When it comes to climate policy, I’m with country music singer Toby Keith: we need a little less talk and a lot more action.
So I didn’t listen to Obama’s big climate address yesterday because I already know that the president is a brilliant orator. I’m sure it was a great speech. Unfortunately, the speech didn’t say what many think it said. And it most definitely does not deserve the praise heaped upon it (here, here, here, here, and here among others) by what seems like practically every environmental group.
Sweeping rhetoric isn’t going to convince me the Obama administration is serious about tackling climate change. We need to see a coherent plan, and what we got instead was… sweeping rhetoric.
He said he’s going to allow EPA to do, slowly, what it’s been under Supreme Court order to do for years, and what he promised it would do in speech after speech in 2008. Then he said he’s going to build the Keystone XL Pipeline to move Canadian tar sands oil to market. And that’s it.
If you want proof that Obama’s announcements were mostly hot air, you need look no further than the stock market. For maybe the first time ever, I had something in common with coal company investors: we were wholly unfazed. Coal stocks had dipped a bit in anticipation of the president’s speech, but after it they were steady. In fact, most of the big coal mining firms actually saw nice price bumps in afternoon trading. [Update 6/25: Coal stocks are seeing some fall off today.]
Investors saw what I saw. That the centerpiece of his announcement was this: letting a regulatory agency use its authority—authority that was upheld by the courts, again, more than a year ago—to begin an elaborate rulemaking process that will set greenhouse gas standards for power plants that, even if they avoid delay from appeals and litigation, won’t be finalized until 2015 at the earliest. It’s hard to imagine the new rules implemented before the late-20-teens. (Over at Grist, David Roberts has excellent analysis of this.)
That’s an awfully long time before using executive branch authority to press down on coal-fired power—the single biggest contributor to US carbon emissions—especially at a time when the nation is veritably awash in cleaner and cheaper alternatives.
I’ll admit that the president does deserve a little credit for his decision to let the EPA regulate carbon from coal power. Candidate Obama seemed to support the idea, but once in office he found himself faced with intransigent congressional Republicans who vowed they would respond by gutting the Clean Air Act. So yesterday’s announcement was something of a political step forward, even though it doesn’t really count as a big policy win.
On the other hand, the president’s position is hard to take seriously when his administration is even now plunging ahead with leasing billions—yes, billions—of tons of coal on public land, much of it priced below market value and much of it destined for export, and has not even been bothering to collect the full royalty payments due taxpayers.
And that’s about it folks. That was the best part of his policy announcement today. He finally agreed to let EPA do what he promised to do as a candidate and what EPA has been preparing to do for years.
Some billed today’s event as the opening move in a three-pronged attack on climate change. Unfortunately the other two prongs of the attack consist of: 1) adaptation measures, which do exactly nothing to reduce global warming emissions; and 2) clean energy investments, which are probably fine but also do nothing to directly reduce emissions.
Then there was also a laundry list of small caliber climate policy miscellany, most of which are dandy but none of which—even in combination—take us anywhere near where we need to be to prevent serious climate disruption.
He did not so much as mention the major policy endeavors we must undertake to arrest climate change. Read the transcript, and you’ll find no mention of carbon taxes nor economy-wide binding limits on emissions. (He did make a passing reference to John McCain sponsoring a cap-and-trade bill.) He did not make mention of his administration’s shameless expansion of oil drilling leases in coastal waters and the Arctic. He did not make mention of the raft of coal, oil, and gas export schemes that speckle the nation’s coastline like a case of measles.
The main event was the initiation of a regulatory proceeding.
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Oh, and one more thing: he said he was going to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. Yes, I know that’s not exactly what he said, and I know it’s not how most are reporting what he said (though a few are), not even the man with arguably the world’s best bullshit detector, Joe Romm. But people, c’mon, am I taking crazy pills?
Let’s run the tape back. Here’s exactly what Obama said:
Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.
