blow out preventer.”

      You’re friggin’ kidding – aren’t you?

      There was no technology, no equipment, available to stop the flow of oil. The best minds in the oil industry and in the government were put to work figuring out how to do the job. It wasn’t like we had a great big stopper that PBO could rammed in the hole.

      “Obama also continues to support nuclear – even after the Fukushima disaster.”

      In what way does PBO support nuclear? If you look at the facts, PBO slipped a knife into nuclear’s back. The new loan guarantee greatly increases the financial liability for the companies that might want to build a reactor. Any company that borrows money to build a reactor now risks loosing their backside if they default.

      Nuclear was already extremely hard to finance with private money. Now it will be even harder. Nuclear got a poison pill from the Obama administration.

      I will agree that the environment is not PBO’s number one priority. He’s put the economy in first place and he used his honeymoon clout to get health care passed. But if you look at what PBO has done to increase EPA regs, increase gas mileage requirements, increase renewable energy and transmission, improve efficiency, put scientists back in control of government science it’s hard to argue that PBO is not working on environmental issues.

      Could he have done more? Sure.

      Just think what he might have done had we given him the Congressional support he needed.

      • CleanEnergyInvestor

        “the best minds in the oil industry”?- You mean their Lawyers – right?! – They began filing the lawsuits after the BOP was recovered intact. “the best minds in the government”? Did you see those FBI agents on deck as the BOP was recovered? – they cared more about money than the environment.

        There definitely was a way to stop the oil sooner – Many people came up with plans that could have stopped the oil sooner. – I personally submitted a design that would do it – it was in fact similar to the design that was finally used – but my plan would not have allowed the BOP to be recovered.

        • Anonymous

          No, engineers.

          You clearly don’t have a clue about what was involved in stopping the leak. Neither did the experts involved at the beginning.

          It wasn’t about recovering the BOP, it was about stopping leaks below the BOP. It took some time to figure out what the damage was and the first attempt to put a dome over the leak failed. As did attempts to block the flow within the damaged pipe. There was a big mess of damaged pipe and rig structure on the sea floor which made simple solutions unworkable.

          That’s why PBO stopped deep water drilling for almost a year while the oil industry got its act together so that it could deal with future problems.

  • Anonymous

    Environmentalists must put aside ideological purity and get behind Obama’s reelection bid. He will feel free to act more aggressively on climate change in a second term. Besides the alternative would be a nightmare; as a Republican President with a Republican Congress would dismantle the EPA, the renewable energy incentives, and anything suggesting improvements on climate change.

  • http://www.flash-ebrochure.com/EBrochures/24597_Green_Cage_Security_3/index.htm Green Cage Security, Inc.

    OO Bob, you are forgetting one little thing when you rant and rave about the left. AND that is our whole darn structure of government is tainted with MONEY!!!. Our government is controlled by the ultra elite. And Bob if even if you are worth seven figures, you are not part of that ultra elite. Who are we kidding, do you honestly believe that the global elites are going to sit on the side lines and not influence the game!. Bob I challenge you to research history from a global perspective. Clearly, when you rant about the left not doing anything, have you ever wondered why. In the words of the infamous Holmes, “Follow the money,I say”

    We are simply blessed to be living at this time, but reality is this has been the way societies have been structured to function for thousands of years. The only thing new is that we put pictures of our presidents on our fiat currency.

    • Anonymous

      Of course our system is corrupted by money. Who has suggested otherwise?
      And of course the “ultra elites” have a great deal of control over how things work.

      Does that make it OK for the “progressive left” to work against President Obama rather than with him?

      Ask yourself – “What has the progressive left done to help reach progressive goals?”

      “Holding feet to fire” counts for nothing. If you want your ball carrier to score then you need to get out front and block. And you need to pat him or her on the back when they make some yardage. The progressive left has been busy tackling their ball carrier and pissing on him when he doesn’t score a touchdown on every carry.

      • http://www.flash-ebrochure.com/EBrochures/24597_Green_Cage_Security_3/index.htm Green Cage Security, Inc.

