Kochs Respond: President Obama's 'Radical International Energy Agenda' Is 'Harmful,' 'Destructive', 'Needless'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 23 Sep 2014 20:20:00 GMT

Koch at the Met
David Koch at the Met’s Koch Plaza
The political arm of the Koch brothers’ petrochemical empire excoriated President Barack Obama’s address at the UN climate summit today, challenging the science of climate change and the economics of climate policy as “radical,” “ideological,” “destructive,” and “needless.” David Koch, one of the two brothers who run Koch Industries, is the richest man in New York City, with his home and offices a few blocks from the United Nations headquarters.

In an email to supporters, Tim Phillips, the president of the Koch political advocacy organization Americans for Prosperity, decried the president’s “radical international energy agenda for “what used to be called global warming, then climate change, then extreme weather, and now finally climate disruption.” (The idea that the left changes the name of global warming as a propagandistic fiction is a conservative meme.) Phillips then blamed the Republican filibuster of climate legislation on Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.):
The worst part is, President Obama knows that his energy agenda is harmful and will not help our country get back on the path to prosperity. In fact the President’s proposal is so unpopular and destructive, even Harry Reid’s Senate wouldn’t dream of passing it, which is why he has bypassed Congress and taken his short-sighted, destructive energy policies to an international body.

In an accompanying video entitled “Obama’s UN Speech Promises to Kill Jobs and Raise Energy Prices,” Phillips rejects the science of man-made climate change, and falsely claims that reductions in carbon pollution would be economically harmful and environmentally meaningless.

“If all the numbers, facts, and figures that the left claims are true, their own numbers say this will make really no difference in saving the planet. We think they’re wrong on the merits, but even if you accept their numbers, this will be nothing but a lose-lose situation for the American public.”

The email links to a letter campaign in opposition to “the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations calling for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030,” calling on U.S. Senators to “stop the EPA from forcing more burdensome regulations on our families.”

Text of supporter email:

Subject: Our response to Pres. Obama:
From: Tim Phillips

The President really wants you to believe that his environmental agenda will help the country’s, and the world’s, most vulnerable. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today President Obama delivered a speech at the United Nations in New York City to promote his ideologically-driven, destructive energy agenda to combat what used to be called global warming, then climate change, then extreme weather, and now finally climate disruption. The President insists that an international climate agreement is in the best interests of the American people. He claims that the United States must act on climate change now to protect future generations and the future of our country from changes in the weather.

What President Obama DIDN’T you (sic) during his speech is the truth about his radical international energy agenda—that it will severely damage the US economy, and that America’s poorest and most vulnerable will end up paying the price. More needless regulations on the energy industry mean costlier electric bills and a higher overall cost of living for everyone.

If President Obama is truly committed to helping those in need, he should seriously rethink his energy agenda. Affordable energy is essential to human well-being and prosperity not just in the United States, but around the world. But if President Obama has his way, the cost of electricity will only continue to rise.

With every policy decision, it becomes more and more clear that President Obama is only concerned with his own legacy—not about the quality of life of the American people and future generations.

The worst part is, President Obama knows that his energy agenda is harmful and will not help our country get back on the path to prosperity. In fact the President’s proposal is so unpopular and destructive, even Harry Reid’s Senate wouldn’t dream of passing it, which is why he has bypassed Congress and taken his short-sighted, destructive energy policies to an international body.

Text of suggested email to senators:
Subject: Please oppose the EPA’s new proposed regulations

Dear Senator,

I urge you to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations calling for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

If these regulations pass, hardworking Americans and their families will end up paying the price. The Chamber of Commerce estimates that the proposed regulations will increase electricity costs by $289 billion and lower families’ disposable incomes by $586 billion through 2030, based its assumptions on a similar proposal by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Household budgets are already stretched thin – now is not the time to raise energy bills on American energy consumers.

A new report from the US Chamber of Commerce found that the proposed regulations will cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, based on its assumptions on a similar proposal by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report found that carbon regulations will lower US gross domestic product by $1 billion and lead to a loss of 224,000 US jobs on average every year through 2030.

Please stand with American taxpayers and stop the EPA from forcing more burdensome regulations on our families. Thank you.

President Barack Obama's Remarks at the UN Climate Summit: 'Our Citizens Keep Marching'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 23 Sep 2014 19:27:00 GMT

President ObamaAddressing the United Nations climate summit in New York City, President Barack Obama called climate change a ‘global threat’ that has ‘moved firmly into the present.’ Hobbled by a deadlocked Congress, the president offered no new major policy initiatives.

