At a critical juncture in the Senate’s energy and climate negotiations, the president chose not to push a carbon pricing proposal.
In his speech to the nation from the Oval Office Tuesday night, President Obama laid out a three-step plan to mitigate the damage from the BP oil spill and compensate affected residents along the Gulf Coast.
Missing from his address, however, was a concrete proposal for how to wean the country off of fossil fuels like oil. And environmental activists who had hoped the president would take the opportunity to call on the Senate to pass carbon-capping climate legislation likely came away disappointed.
[Environment1] In the past, Obama has argued that the only way to end the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and become the world leader in clean energy production is to put a price on carbon emissions. And on a call with reporters before the president’s speech, a senior administration official said Obama “absolutely” believes that a price on carbon is the only way to achieve a clean energy future.
But in his address from the Oval Office, the president avoided any mention of a cap on carbon — or the terms “climate change” or “global warming.” Instead, he spoke vaguely about the need to move away from fossil fuels, telling the nation that “the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.” As for how to get there, he applauded the “strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill” passed by the House of Representatives last June but did not call on the Senate to follow suit.
“I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party — as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels,” Obama said, adding that some approaches with “merit” include energy efficiency measures, renewable energy targets and more funding for research and development.
“But the one approach I will not accept,” he continued, “is inaction.”
Still, with Senate Democrats meeting on Thursday to discuss the fate of an energy bill — one that now appears unlikely to include a declining cap on carbon emissions — advocates of a carbon pricing system had been counting on the president to throw his weight behind at least a limited emissions control scheme.
A carbon pricing system has support from diverse sectors of the economy — including BP itself. In his testimony to the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee today, Lamar McKay, the chief executive of BP America, told the lawmakers, “BP still firmly believes that the best way to move this process along and tackle man-made climate change is by putting a price on carbon. A price reflecting tightening constraints on carbon would both drive energy conservation and make lower carbon energy choices more cost competitive.”
And despite arguments to the contrary by some opponents of carbon pricing, polls show that a cap on greenhouse gas emissions remains fairly popular among the American public. A Pew poll released Monday found that by a margin of 66 percent to 29 percent, most Americans support “including limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in comprehensive energy legislation.” Pew also reported that 56 percent of respondents said that protecting the environment is a higher priority than keeping energy prices low.
But 68 percent of respondent wanted the country to expand its exploration and development of coal, oil and natural gas — a position Obama has likewise embraced.
On Tuesday, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has taken the lead in crafting a climate bill with carbon controls, admitted that his bill did not yet have the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. “We don’t have the 60 votes yet,” he said. “I know that. But we’re close, enough to be able to fight for it, and we’ll see where we wind up.”
For this reason, some Democrats have been hoping for the president’s intervention to urge the Senate to pass some form of carbon cap. The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, responded to the speech with a mix of faint praise and disappointment that Obama didn’t call for provisions like those being pushed by Kerry and Lieberman.
“We’re glad to hear the president wants to move toward cleaner energy policies,” the Center said in a statement, “but they can’t simultaneously include incentives for more offshore drilling or the gutting of our nation’s flagship environmental laws — like the current Kerry-Lieberman bill — and they must reduce carbon to levels that scientists say will help avoid the worst effects of climate change.”
Following the speech, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took questions from people throughout the country via YouTube. In response to a question about the need to transition to clean energy, Gibbs said, “I hope you heard the president commit once again to doing everything in his power to pave the way for a clean energy future for our country.”
Advocates of a cap on carbon aren’t so sure they did.
Giffords shooting leads nation to introspection and political finger wagging
In the wake of the shooting in Arizona this weekend that critically injured Rep.
EPA Administrator Addresses Concerns About Oil Spill Waste Management
At a hearing of the national oil spill commission today, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson addressed concerns about waste disposal from
E-Verify Mandate Begins Today
The Obama administration today begins implementation of a new mandate to require all federal contractors to check the legal status of their employees to confirm
EPA administrator defends allowing Florida to write its own water pollution rules
The EPA seal (Pic via sentryjournal.com) The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire for its decision to allow the state of Florida to write its own water pollution rules (known as “numeric nutrient criteria”). EPA Regional Administrator Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming is now firing back, writing that the Agency commends the state Department of Environmental Protection for its draft of a proposed standard. A host of environmental groups filed suit in 2008, seeking to compel the EPA to implement a strict set of water pollution standards in Florida, arguing that the state was in violation of the Clean Water Act.
EPA administrator fires back at critics in op-ed
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson (Pic by USACEpublicaffairs, via Flickr) EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson penned a new op-ed for the Los Angeles Times , criticizing House Republicans desperately seeking to undermine the authority of the agency they have dubbed a “job killer.” Arguing that the environment affects red states and blue states alike, Jackson writes that “it is time for House Republicans to stop politicizing our air and water.” As head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson has faced harsh criticism from House Republicans and GOP presidential candidates who say the agency’s regulations are an undue burden on businesses that have to cut jobs simply to comply with clean water and air rules. Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has pledged to end the EPA if she takes office. “Since the beginning of this year, Republicans in the House have averaged roughly a vote every day the chamber has been in session to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency and our nation’s environmental laws,” writes Jackson.
EPA administrator says federal nutrient criteria is a ‘myth’
In testimony given late last week, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that false accusations about her agency’s numeric nutrient criteria to govern Florida waterways are proving to be a detriment to their implementation. # Testifying before the House Agriculture Committee, Jackson said her agency’s work was often “mischaracterized” and addressed several myths surrounding its work
EPA announces hold on nutrient standards if Florida can come up with own criteria
The EPA announced today that it is now prepared to withdraw a portion of its proposed numeric nutrient criteria (a set of standards governing water pollution in inland waters) and delay the portion related to estuarine waters, to allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own criteria. # From a statement released by the EPA earlier today: # EPA recognizes that states have the primary role in establishing and implementing water quality standards for their waters. Therefore, EPA is prepared to withdraw the federal inland standards and delay the estuarine standards if FDEP adopts, and EPA approves, their own protective and scientifically sound numeric standards
EPA Analysis Says Climate Bill’s Cost for Households Would Be ‘Modest’
All the attention on the energy front today is going to the BP spill, but the Environmental Protection Agency quietly released its long-anticipated analysis of
EPA and California Near Deal on Fuel Efficiency Standards
Two weeks ago, the Obama administration raised fuel efficiency standards by an average of two miles per gallon -- a modest change that disappointed some