        Was it ok to force the native’s off their land and give them disease, was it ok for the founding fathers to craft legislation that exempt 99 percent of the population from having a collective part in that legislation. Someone mentioned the 1 percent. Is it ok to go to war anywhere. I could go on close to the beginning of time, well actually was it ok for eve to give adam that darn apple. Just having a little fun there. But Bob , our political process is all a game that gives an appearance that everyone can play. This is a game nothing more nothing less. Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

        • Anonymous

          BS.

          Our system of government is far from perfect, but the biggest fault lies with the people who fail to inform themselves and vote.

  • Anonymous

    Thank You Zack, for the well thought out comprehensive commentary on the address. Also Bob, thanks for your rebuttal.

    I think we have all learned that PBO is pretty much willing to let the chips fall where they may, and do nothing, unless forced by a mobilized concerned electorate that puts his feet to the coals. It would be nice to see the same people that fought the XL pipeline continue with new issues.

    For those of us that have already changed our consciousness, it seems like an eternity waiting for the rest to catch up.

    I don’t think the issue of climate change is so important. One can deny climate change, but you can’t deny the issue of the polluted air we breath each day, the dead fish, mercury poisoning, spoiled rivers and acid lakes and oceans, countless spills, burning tap water, etc. Aren’t these issues in themselves enough to make us want to stop burning fossil fuel? That stuff will kill us all long before the rising waters of the oceans drown us.

    As for dumb, why bother to call out the Banksters, then load your adminstration with them? Why bother to speak about energy conservation and continue wars, that destroy vast quantities of energy. Is the defense department switching to renewable energy suddenly going to make killing innocent people more palatable?

    I am hoping for a 3rd party candidate!

    Richard

    • Anonymous

      ” I think we have all learned that PBO is pretty much willing to let the chips fall where they may, and do nothing, unless forced by a mobilized concerned electorate that puts his feet to the coals ”

      Boy, do we read the guy exactly 180 degrees differently or what?

      My take is that PBO is willing to do what he thinks is the right thing and let the chips fall where they may.

      This “put his feet to the coals” is a massive piece of BS promoted by the “progressive left”. No one put President Obama’s feet to the fire to create health care for Americans, something that we’ve been trying to get for 100 years and he pulled it off.

      No one put President Obama’s feet to the fire to extend benefits to gays or get our troops out of Iraq. Or raise gas mileage. Or spend a lot of the stimulus money on renewable energy. Or a dozen other things that he has done.

      I’m really pissed at the “progressive left”. They have done nothing but attack President Obama from the moment he didn’t wave his non-existent magic wand and fix all the world’s problems on the way back to the White House after his inauguration.

      The :”progressive left” has done zero, absolutely zero, to aid President
      Obama during all his efforts to meet the progressive agenda. Not once have
      angry “leftists” turned out to protest the jerks in Congress who have
      blocked his efforts.

      I think the (really dumb) progressive left cannot see, or will not allow
      them to see, that the goals they hold are not reachable in giant steps.
      And that blinds them from seeing the small steps that are leading to the
      fulfillment of those goals.

      • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

        “Not once have
        angry “leftists” turned out to protest the jerks in Congress who have
        blocked his efforts.”

        Well, I’m not sure what your definition of the angry leftists is, but the folks who put his feet to the fire to reject the Keystone XL (something that surprised 95% of energy insiders last I heard), are pushing Congress as strong as they are pushing Obama.

        http://planetsave.com/2012/01/25/going-on-offense/

        http://planetsave.com/2011/07/15/u-s-chamber-of-secrets-launched/

        http://planetsave.com/2011/05/06/oil-companies-u-s-chamber-of-commerce-one-the-same/

        http://www.wearepowershift.org/

        Also, I’m just going to reiterate, Obama has very clearly stated that he wants his base to continue pushing him. Why? He knows that if he only gets pushed from one side, if people aren’t involved in politics, he can’t do as much.