Let’s follow his words in slow-mo: Keystone must be found to “not significantly exacerbate the problem” before it can be built. Conveniently, that is precisely what the State Department has already decided in its (much-lambasted) draft assessment of the pipeline. And it’s the State Department in charge of permitting Keystone. (In fact, oil industry apparently sees yesterday’s speech as an endorsement of the pipeline.)
So, yeah, he’s building it. And in case you missed it the first time, he actually said twice more. Let’s go to the tape again:
The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.
So, the “net effects” will be “critical to determining” whether the pipeline can be built.
The “net effects” bit is a bit of code. If you follow the pipeline debate you know that pipeline backers are constantly saying (disingenuously and incorrectly) that it won’t increase greenhouse gas emissions “on net” because the tar sands oil will just find other ways to market, whether by another pipeline or by railcar. It’s not true, but it’s a key piece of their rationalization.
The second time is the “absolutely critical” part. The president’s statement is hardly unequivocal. Even if Keystone’s “net effects” do “significantly exacerbate” global warming, all we get is the assurance that this stuff is “relevant.”
It’s not decisive. It’s not a litmus test. It’s not a necessary condition.
So that’s my take on Obama’s lavishly praised climate announcement: it’s a huge disappointment. It’s a glaring absence of leadership. It’s the hallmark of his administration’s signal failure to face up to climate change.
But it’s not relevant—not to the scale of the challenge before us.
Thanks for this bullshit-detection work. Can you include a LinkedIn link in your Share group? I’d like to share on LinkedIn.
Will do, Michael. Thanks.
v. good points about him not proposing anything that the EPA wasn’t already supposed to do. that said, i do not believe it is a done deal that he is going to build KXL. the draft SEIS is so riddled with errors – as the EPA rightly pointed out – that if the state dept. does approve it, it will be highly vulnerable to lawsuits. he may end up punting this over to the courts, and allow the environmentalists to take the blame for killing it, but it is far from a done deal that it will be built. in fact, i took the fact that he publicly called into question the validity of the draft SEIS conclusion to be a good sign.
Awesome post, and there are more problems with the Obama climate plan than the ones you mentioned:
– The push for expanded LNG exports.
– The lack of any commitment to pushing through the coal plant regulatory measures that are actually in progress, like dealing properly with coal waste (regulations are perpetually in limbo).
– On the one hand, saying we’re going to stop international lending for coal plants, but then adding fine print about supporting carbon capture and storage, and making an exception allowing coal plants to be financed “in the world’s poorest countries” where there no economically feasible alternative exists.”
I am really glad the President is talking about the issue, and taking it on as a national messaging priority. That will help raise awareness and build support for action. He commands a powerful bully pulpit and I will give him my support in that regard.
But in terms of action itself, there’s not much to say until we actually see power plants closing and mines shutting down. If coupled with a Keystone approval, his word is as good as useless. My (admittedly limited) understanding courts not only gave the EPA Clean Air Act Authority to regulate carbon pollution in 2005; they ruled that they are required to do so. His government has not only failed to regulate, it has actually priced coal leases from federal lands below market. There has still been virtually zero action from either the Bush or Obama Administrations in the nearly 10 years since the ruling. The landmark announcement from yesterday is basically that Obama promises to start moving on it by 2015. YES WE CAN!
It was just another Tuesday as far as policy is concerned.
The real federal climate change policy announcement was last week, namely, that environmental review of the Gateway Pacific coal port will be limited to site-specific impacts. Not even the impacts of the rail or ship traffic created by exporting 150 million tons of coal per year will be studied, let alone the health or climate impacts of burning it, which will release more carbon than burning the oil that will be carried by Keystone XL.
I think that tells us pretty conclusively what the Obama administration will do about climate change.
I’m giving 10-1 odds that he approves Keystone XL and the approval will be wrapped in lots of hopium.