“Our citizens keep marching,” Obama said in reference to Sunday’s historic People’s Climate March. “We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call.”

He also commented on the rise of extreme weather disasters around the globe, including flooding in Miami, drought and floods in the heartland, the West’s year-long wildfire season, and the catastrophic damage of Superstorm Sandy. “No nation is immune,” he said, recognizing that “some nations already live with far worse.”

Obama did not directly mention fossil fuel production or his “all-of-the-above” approach to energy policy, unlike recent speeches on climate change to domestic audiences, in which he has celebrated the rise in domestic production of oil and natural gas. In fact, the speech did not include the words “coal,” “oil,” “fossil fuels,” or “natural gas.”

Hobbled by a legislative branch stymied by Republican opposition to climate action or international climate funding, Obama made no new grand pledges on behalf of the United States, instead highlighting the coming EPA regulation of carbon pollution from power plants, voluntary actions by corporate America, and a reduction in HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

“I believe, in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late,” Obama said near the end of his speech. As the United States is not currently leading the way in rapidly decarbonizing the global economy, that statement may serve to summarize his presidential legacy.

Watch:

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow leaders: For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease — there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.

Five years have passed since many of us met in Copenhagen. And since then, our understanding of climate change has advanced — both in the deepening science that says this once-distant threat has moved “firmly into the present,” and into the sting of more frequent extreme weather events that show us exactly what these changes may mean for future generations.

No nation is immune. In America, the past decade has been our hottest on record. Along our eastern coast, the city of Miami now floods at high tide. In our west, wildfire season now stretches most of the year. In our heartland, farms have been parched by the worst drought in generations, and drenched by the wettest spring in our history. A hurricane left parts of this great city dark and underwater. And some nations already live with far worse. Worldwide, this summer was the hottest ever recorded — with global carbon emissions still on the rise.

So the climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing. Our citizens keep marching. We cannot pretend we do not hear them. We have to answer the call. We know what we have to do to avoid irreparable harm. We have to cut carbon pollution in our own countries to prevent the worst effects of climate change. We have to adapt to the impacts that, unfortunately, we can no longer avoid. And we have to work together as a global community to tackle this global threat before it is too late.

We cannot condemn our children, and their children, to a future that is beyond their capacity to repair. Not when we have the means — the technological innovation and the scientific imagination — to begin the work of repairing it right now.

As one of America’s governors has said, “We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.” So today, I’m here personally, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second largest emitter, to say that we have begun to do something about it.

The United States has made ambitious investments in clean energy, and ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions. We now harness three times as much electricity from the wind and 10 times as much from the sun as we did when I came into office. Within a decade, our cars will go twice as far on a gallon of gas, and already, every major automaker offers electric vehicles. We’ve made unprecedented investments to cut energy waste in our homes and our buildings and our appliances, all of which will save consumers billions of dollars. And we are committed to helping communities build climate-resilient infrastructure.

So, all told, these advances have helped create jobs, grow our economy, and drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly two decades — proving that there does not have to be a conflict between a sound environment and strong economic growth.

Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to do more. Last year, I issued America’s first Climate Action Plan to double down on our efforts. Under that plan, my administration is working with states and utilities to set first-ever standards to cut the amount of carbon pollution our power plants can dump into the air. And when completed, this will mark the single most important and significant step the United States has ever taken to reduce our carbon emissions.

Last week alone, we announced an array of new actions in renewable energy and energy efficiency that will save consumers more than $10 billion on their energy bills and cut carbon pollution by nearly 300 million metric tons through 2030. That’s the equivalent of taking more than 60 million cars off the road for one year.

I also convened a group of private sector leaders who’ve agreed to do their part to slash consumption of dangerous greenhouse gases known as HFCs — slash them 80 percent by 2050.

And already, more than 100 nations have agreed to launch talks to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol — the same agreement the world used successfully to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.

This is something that President Xi of China and I have worked on together. Just a few minutes ago, I met with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and reiterated my belief that as the two largest economies and emitters in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead. That’s what big nations have to do.

And today, I call on all countries to join us — not next year, or the year after, but right now, because no nation can meet this global threat alone. The United States has also engaged more allies and partners to cut carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts we cannot avoid. All told, American climate assistance now reaches more than 120 nations around the world. We’re helping more nations skip past the dirty phase of development, using current technologies, not duplicating the same mistakes and environmental degradation that took place previously.

