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Obama: ‘If Congress won’t act to protect future generations, I will’

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Climate Progress

Below are Obama’s extensive remarks on energy and climate in his State of the Union address. The President has expanded on his strong remarks in his Second Inaugural, asserting “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.”

Below the jump is the energy portion of his just-released “Plan for A Strong Middle Class & A Strong America.”  There’s a call for doubling renewable electricity (yet again!) by 2020 — and for doubling energy productivity by 2030 (“a new Energy Efficiency Race to the Top for states”). But who knew he’d call for Congress to pass cap-and-trade?

Here is the key part of the speech (as delivered):

Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.

After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.

But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods – all are now more frequent and more intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.

Now the good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. We need to encourage that. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. That’s got to be a part of an all-of-the-above plan. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.

In fact, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make that happen.

Wow! Looks like I’ll be needing a stomach pump — after drinking all this beer, Hurricanes, Damn-The-Weather cocktails, espressos, energy drinks, and, I’m afraid, fracking fluid from Haliburton.

His remarks on climate are very strong. So is his plan for action. Yes, both are four years late, but still….

UPDATE: Carol M. Browner, CAP Distinguished Senior Fellow and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said:

“Tonight’s speech is a big win for those who want action on climate change and believe now is the time to act.  The president was clear about the magnitude of the challenge and resolute in his determination to use his executive authority to take action, especially if Congress won’t.  He pledged to build on the achievements of his first term, including historic standards for clean cars and energy efficiency, and he laid down a strong marker that he intends to continue investments in clean energy technology as part of our economic recovery.”

Comparing the texts with the actual speech, Obama ad-libbed “That’s got to be a part of an all-of-the-above plan.” Sad. “All of the above” is not a plan. It is more of the same — literally.

UPDATE2: In the GOP response, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) goes full climate denier, anti-clean energy:

When we point out that no matter how many job-killing laws we pass, our government can’t control the weather – he accuses us of wanting dirty water and dirty air….

Instead of wasting more taxpayer money on so-called “clean energy” companies like Solyndra, let’s open up more federal lands for safe and responsible exploration.

Rubio is the GOP’s savior? This is Stone Age stuff.

Here is the energy portion of “The President’s Plan for A Strong Middle Class & A Strong America”:

Slashing Reliance on Foreign Oil and increasing American energy security through clean energy: For too long, our dependence on foreign oil has placed our national security and our economy at risk with volatile gas prices straining the budgets of middle class families. In the last four years, America has slashed our reliance on foreign oil and dramatically increased American production of renewable energy, making our country more energy secure than at any time in decades, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions, and creating jobs. While we won’t solve this problem overnight, the President’s all-of-the-above energy plan invests in homegrown energy sources— from natural gas to renewables—so that we can reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create good jobs here at home, cut the cost of energy for American families and businesses, and take significant action to address climate change.

Build on success and continue to take sensible steps to confront climate change: Building on important progress achieved during the President’s first term, including the doubling of energy from wind and solar and increasing fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025, the United States must continue to take steps to reduce carbon pollution while also improving our ability to manage the climate impacts that are already being felt at home. The President has directed his cabinet to identify additional executive actions from across the administration to help reduce pollution, prepare our cities and nation for the worsening effects of climate change, and accelerate the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, which will be assessed if Congress does not take action.

  • Doubling renewable electricity generation again by 2020: To once again double generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020, the President has called on Congress to make the renewable energy Production Tax Credit permanent and refundable, as part of comprehensive corporate tax reform, providing incentives and certainty for investments in new clean energy.
  • Help protect families from painful spikes in gas prices by establishing an Energy Security Trust: While the United States will continue to rely on responsibly produced oil and gas in the near term, President Obama is committed to a long-term policy that allows us to transition to cleaner alternatives, continuing to increase our energy security. The Energy Security Trust proposal, which is funded by revenue from oil and gas development on federal lands and offshore, has broad non-partisan support, including retired admirals and generals and leading CEOs. It is focused around one achievable goal: shifting our cars and trucks off oil. The trust will support research into a range of cost-effective technologies – like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, and vehicles that run on domestically-produced natural gas.
  • Saving people money by doubling American energy productivity by 2030, starting with a new Energy Efficiency Race to the Top for states: The President is laying out a bold but achievable goal to slash energy waste through increased efficiency. Modeled after a successful Administration approach in education reform, which was designed to promote forward-leaning policy adoption at the state-level, the President’s Budget will include Race to the Top awards. These awards will support state governments that implement effective policies that increase energy efficiency and help decrease waste. Not only will increased efficiency save consumers money, the resulting reforms will drive investments that enhance manufacturing competitiveness, improve grid resiliency, and cut carbon pollution.

He has finally talked the talk to the biggest audience. Now he must walk the walk.

 This article was originally published on Climate Progress. Reproduced with permission

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