You are absolutely right about the substance of what was announced yesterday, and I’ve been finding the environmental orgs falling over themselves to praise it almost as painful as the emptiness of the announcement itself. Actually, thank you Steve for “hopium” – that describes a lot of what I read yesterday.
That said, there’s one thing about this story that I do find genuinely interesting, and might *just* amount to some grounds for hope: why did Obama consider it politically expedient to make this announcement now? My desperate hope is that it’s some part a calculation that the public mood might be ready for real action, and some part trial balloon. If so, what can we do to encourage it to be followed with more meaningful action?
I know I am reaching a bit here, but I meant it when I said “desperate”.
At the risk of diverting Eric’s blog, there is still a way to force environmental review of off-sitecoal port impacts. While the federal NEPA environmental review documents can be used to meet the requirements for state environmental review required under SEPA, there is nothing in either federal or state law that would prevent the state Dept. of ecology from requiring additional environmental review. WDOE is not required to adopt or rely on the federal EIS. The relevant rule is:
WAC 197-11-630 Adoption—Procedures. (1) The
agency adopting an existing environmental document must
independently review the content of the document and determine
that it meets the adopting agency’s environmental
review standards and needs for the proposal.
All WDOE needs to do is issue a formal statement or determination that the failure to include, e.g., the rail and ship traffic impacts, causes the federal review to not meet the state’s review standards and needs.
McGuinn, the other mayors, and everyone else should be beating on Inslee’s door to force him to make WA DOE do its job for once. Who has a line to these people and some pull. DO IT!
Yikes, you’re cynical! I certainly agree that his proposals are long overdue and not nearly as aggressive as could be hoped, but I don’t think they should be quite so flippantly dismissed. I wish carbon emissions standards were in place yesterday, but they weren’t, and starting today is better than starting tomorrow. The timeline for implementation might be slower than would be ideal, but I’m not sure it can go much faster with the political climate as it is. Also (and Eric, you certainly understand these things better than I, so I could be misinterpreting here), it looked to me that coal shares did in fact drop with the release of the plan. Peabody and Walter Energy are both down today. Besides, shares are down somewhere in the 10-15% range since details of the regulations started to leak to the press last week, so the effect of the speech itself likely had some of the edge taken off. A couple other thoughts: 1) His lack of mention/action for fossil fuel leases on federal lands sucks. But (and here I’m probably showing some youthful optimism), just because he didn’t mention it in his speech doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t happen. He also didn’t mention that the White House Office of Management and Budget recently upped their estimates on the social cost of carbon by 60ish%, and that’s a pretty big deal/cool thing. Besides, if coal can be made too expensive to burn here (through new regs) and too expensive to export (by stopping Gateway Pacific et al.), then new leases won’t be nearly as profitable for fossil fuel companies. 2) You discount the proposed adaptation measures and clean energy investments because they don’t reduce GHG emissions. That’s technically true, but it seems like kind of a lame reason to criticize what will be critical steps towards climate resilience. 3) Like Ann, I’m not nearly as convinced his wording guarantees a green light for Keystone XL. Again, perhaps I haven’t had enough years in this fight the optimism beaten out of me just yet, but the State Departments findings were a part of a draft report. And draft reports can (and obviously absolutely should in this case) be revised with better information. Sure, you can point to individual words and attempt to infer their hidden meanings, but I think that misses the overall point. His criteria for approval is that it cannot exacerbate carbon pollution. In the time since the draft report came out, lots of people have presented evidence that it does. Why bring up the “tar sands” pipeline during a speech on climate if you are already 100% settled on approving it? Now, I’m not absolutely sure that he/the state department will reject it. But I also don’t think his words yesterday are in any way an absolute promise that the pipeline will be built.
(Copied from my reply to Alan Durning’s Facebook share of this article)
Eric de Place
You make some great points, Ahren! I’ll respond to just a couple now.