        It seems you’re reading this post as being primarily critical of Obama & his speech. Count up the positive statements vs the negative ones. See which side it leans on. But I think not criticizing wrong steps is accepting them, and backing someone’s decisions and statements 100% just because the other side is worse is not smart politics.

        You well know that we frequently commend Obama on this site, but ignoring the missteps is not very useful blogging, and certainly is not very useful political involvement.

        Lastly, a ton of people on the left are extremely fed up with Obama. This post welcomes them in, I think, but then guides them to look at the many positive moves Obama’s taken and is taking.

        If you’ve got a top athlete doing great work in most ways, but also doing drugs, you encourage the good work he’s doing, but you don’t ignore the drugs.. just because you support him. You help to push him away from drugs, with encouragement where it applies and admonishment where it applies.

        • Anonymous

          OK, you found one time in three years that people turned out to push Congress.

      • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

        “Not once have
        angry “leftists” turned out to protest the jerks in Congress who have
        blocked his efforts.”

        Well, I’m not sure what your definition of the angry leftists is, but the folks who put his feet to the fire to reject the Keystone XL (something that surprised 95% of energy insiders last I heard), are pushing Congress as strong as they are pushing Obama.

        http://planetsave.com/2012/01/25/going-on-offense/

        http://planetsave.com/2011/07/15/u-s-chamber-of-secrets-launched/

        http://planetsave.com/2011/05/06/oil-companies-u-s-chamber-of-commerce-one-the-same/

        http://www.wearepowershift.org/

        And, in general, I see a lot more written about GOP Congresspeople doing horrid things than Obama.

        Also, I’m just going to reiterate, Obama has very clearly stated that he wants his base to continue pushing him. Why? He knows that if he only gets pushed from one side, if people aren’t involved in politics, he can’t do as much.

        It seems you’re reading this post as being primarily critical of Obama & his speech. Count up the positive statements vs the negative ones. See which side it leans on. But I think not criticizing wrong steps is accepting them, and backing someone’s decisions and statements 100% just because the other side is worse is not smart politics.

        You well know that we frequently commend Obama on this site, but ignoring the missteps is not very useful blogging, and certainly is not very useful political involvement.

        Lastly, a ton of people on the left are extremely fed up with Obama. This post welcomes them in, I think, but then guides them to look at the many positive moves Obama’s taken and is taking.

        If you’ve got a top athlete doing great work in most ways, but also doing drugs, you encourage the good work he’s doing, but you don’t ignore the drugs.. just because you support him. You help to push him away from drugs, with encouragement where it applies and admonishment where it applies.

      • Richard

        Bob, you make some very valid points! My chips fall where they may comment, comes from my recent thought of the XL pipeline, where FINALLY some conservationists got out and did some picketing.

        PBO campaigned that he would support unions, but during the fray in Madison, he presense was not seen.

        PBO campaigned that he would do something about lobbyists, that must of been at the very bottom of his list of priorities.

        Health Care, well… it seems as though the chips fell greatly in favor of the Health Insurance industry. PBO supported single payer, then he didn’t. Frankly I have my doubts about health insurance whether it is private or publically funded, as the result seems to be that it enables people to avoid taking responsibility for their own health, and in the process raising the costs for those who do.

        I agree with you about the faux progressive left, they only exist behind computer keyboards, and are all invalids.

        Yes, you are right change comes in little baby steps, and we shouldn’t expect any president to make change without some very visible support from the electorate. I believe progressive left died a long time ago, when they did nothing about the recount in Florida, and did nothing about the wars in Iraq and Afganistan, and continue to do nothing, as Congress passes NDAA.

        George the II said we are addicted to oil, probably the only wise thing he said. But, he left out that we are also addicted to the MIC and security industry.

        Anyway, I got to get back to work, read your reply and it got me all fired up, I had to stop, and pull into a rest area and defrack my brain some.

