At a Democratic fundraiser earlier in the week, President Barack Obama stated that he doesn't have "much patience for people who deny climate change." This aligns well with OFA's current strategy of calling out climate deniers, which I've criticized in the past. If he had no patience for them, why should OFA focus its attention on them, rather than rallying around constructive solutions like the Boxer-Sanders bill? To my knowledge, Obama hasn't said a word about the Boxer-Sanders bill even though it was endorsed by the Center for American Progress, which has close ties to the administration. Rather, Jay Carney has on multiple occasions dismissed the idea of a carbon tax as a nonstarter.
Obama may have "no time" for climate deniers, but he certainly has a lot of time for procrastinators, like himself.
The EPA is required to regulate carbon from existing power plants because the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that CO2 qualifies as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act and the EPA issued an endangerment finding in 2009 stating that CO2 is a threat to public health. Even though the EPA's rules for existing power plants were proposed in April 2012 and were scheduled for finalization on April 13 of this year, the EPA has chosen to delay the implementation of the rules.
Obama has kept delaying his ultimate decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, a project which brings carbon-intensive tar sands oil and which would exacerbate climate change. He has refused to acknowledge directly the climate impact of the project, which would hold no bearing in an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy. Lisa Jackson's departure from the EPA was viewed as a protest against the expected stamp of approval from the administration, and the State Department's review was plagued by conflicts of interest. Obama has also publicly expressed willingness to approve the project. In a speech in March 2012 in Oklahoma, Obama announced,
Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.The speech, like too many of Obama's speeches on energy, sounded like "drill, baby, drill."
Obama's budget largely dodges the issue of climate change. Last month, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker highlighted the noticeable absence and the disconnect between rhetoric and concrete action:
But the budget released this week makes it clear that Obama’s surprising appeal to Congress was an empty piece of rhetoric. The phrase “climate change” appears twenty-nine times in the new budget, but there is no new plan for Congress to take up in Obama’s otherwise ambitious legislative blueprint. There are some worthy energy initiatives that could achieve modest reductions in emissions, but the budget is silent on what Obama will do to aggressively reduce carbon pollution by the biggest emitters, like power plants and automobiles.Ryan Lizza also had a great piece in the New Yorker back in 2010 on the failure of the Senate's climate bill. The House had managed to pass a climate bill (the Waxman-Markey bill, or American Clean Energy and Security Act) by a hair in June 2009---a vote of 219 to 212. It managed to pass only by watering down certain provisions, offering giveaways to key special interests, and managing to win over a handful of Republicans to push it over the needed majority. Pelosi showed great leadership, but with only 211 Democrats voting for it, it wouldn't have passed without the 8 moderate Republicans who joined forces. However, the Senate bill came to naught. Obama stayed largely hands-off during the negotiating process, and Kerry and Lieberman offered concession after concession to key business and fossil fuel interests to win over a few moderate Republicans--all to no avail. Obama's lack of communication with the lead Senators on the bill helped to exacerbate the overall dysfunction by giving up a bargaining chip (offshore drilling) before any promise was secured out of the other party. Lizza wrote,
"But there had been no communication with the senators actually writing the bill. ... Obama had now given away what the senators were planning to trade. This was the third time that the White House had blundered [in this way]. ... Obama had served the dessert before the children even promised to eat their spinach. Graham was the only Republican negotiating on the climate bill, and now he had virtually nothing left to take to his Republican colleagues."Since the failure of the Senate climate bill, Obama has had plenty of patience for climate inaction on the Hill.
As indicated above, he has certainly been no opponent of offshore drilling. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as other regions of the planet. Obama's solution? Open it up to drilling.
The Obama administration has also protected fewer public lands from oil and gas production than Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Dubya, and BLM held three of its five largest-ever lease sales for drilling rights in 2011.
The driller-in-chief has been a strong proponent of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," a process to extract shale gas. Fracking emits large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere because fracked wells leak 40 to 60 percent more methane than conventional natural gas wells.
With his consistent focus on markets that haven't delivered and technology that does not yet exist rather than regulation, he often seems to echo the 2008 Republican Party platform on climate.
It's nice to know that Obama agrees with 99% of climatologists and doesn't see the existence of climate change as a subject of debate. But that "debate" should have ended decades ago. What we need now is long-overdue action.