Stock prices. It’s possible to infer too much from stock movements, but at close of trading yesterday almost all of the big coal guys saw a rebound that closed them out above where they were at the opening bell. I take that to mean yesterday’s announcement was no tougher on coal — and possibly easier on it — than what investors had already priced in previously. (Peabody is surprising folks by turning into a basket case right now; but they’re global, laying off lots of workers in Australia and so on.)
KXL. I guess my basic point is that if we’re debating the meaning of his cryptic remarks than we didn’t get what we need. It would have been possible for him to say clearly that co2 was a deal breaker, but his statements came across as pretty artfully crafted to me. (That said, you do raise some good points about why he included the phrase “tar sands.”)
Etc. The coal, oil, and gas stuff that the Obama administration is up to is egregious. They’re leasing pubic lands like crazy, allowing projects to avoid fees and other payments, and encouraging exports. Obama has — over and over again — said he favors an “all of the above” energy policy, which is pretty much a climate death sentence. He didn’t undo any of that yesterday. And it’s not like he had to mention it in his speech; he could have rolled out some policy initiatives on the D.L. but he didn’t.
Thanks for clarifying on the coal stocks!
I’m sure you’ve already seen this by now, but what wasn’t clarified in the President’s speech was that it appears that gas/coal-fired power plants will face separate emissions standards from other power sources (http://grist.org/climate-energy/the-two-things-we-learned-yesterday-about-obamas-plans-to-regulate-coal/). If that is truly the case, than I definitely withdraw a lot of my cautious support for his plan. What’s the point of regulating carbon emissions from power plants if you go easy on the power plants emitting the most carbon?!
Sorry for citing David Roberts. I didn’t realize you two were fighting =).
Eric de Place
I have mad love for D.R. and he’s a smart guy. He’s just wrong on this one.
“Besides, if coal can be made too expensive to burn here (through new regs) and too expensive to export (by stopping Gateway Pacific et al.),”
Good strategy. Its too bad that the feds are actively working against it. I mean, not even including rail and ship traffic impacts in the EIS? With both governors, mayor of one of the three largest cities, and senators in region urging this, its pretty hard to see a political downside. And it would have been so simple. In politics, context can be everything. And announcing that climate impacts would be included in a regional EIS would have set the stage to interpret the ambiguity in Obama’s climate speech with lots of hopium. Doing the reverse resulted in exactly the reverse.
hi eric, me again.
on further reflection, are you certain that the court ruling requiring the EPA to regulate carbon applies to existing power plants as well as new? i’m not so sure it does – i do knot that the question in DC over the last few years about obama ordering EPA to regulate existing plants was one of “if” not “when”.
i have it in my head that the regulations for existing power plants, which are more important to carbon emissions than regs over new plants, was not something that was mandatory and nobody has been sure that POTUS would do it. so to announce that the “if” was a “yes” and to even say “when” was an unexpected, but pleasant, bonus.
i think that has a lot to do with the big enviros falling all over themselves praising his plan – nobody saw the regs over existing plants coming.
Eric de Place
Trish, my understanding is that the court ruling upheld the EPA’s authority to regulate ghgs from stationary sources and vehicles. EPA has, thus far, been applying that authority to new sources, but there was no reason in principle (though plenty of political ones) that they couldn’t apply it to existing sources as well. So what Obama did was order them to look at existing power plants as well.
What he did not do — and this is sort of a big deal — is set up a ghg stringency requirement for existing sources. It’s entirely possible, in other words, that the EPA could regulate existing power plants for carbon, but do so at a level that leaves many coal plants standing. We just don’t know yet, and it’s the sort of troubling omission that bolsters my skepticism.
Over at Grist, Dave has a good look at this potential problem: http://grist.org/climate-energy/the-two-things-we-learned-yesterday-about-obamas-plans-to-regulate-coal/.
okay, gotcha. it wasn’t clear to me that the reluctance to regulate existing power plants was purely political.