        Richard

        • Anonymous

          Here’s a quote from PBO before he ran for office -

          “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

          He gained the White House, Democrats took back the House, and Democrats sort of took back the Senate. At no point did “liberal” Democrats control Congress and that meant that compromise was necessary. There was no opportunity to ram a “100% pure” universal health care/single payer program through.

          What we got instead is a health plan that met the three big goals: 1) Affordable health insurance for those with pre-existing conditions, 2) Health insurance even if we get really sick and cost the insurance company a lot of money, and 3) Affordable health insurance for the ~50 million Americans who were uninsured.

          Those were our three major goals. Single payer was a route to those goals, and perhaps a cheaper route, but we got where we wanted to go.

          For 100 years we’ve been trying to get health coverage for all and now we’ve got it (baring Supreme Court nullification). How about we give the guy credit?

  • Anonymous

    More supply = lower prices.

    Lower prices = more demand.

    I don’t think that holds for coal. The price of coal is already pretty low. The opportunities to burn coal are limited and dropping.

    Coal will never get as cheap as fuel-free sources. If there is wind or solar available on the grid then coal will get curtailed, even if the cost of fuel were to drop to half of what it now is.

    And I don’t think more supply means anything with oil that will come from recently made-available land. It’s going to be ten years or so before any oil will start flowing from those lands. By then we should be voluntarily moving away from petroleum and to much cheaper electricity for our transportation.

    Right now rises in price of oil causes some drop in consumption, but EVs are going to be so cheap to operate that if oil were to drop to $2/gallon it would still loose.

    Don’t overlook what Secretary Chu has been saying about EV batteries. He says that we’re only short years from long ranges and great prices. I’m sure he’s saying the same to President Obama. Supply/demand holds only as long as no disruptive technology appears.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Bob, while I agree with most of your addendum here, you can’t deny that lower supply = higher prices. This is basic economics.

      The sooner the price of coal and oil hit their true price (or at least higher prices closer to that), the sooner they are priced out of the mix.

      • Anonymous

        I don’t see coal and oil ever hitting their true price. We are very unlikely to charge coal for the health and environmental costs or oil for the military costs.

        Our only likely way away from coal and oil is via cheaper alternatives. Wind is there. Solar is getting close. Geothermal is roughly there. EVs are just about there.

        If we can get Congress and the White House firmly in Democratic hands next fall then we stand a chance for pulling subsidies away from fossil fuels. That will help. But the real solution is to undercut their price.

  • Pingback: Sweeping State of the Union Speech Creates Conflicting Energy Goals | CleanTechnica

  • Anonymous

    “Global warming: Obviously, unrestrained burning of fossil fuels and a livable climate don’t go together. And Obama definitely seems to favor the former.”

    Come on Zach. What has PBO done to increase the burning of fossil fuels?

    As I’ve said before, he greatly raised mileage requirements. That decreases fossil fuel use.

    He’s boosted wind and solar and caused coal plants to be shut. Another decrease of fossil fuels use.

    He’s pushed efficiency for buildings, especially governmental buildings. Yet another decrease of fossil fuel use.

    Can you point out a single incidence of President Obama working to increase fossil fuel use?

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Bob, I agree with you that he’s more on the side of clean energy. But he clearly embraces the “all of the above” strategy, and not just rhetorically. See other links provided.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan
      • Anonymous

        This story –

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2011/nov/28/report-obama-broken-environmental-promises

        Remember that PBO stopped temporary regulations from going into effect while the EPA finished working out the permanent set of regulations. It made no sense to require plants to start working in a direction which might soon be changed.

        The linked article was written in November, 2011. The new EPA regulations were released in December, 2011.

        • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Bob, this article isn’t about one set of regulations.

          “Now, a new report [pdf] from the Centre for Progressive Reform has dug up some key data revealing that the White House in the age of Obama has been just as receptive to the pleadings of industry lobbyists as it was in the Bush era. And it goes far beyond ozone.

          “Under Obama, a little known corner of the White House – known as the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, or Oira – has changed more than 80% of the rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

          I encourage you to read the full piece.

          This is no laughing matter or brush-aside issue.

        • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Bob, this article isn’t about one set of regulations.

          “Now, a new report [pdf] from the Centre for Progressive Reform has dug up some key data revealing that the White House in the age of Obama has been just as receptive to the pleadings of industry lobbyists as it was in the Bush era. And it goes far beyond ozone.

          “Under Obama, a little known corner of the White House – known as the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, or Oira – has changed more than 80% of the rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

          I encourage you to read the full piece.

          This is no laughing matter or brush-aside issue.

        • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Bob, this article isn’t about one set of regulations.

          “Now, a new report [pdf] from the Centre for Progressive Reform has dug up some key data revealing that the White House in the age of Obama has been just as receptive to the pleadings of industry lobbyists as it was in the Bush era. And it goes far beyond ozone.

          “Under Obama, a little known corner of the White House – known as the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, or Oira – has changed more than 80% of the rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

          I encourage you to read the full piece.

          This is no laughing matter or brush-aside issue.

        • Anonymous

          Zack – look at the date on the Guardian site you quote – Monday 28 November 2011 22.37 GMT

          That, as I said, was written during the period between PBO suspending temporary regulations and when the permanent EPA regulations came out in December.

          Remember, the December EPA regs shut down the dirtiest coal plants.

  • Anonymous

    “”Fossil fuels: Obama’s happy, once again, to show how much he supports the oil and gas industry. And he really does. He’s done plenty for them, despite killing the Keystone XL for obvious, necessary reasons. Obama touts what was originally a Republican mantra of “all of the above” — and he supports it policy-wise. But “all of the above” equals less clean energy, less clean air, less clean water, and…”

    Are you looking at the facts when you say this, or only listening to the words and imagining the worst?

    How much support has PBO given to the oil industry?

    He shut down deep-water offshore drilling for about a year and required the industry to come up with realistic plans to deal with any further disasters. And to get the equipment and personnel in place for a rapid reaction.

    PBO has gone out of his way to visit wind and solar facilities to give them more exposure. He’s made it easier for wind, solar, and geothermal facilities to be built on federal land. He’s pushed for more transmission lines so that clean power can be moved to where it is needed.

    PBO has steered significant money to EVs and EV batteries. Has he steered any money to the oil industry? How about to the coal industry? Or to the natural gas industry?

    PBO has pushed the EPA to create new regulations which are causing dozens of dirty coal plants to be closed. He’s not called for the relaxation of extraction regulations.

    You claim that PBO has done “plenty” for the oil and gas industry. What has he done?

    He says “all of the above”, but within that “all” it appears to me that he’s playing favorites. Oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear aren’t getting any help that I can see. The effort is going to renewables.

    I think he’s taking the smart route. Why make enemies by dissing fossil fuels and nuclear? It’s clear to many of us that in an open/free market fossil fuels and nuclear energy will be/are priced off the table. I think PBO sees that we are moving away from fossil fuels and nuclear and is putting his resources into aiding the transition. I don’t see any assistance being given to fossil fuels and nuclear.

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Oil & gas: “Over the last three years, we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my Administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years. That’s right – eight years.”

      Coal: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/mar/24/obama-coal-mining-expansion

      • Anonymous

        Drill here or drill there? That is the question.

        Oil companies are going to drill somewhere as long as there is a market for product.

        If they drill here then we get the jobs, we leave more money onshore, and we get ‘cleaner’ drilling.

        We don’t cut the amount of fossil fuel burned by restricting places to drill. We cut fossil fuel use by creating acceptable alternatives.

        Coal – we’re building no new coal plants (other than a small handful that have been in the pipeline). We’re shutting dozens of existing coal plants. More mining in the US will not mean more coal burned in the US.

        It may be that more mining will mean more exporting of coal to China, but China is also looking at coal as a temporary energy source and not their energy future.

        • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

          More supply = lower prices.

          Lower prices = more demand.

  • Anonymous

    Let me suggest that President Obama is “oil realistic”.

