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Cars Obama plans climate change action at state of the union

Published on February 13th, 2013 | by Tina Casey

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Obama: “We Must Do More to Combat Climate Change”

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February 13th, 2013 by
 
As anticipated, President Obama used a hefty part of last night’s State of the Union Address to outline his climate change policy and call for more action on climate change, and he didn’t pull any punches. After mentioning “dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet,” he boiled the situation down to this: the recent period of record high temperatures along with historic droughts, floods, wildfires and storms is not a “freak coincidence,” it is the result of a dangerous warming trend that demands action “before it’s too late.”

The President didn’t go into specifics, but he did drop a couple of hints about his plans for action over the next four years, at least some of which he pledged to accomplish by executive order if Congress fails to act.

Obama plans climate change action at state of the union

First, the Bad News

The President did say a couple of things that raised a red flag. First, in a part of the speech about the need for infrastructure improvements, he mentioned the p-word, as in pipeline. He could have been referring to any pipeline, particularly water pipes, but then again it could have been a reference to the notorious Keystone XL Pipeline.

The idea of accelerating the permit process for gas and oil drilling also doesn’t bode well for those of us who have been following the gas fracking issue. On the other hand, given his Administration’s dogged attempts to close the gaping loopholes in fracking regulations, he could have in mind a tradeoff: a quicker process, but far more restrictive.

The Obama Climate Change Policy

If the President’s plans for wind and solar power were a little shy on details, there’s a good reason for that. He already came up with a plan several years ago, and it’s already being implemented.

Back in 2011, the Administration launched the SunShot Initiative with the goal of making solar power as cheap as fossil fuel. The wide-ranging initiative is a public-private partnership that covers the development of new high-efficiency solar cells, utility-scale projects as well as affordable rooftop projects, and reducing the “soft costs” of installation (such as permits, inspections and grid connections — these can account for half the total cost of a typical installation).

Wind power has also been getting a public–private boost from the Obama Administration, primarily through the establishment of shared wind power test facilities that enable private companies to cut down on R&D costs.

Though not mentioned in his speech, the Obama Administration has also launched similar public-private initiatives for algal biofuel and hydrokinetic power among others.

No More Oil for Cars?

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the President’s plan was his suggestion that oil and gas revenues from drilling on public lands be used to fund new research that would “shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

Did he mean that as a threat, to get the oil and gas industry to quit pressuring him to allow more oil and gas drilling on public land? Who knows?

In any case, as with the aforementioned wind and solar initiatives, the Obama Administration is already well on the way to establishing an electric vehicle infrastructure in the U.S. with public–private partnerships for charging stations, advanced battery research, and other aspects of the EV sector.


The Administration also has other renewable energy projects well under way — for example, biogas initiatives through the AgStar program, and brownfields reclamation for wind and solar through Re-Powering America’s Lands, to say nothing of the U.S. military’s hand-over-fist adoption of renewable energy.

So yeah, when the President says that he will take action, with or without the help of Congress, he probably means it.

Fasten your seatbelts…

Image (cropped): Obama’s State of the Union by Medill DC

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • ldlogic

    I consider Obama (and his right-wing election challengers) to be part of the problem, not the solution. Refusal to sign the Kyoto treaty, his “all of the above” energy program, no legally binding carbon reduction objectives, not outright rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline which is ‘game over’ for the climate according to scientists… it is ridiculous to pretend Obama isn’t part of the problem. He and his party participate in the exclusion of 3rd party presidential candidates (http://www.opendebates.org/theissue/ for more info) who reject the status quo and would actually ignite a real clean energy revolution in the US, much to the dismay of the financial sources of Obama and his right-wing challengers. Obama is part of the problem, don’t depend on him to save the planet.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I suppose you aren’t from the US and don’t know how our government works.

      We don’t elect dictators or monarchs, we elect a president whose powers are limited by our elected members of Congress.

      The president is an administrator, he or she cannot create legislation. The president can only implement the laws which Congress passes.

      Having watched this man for the last four years I have zero doubt that he would have done far, far more to deal with climate change, equal rights for all, and all other sorts of interests of the left had he the power.

      But PBO has to work within the constraints set by Congress, and Republicans control one half of Congress. PBO has been remarkable successful given the amount of opposition he has met. Never before in the history of the US has one party attempted to harm the country simply to damage the president.

      And something else you might not be aware of – PBO is an expert at playing the “long game”. He knew that not much could be done on energy while the country was recovering from an incredibly severe recession. Now that we are well into recovery and his reelection is behind him look for him to be able to do more about climate change.

      One think I have learned about Barrack Obama. Pay attention when he says he is going to do something. This is a man who does an incredible job of doing what he says he is going to do.

      President Obama has said that climate change is a major issue for him. He intends to make progress.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000083128879 Tom Swift

    And yet, back in December; HE flew from his Hawaii vaction (747, and he’s the only passenger) just to “help” avoid the fiscal cliff, then flew back to Hawaii to finish the last two days of his vacation.

    Ask what you can give up for climate change cause’ I’m sure as hell ain’t givin’ up nothin’! Is what President B.H.Obama is really saying.

    • Marshall Harris

      It doesn’t sound like you read this site much. Fighting climate change is not about “giving up” stuff. It’s about making a sustainable future where can meet and exceed our energy needs. It’s about more energy efficiency and less pollution. It’s about innovations in wind and solar, and new technologies including advantaged battery storage.

      Please stop with the nonsense that fighting climate change is all about sacrifice. It’s not. It’s about prosperity.

    • JT

      Yes, Obama isn’t giving up much! Maybe he is really looking at both sides of the argument and knows that some analysts find a weak case for climate change. This article looks at the data. http://www.statisticsblog.com/2012/12/the-surprisingly-weak-case-for-global-warming/

      • Bob_Wallace

        Please don’t post horseshit stuff here.

        That POS piece you posted uses only surface temperature when it attempts to make a case that global warming is strong.

        The vast amount of warming has been soaked up by the oceans.

        It’s either a stupid or dishonest piece of work.

  • Sean

    The smartest thing he could do is drop the implied subsidy of restricting the sale of oil to USA and Canada. It would increase exports, make higher profits, and push the price of gas to international levels. Then in act a tax for on oil production, and use it to fund clean tech.

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