Remember the famous story from the 1960’s, on the subject of the
then-unpopular Civil Rights Act. Lyndon Johnson turned to Martin Luther King and said “Martin, make me do it”. And Martin did, and the US achieved remarkable civil rights policy changes, beyond what any of us living at the time could have predicted.
I hear that Obama would like to be a climate hero; it’s our job to make him do it. So let’s make him do it, and he will
I thought we had with the PNW coal ports. How much more political cover could he need, with both governors and lots of other politicians calling for a regional EIS and climate impacts to be included?
I think this is spot on. However, it’s challenging to see how to build the kind of support needed in the current political and media environment. For example, to the best of my knowledge, the only network to carry the President’s speech live was The Weather Channel.
I believe we need to marshal resources to push ahead on a daunting number of fronts, and we should work to highlight any progress, without dismissing the need for more. Progress requires that we present a united, cohesive, front on core values, and that we not allow the discussion on the best paths forward to fragment that front.
In this light, while the President’s speech alone will not bring us to our destination, it starts us turning back in the right direction, and our voices need to be heard, through OFA and whatever other outlets are at our disposal, to be supporting this turn, so that we have that we have that much more backing for the steps that must follow.
I appreciate the skepticism here as an important part of a strong political movement that keeps politicians accountable and shifts the conversation in the public sphere to consider more wide-ranging and substantial policy action. However, my feeling is that this is going too far with some of the political tea leaf reading. Granted, there isn’t a tonne of policy commitments to go on at the moment, but I don’t think it’s wise to dismiss political symbolism and rhetoric as merely empty platitudes. Politics is, in large part, driven by symbolism and rhetoric, not policy. The challenge is for a movement to use those symbolic moments as opportunities to implement stronger policy action on the back end. All of the policy you omissions you note are important, but they’re not the end of the story. It’s healthy to prioritize the obvious danger in symbolic political offerings like yesterday’s speech, but to dismiss it outright is folly, IMHO. Furthermore, it’s a stretch to say he’s going to pass Keystone. The basic fact is no one knows, and that should be acknowledged. This speech didn’t do much to change that, but my own feeling is that Obama was using some ‘dog whistle” politics (I hope that’s not derogatory; I don’t mean it that way)– an obscure shout out to campus divestment, calling them “tar sands”, and even bringing up KXL in the first place (a surprise to most). Furthermore, KXL was mentioned within the context of a speech on “climate action” and there are many ways to skin the “significant emissions” line when the actual political judgement comes down from within the bureaucratic machinery. Judging by his tone, I’d say he’s leading to rejection, but who cares? We’ve got basically nothing to go on, but I’m willing to eat my hat and admit you were right in the end. Just pointing out that statements in this post are basically guesses framed like they’re legitimate knowledge of a done deal on Keystone.
Eric de Place
Andrew, I hope you take a look at Anna Fahey’s excellent post where she makes a similar argument:
You’re not crazy Eric. I heard the exact same thing. Thank you for having the courage to say it.
I am going to be in the minority here, but President Obama has done more than any other human being to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any else on the planet, full stop.
The stimulus invested 90 billion dollars in clean energy technologies (more than all previous renewable energy investments combined) that saved the US solar, wind, and battery industries and is underwriting an unprecedented amount of new renewable energy R&D (everything from advanced biofuels to a new generation of geothermal power plants, to name a few). He doubled the CAFE standards, approved 10 gW worth of renewable energy generation on public lands (which is 10 gW more than all of his predecessors). Not to mention the fact that he just reached the first ever bilateral air pollution deal with China on CFC emissions, which is hopefully laying the precedent for an eventual deal on GHG emissions.
Yes, it’s frustrating that the new power plant rules will take 2 years to implement. But it’s not like the President can snap his fingers and change a regulation; he’s a President not a dictator. All federal rules have to go through the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice and comment process because utility companies (and the numerous other stakeholders) still have the right to petition their government and due process. It’s frustrating now, but it also means that next Republican President won’t be able to undo them easily. (As for the delay itself, it was probably a capitulation to winning reelection, but that’s hardly a cardinal sin for any elected official).
