The first half of President Barack Obama’s first Oval Office address was as it should have been: holding BP accountable for the devastation to our Gulf Coast and outlining in broad terms what the government is going to do to ensure people and the environment are made whole.
The second half of the speech was unnecessary at the moment and came across as political opportunism.
I don’t doubt for one second that Obama believes it when he says this country is addicted to oil and that energy independence and a clean energy future are strategically – perhaps existentially – critical goals for the United States.
I don’t think tonight was the time because now is the time for the nation to be laser-focused on our neighbors’ travails on the Gulf Coast. Everyone knows that the Obama Administration’s commitment to clean energy and a green economy is only rivaled by its commitment to health care reform. It wasn’t necessary tonight to take the focus off of the immediate task, even for the eight minutes or so the president discussed national energy policy. And, that energy policy is a politically divisive topic as it is currently framed. Evil, multi-national oil companies and terrorists on one side vs. Smart Car drivin’, Birkenstock wearin’ idealists on the other. It’s just not fair to the people of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to have to share their moment with the Cap and Trade debate.
Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny.
I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for a president of the United States of America to utter words to that effect regarding energy policy in this country. Tonight, though, they rang hollow. I’m watching this live feed of black and brown shit jetting, pouring into the Gulf of Mexico at the revised-again rate of 65-100 thousand barrels per day. Anderson Cooper is on TV with not just oil-slicked birds, but the eggs of brown pelicans – recently stepped on by “BP cleanup workers.” Keith Olbermann actually screamed “Goddammit” last night on Countdown. (That was actually about something else.) One crisis at a time, please!
Paul Krugman takes a Friday off from the financial crisis to deal with the naysayers on cap and trade. The argument goes, say some, that if cap and trade on emissions is put into place the economy will come crashing down around us — things will just be too expensive.
Krugman very plainly outlines some reasearch and a plan that says otherwise:
… the opponents of action claim that limiting emissions would have devastating effects on the U.S. economy. So it’s important to understand that just as denials that climate change is happening are junk science, predictions of economic disaster if we try to do anything about climate change are junk economics.
Yes, limiting emissions would have its costs. As a card-carrying economist, I cringe when “green economy” enthusiasts insist that protecting the environment would be all gain, no pain.
But the best available estimates suggest that the costs of an emissions-limitation program would be modest, as long as it’s implemented gradually. And committing ourselves now might actually help the economy recover from its current slump.
(Source: Des Moines Register)
Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Clean Energy at Trinity Structural Towers
April 22, 2009
Thank you all so much for that welcome. It’s a pleasure to be back in Newton and a privilege to be here at Trinity Structural Towers. I just had a terrific tour of this facility led by several of the workers who operate this plant.
It wasn’t too long ago that Maytag closed its operations in Newton. Hundreds of jobs were lost. To have walked these floors then would have been to walk along empty corridors. The only signs of a once-thriving enterprise would have been the markings on cement in the shape of equipment that was boxed up and carted away.
Today, this facility is alive again with new industry. This community continues to struggle, and not everyone has been so fortunate as to be rehired, but more than one hundred people will now be employed at this plant, many the same folks who had lost their jobs when Maytag shut its doors.
Now you’re using the materials behind me to build towers to support some of the most advanced wind turbines in the world. When completed, these structures will hold aloft blades that can generate as much as 2.5 megawatts of electricity – enough energy to power hundreds of homes.
WASHINGTON – Having received White House backing, the Environmental Protection Agency was expected to declare Friday that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a significant threat to human health and thus will be listed as pollutants under the Clean Air Act — a policy the Bush administration rejected.
The move could allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, but it’s more likely that the Obama administration will use the action to prod Congress to pass regulations around a system to cap and then trade emissions so that they are gradually lowered.
My Take: Get ready for the next iterations of signs at Tea Parties. Some of us see this as progress, others see it as an attack on the free market, needless regulation, etc. Well, take a look at increasing rates of respiratory illnesses, the science of climate change, etc. While the right rails about debts to be paid by future generations, I for one would like to know that at least there will be human beings around to pay them.