Why Obama's Major Plans for Climate and Energy Are a Major Disappointment
Photo Credit: AFP
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This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
The day after the November 6 election I wrote about Obama’s electoral victory over Romney, which I was glad for. My column was about the need for the climate movement to “make it impossible for the Obama administration not to speak up and take action on the rapidly deepening and most important issue human civilization has ever faced. The world is crying out, almost literally, for smart, determined and visionary leadership on the climate crisis.”
When I heard a few weeks later that Obama had directed White House staff to come up with proposals for what he should be doing in his second term on climate, I was encouraged. When he finally spoke substantively about climate in his Inaugural speech, I allowed myself to hope that things could well be different in his second four years. When, a few weeks later, he made climate one of the main issues of his State of the Union message, I was glad to hear it, though there was little specificity.
A few days ago Obama gave what the White House billed as a “major speech” on climate and energy in Chicago at the Argonne National Laboratory. In connection with that speech a document, “President Obama’s Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future,” was released publicly.
Unfortunately, the one, new, specific proposal from Obama in his speech was for the creation of an Energy Security Trust. $2 billion would be spent over a 10 year period--$200 million a year—for “research into a range of cost effective technologies—like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, fuels cells and domestically produced natural gas.” That was it; nothing else, a lousy $200 million a year. And there are very real questions about biofuels and, more significantly, amply-documented, serious environmental and climate problems when it comes to natural gas, particularly because most of it will be produced by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
This proposal in Chicago was consistent with the content of the “Blueprint” document. There are positive things in it for sure, though the general approach is for incremental shifting to a more energy efficient and renewables-based economy. As would be expected with an all-of-the-above approach, there is no serious prioritization of wind, solar, geothermal and other renewables.
The “Blueprint” reiterates Obama’s commitment to the originally-Republican approach of “all-of-the-above” as far as where the US is going to get its energy. It is self-congratulatory for all of the “responsible oil and gas production” that has “increased each year” under Obama. It projects US support for nuclear power exports. It calls for “doubling” renewable electricity generation over the next eight years which, given the fact that it doubled between 2009 and 2013, would mean an actual slowing down of the rate of renewables growth over the rest of the decade.
Given the acceleration and deepening of climate disruption, as seen by the growth of extreme weather events worldwide, a record-smashing reduction of Arctic sea ice in 2012 and an apparent acceleration in the rate of annual growth of carbon in the atmosphere, these approaches don’t come close to reflecting the urgency of our situation.
But what is most troubling about “Blueprint” is that it continues the Obama administration’s “all-in” approach to fracking and natural gas. This includes a plan for a “streamlined system for oil and gas permits” for new drilling. Once again, as Obama has done in the past, it describes gas as a “nearly 100-year resource,” which is inaccurate, essentially gas industry PR. It projects a measly $40 million for “research to ensure safe and responsible natural gas production” (please!!!).