As for the underlying political dynamic of climate change–you should really be concerned about the filibuster and gerrymandered House districts. The fact is we would have had cap and trade legislation in 2010 if it weren’t for the 60 vote cloture threshold in the Senate, and the current Congress is never going to pass climate legislation. So the President is taking the existing law as far as he and advisers think that they can take it. The real enemy here isn’t President Obama. It’s the Congress.
Eric de Place
Kevin, thanks for weighing in. You make some perfectly fair points. Obama has indeed done some good stuff climate-wise.
But he has also — vocally and repeatedly — pursued a reckless “all of the above” energy policy, which is tantamount to a death sentence for the climate. By my lights it doesn’t do a whole lot of good to invest in efficiency and renewable energy if you’re also aggressively encouraging oil drilling, coal mining, and gas extraction. There are a huge range of things Obama could do to begin scaling back the fossil fuel bender we’re on, things that are well within executive branch powers.
Even assuming that something like an economy-wide cap or price on carbon is politically out of the question (which is, in part, b/c the President won’t even mention it anymore), I can’t be persuaded until I seem him reverse course on his decidedly pro-fossil fuel strategies.
eric, agree with you on oil drilling and coal. that said, it is my belief that natural gas does have a role to play in our transition to a clean economy, specifically in the arena if increased building efficiency. (note: amory lovins agrees with me, which i find encouraging).
the fracking industry needs to be cleaned up, absolutely, and i wholeheartedly support communities who place moratoriums or bans on fracking until it is. but every pathway to reduced carbon emissions involves increased energy efficiency measures, and for right now in the building arena, natural gas is a key element.
but that’s a conversation we can have over beers sometime. 🙂
Eric de Place
I’m highly conflicted about natural gas, but I wholeheartedly agree about the beers!
Kevin Matthews - ArchitectureWeek
Trish, how is natural gas possibly a key element in the building arena, when Passive House levels of efficiency are a proven option?
Right now, the overall GHG footprint of natural gas is easily as climate-busting per BTU as that of coal.
The wishful thinking over “clean natural gas” – that an entirely continent of methane-leaky gas infrastructure will magically get real good real soon – is just that.
_IF_ there were a concerted regulatory effort, following normal Federal channels, to sufficiently tighten up system-wide methane leakage to make natural gas potentially plausible as a climate bridge, it would take ten years to hit the ground, just to start the physical change process.
But there isn’t even that: Look at the draft fracking rules from the BLM for evidence that the administration is not (yet, one hopes) serious about this.
In reality, natural gas is a climate bridge to nowhere. And it is past time to stop screwing around with partial and indirect solutions.
I say that not just as a matter of passion, but as a matter of the specific analysis of what it will take to save our collective butts.
Certainly _not_ more investment in natural gas!
i know at the commercial and institutional level at this point in time the most widely accepted best practices in HVAC upgrades involve high-efficiency gas-fired units; the same is true for hot water heaters as well. (my day job involves green building design; though i am an EE and my focus is on lighting, i also am enough involved in providing power to mechanical systems to have a basic awareness of what is more or less industry standard at this point)
passive house may be something that may well be viable for residential applications, but according to the work i am doing now, it will be years before natural gas goes away in the commercial building sector. if you have information to the contrary i would love to hear it; i’ll share it with clients and our mechanical consultants. 🙂 i would, for example, love to know more about what is being done at the new bullard center in seattle – whether that will be NG free or not. i suspect not…
The point of making the investments in renewable energy and efficiency is exactly what needs to happen to use less fossil fuels. Those investments are going to (and in large part have already) made these technologies economically competitive. Getting the price of a kilowatt hour produced by renewable less than one produced by coal is imperative. It is impossible to transition to something than an all of the above energy policy until their are viable economic low-carbon alternatives. Believing that the President can unilaterally make this transition is magical thinking.