    The American people are not going to willingly give up their personal cars and anyone who tried to make them do so would quickly be voted out of office.

    The fact that PBO is allowing more domestic oil drilling does not make him a friend of oil. The oil industry will drill wherever and haul. Domestic drilling means more US jobs, less purchasing of foreign oil. It also means more environmentally responsible drilling as opposed to the incredible messes allowed in other parts of the world.

    If PBO were “a friend of oil” then he would not have massively increased mileage standards. Friends don’t cut your market.

    We’re stuck with oil for a while. Until we get an adequate replacement that permits US drivers to do what they expect to be able to do, go where they want.

    Realistically, electric vehicles are not quite “there” yet. We need more range and a lower purchase price. Most people could do quite well with a 100 mile range EV or an “unlimited range” PHEV, but people don’t quite understand that yet. Give people a couple of years to understand the technology and most will be willing to make the switch – if the price is right.

    If you look at the “all in” cost of owning and operating an EV or PHEV they are about the same or cheaper than a gasmobile, especially if the price of gas increases as expected. But most people are going to recoil from sticker shock until prices drop some.

    There’s nothing PBO can do to increase range or drop prices (aside from the money he has already made available for research, battery factories, and purchase subsidies). The smart folks in the labs have to come up with better technology and manufacturers have to scale up production to bring down prices.

    As EVs improve people will (I think) quickly move to them. Everyone who test drives an EV praises the driving experience. Avoiding stopping at the pump and taking your car in for oil changes and maintenance is going to be popular. And EVs cost only a small fraction per mile of what gasmobiles cost to operate.

    I think what PBO is doing is the smart thing. He’s cutting our petroleum usage, he’s avoiding the “Drill, Baby, Drill” battle by allowing domestic drilling, and he’s assisting the development of a functional, and superior, replacement for petroleum powered vehicles.

    He’s playing the smart game and the long game. As soon as we have ~175 mile range EVs that cost no more than ~$5k more than an equivalent gasmobile we will drop petroleum like a hot piece of burning coal.

    The best thing that a president can do in the mean time is to cut petroleum as much as possible via efficiency and get re-elected so that he can continue helping the transition.

  • http://twitter.com/vargaseddie Eduardo

    The big question is whether or not we can change and persuade Obama’s energy policy of burning more fossil fuels. Because really, he is our only hope. A Republican candidate will NEVER support our cause. At least he has decided to consider taking away subsidies, and at least Keystone was rejected. What we need is to pressure him MUCH MORE,and hope that God gives us a miracle

    • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Good points.

      And agreed.

      And, to be honest, I think he’s even asked for it. In the Keystone XL decision, he was forced to make it. We need to speak up enough that he is forced to act on the public’s behalf more.

      • Anonymous

        I really don’t think that it’s PBO that we need to pressure.

        It’s Congress which isn’t tightening regulations, providing long term support for renewables, and creating good climate legislation.

        What we need to do, IMHO, is to re-elect PBO and give him a functional Congress.

        This guy is incredibly smart and has the best interest of the world in mind. He gets it. But he can only do so much, Congress controls the purse strings and writes legislation.

        • http://cleantechnica.com/ Zachary Shahan

          I think PBO is responsive to citizens. As such, he asks for pressure from his constituency on issues important to us, and I think he needs it (at least for political reasons).

          I have high regard for PBO, but I think he’s made same mistakes and is far from perfect. Does he really get the threat of global warming? I’m not sold on that. Is he doing more than anyone in the GOP would do? Yes, 10 times more. But he could have focused on climate change over healthcare. He could make more evident (if he’s aware) the costs we’re incurring today from global-warming-related natural disasters. He could have stronger policies on energy than ‘all of the above’ (and stay in office). He could put people in place who don’t allow or contribute to watering down of regulations.
          Again, best clean energy president U.S. has ever had, but complacency will make us lose this one. And setting higher standards is important. Our political system has drifted to the right for many reasons, but I think one clear one is progressives being softer on important issues and compromising to destruction.

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