I am also skeptical that his current policy is “tantamount to a death sentence.” The United States’ carbon emissions are falling–a fact that I wouldn’t have believed possible in 2008. Granted, a lot of this reduction is due to the recession, but the policies the President announced will at least ensure those reductions continue. If implemented, they will give the US some much needed credibility before the 2015 climate summit–the last shot to get the multilateral agreement for the regulation of GHG.
Once again, I think these policies are the most ambitious possible given the current political, economic, and technological policies that the President is operating under. Sure, the short-term is incredibly frustrating, but, if things break right, Obama could deliver on his promise of transforming America’s economy.
oops, make that bullit center. i had the bullit and the brainerd foundations conflated in my head. 🙂
apologies for triple posting – a little google fu says that the bullitt center is indeed zero net energy! that is v. cool! i hope this sparks a trend and that at some point this becomes the industry standard. right now it is at the forefront, though. at some point would love to dig into the financial aspect of this – what the space is leased for on a per/sf basis and how it compares to comparable real estate in the area. am glad bullitt foundation is doing this as a pilot project – since they’ve got the pocket depth.
I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment, Eric.
One question: has anyone attempted to sue the EPA over not implementing regulations in response to the 2007 (!) Mass v. EPA Supreme Court ruling? If not, is there a reason?
I just blogged a bit about the President’s speech in what is likely a much more naive and hopeful assessment than you have given Eric. But I appreciate your skepticism, as I appreciate the thoughtfulness and the hopefulness of many of the responses here. And I really want to say- what a breath of fresh air it is to find reader comments on an article that are actually articulate, interesting, and helpful! Its a testimony to the integrity of sightline that your readers reflect your intelligence and insight.
Eric de Place
Amen! We’re fortunate to have awesome readers and commenters. It makes it a pleasure to write here even (or maybe especially) when we disagree.
We all seem to blame “the government”, but frankly it is the braincells of the “rich” investors, who see investing in tar sands in Canada more important. I know, I am an inventor of solar smelter technology, which can literally replace the need for fire itself. Patented. What the world needs is a solar collector, that can be made of bricks, adobe is dirt cheap, and anyone can build, and makes temperatures safely hotter than fire, and can make hot air, steam, cheaper than natural gas. I have done that with patent 8,360,052. You can literally convert coal power plants to solar. Here is the catch, the people with the money don’t care, ain’t going to care….until global warming sends the message. Us solar energy inventors are indeed being discredited, harassed, and blacklisted from capital investment. Frankly, I am talking to the Chinese.
Ain’t no expert but here’s what I have to add. First, does anyone know of a study that projects the time it would take to wean the country from oil, gas and coal to renewables? I think of a drug addict (I was one) and an alcoholic (ditto) and know that it took time to leave them both and renew my life clean. It was not easy and was painful. Would the country go through the same and how long would it take?
Second, thinking about Obama’s double strategy of investing in coal, gas and oil and at the same time renewables, as was said by Eric, “it might not do a whole lot of good to invest in efficiency and renewable energy if you’re also aggressively encouraging oil drilling, coal mining, and gas extraction”. I think about how many junkies slip in and out during the process of cleaning up their lives. Cold turkey can be very painful indeed. Giving El Presidente the benefit of the doubt, could be the double investment of Obama must have a non-Macchiaveillan reason. Maybe.
Finally, for Eric, you comment “that there are a huge range of things Obama could do to begin scaling back the fossil fuel bender we’re on, things that are well within executive branch powers”. Can you share what they are or direct me to where I can find them?
His throw-away about “greenlighting” supposedly clean energy development on public land was another bit of code — it tells the Dept. of the Interior to short-circuit the environmental impact assessment laws to permit industrialization of the public lands, without meaningful public participation, consultation with Indian tribes and others who value the lands, or consideration of alternatives like distributed solar.