We’re partnering with African entrepreneurs to launch clean energy projects. We’re helping farmers practice climate-smart agriculture and plant more durable crops. We’re building international coalitions to drive action, from reducing methane emissions from pipelines to launching a free trade agreement for environmental goods. And we have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with many of you to make the Green Climate Fund a reality.

But let me be honest. None of this is without controversy. In each of our countries, there are interests that will be resistant to action. And in each country, there is a suspicion that if we act and other countries don’t that we will be at an economic disadvantage. But we have to lead. That is what the United Nations and this General Assembly is about.

Now, the truth is, is that no matter what we do, some populations will still be at risk. The nations that contribute the least to climate change often stand to lose the most. And that’s why, since I took office, the United States has expanded our direct adaptation assistance eightfold, and we’re going to do more.

Today, I’m directing our federal agencies to begin factoring climate resilience into our international development programs and investments. And I’m announcing a new effort to deploy the unique scientific and technological capabilities of the United States, from climate data to early-warning systems. So this effort includes a new partnership that will draw on the resources and expertise of our leading private sector companies and philanthropies to help vulnerable nations better prepare for weather-related disasters, and better plan for long-term threats like steadily rising seas.

Yes, this is hard. But there should be no question that the United States of America is stepping up to the plate. We recognize our role in creating this problem; we embrace our responsibility to combat it. We will do our part, and we will help developing nations do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation — developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.

The emerging economies that have experienced some of the most dynamic growth in recent years have also emitted rising levels of carbon pollution. It is those emerging economies that are likely to produce more and more carbon emissions in the years to come. So nobody can stand on the sidelines on this issues. We have to set aside the old divides. We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.

This time, we need an agreement that reflects economic realities in the next decade and beyond. It must be ambitious — because that’s what the scale of this challenge demands. It must be inclusive — because every country must play its part. And, yes, it must be flexible — because different nations have different circumstances.

Five years ago, I pledged America would reduce our carbon emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020. America will meet that target. And by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target, reflecting our confidence in the ability of our technological entrepreneurs and scientific innovators to lead the way.

So today, I call on all major economies to do the same. For I believe, in the words of Dr. King, that there is such a thing as being too late. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate while we still can.

This challenge demands our ambition. Our children deserve such ambition. And if we act now, if we can look beyond the swarm of current events and some of the economic challenges and political challenges involved, if we place the air that our children will breathe and the food that they will eat and the hopes and dreams of all posterity above our own short-term interests, we may not be too late for them.

While you and I may not live to see all the fruits of our labor, we can act to see that the century ahead is marked not by conflict, but by cooperation; not by human suffering, but by human progress; and that the world we leave to our children, and our children’s children, will be cleaner and healthier, and more prosperous and secure.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

New York Times Joins the Bumbling Keystone XL Cops

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 25 Apr 2014 13:21:00 GMT

Coral Davenport
Coral Davenport
In a New York Times Earth Day story, the usually excellent Coral Davenport grossly misrepresents the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline’s true impact on global warming, and questions the wisdom of pipeline opponents like the activists now encamped on the National Mall.

The pipeline is intended to ship upwards of 830,000 barrels of tar-sands crude a day for a 40-year lifespan. The pipeline will add 120-200 million tons of carbon-dioxide-equivalent to the atmosphere annually, with a lifetime footprint of 6 to 8 billion tons CO2e. That’s as much greenhouse pollution as 40 to 50 average U.S. coal-fired power plants. Furthermore the Keystone XL pipeline is recognized by the tar-sands industry as a key spigot for the future development of the Alberta tar sands, which would emit 840 billion tons CO2e if fully exploited.

Interviewing Washington insiders who have offered various forms of support for the Keystone XL project, Davenport claims instead that “Keystone’s political symbolism vastly outweighs its policy substance.” To support the claim, Davenport then erroneously underestimates the global warming footprint of the pipeline by a factor of ten. Davenport’s crucial error is to contrast the actual carbon footprint of existing fossil-fuel projects — such as US electric power plants (2.8 billion tons) and tailpipe emissions (1.9 billion) — to the impact of the pipeline’s oil being dirtier than traditional petroleum, without explaining that she was switching measurements:
Consider the numbers: In 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive international data is available, the global economy emitted 32.6 billion metric tons of carbon [dioxide] pollution. The United States was responsible for 5.5 billion tons of that (coming in second to China, which emitted 8.7 billion tons). Within the United States, electric power plants produced 2.8 billion tons of those greenhouse gases, while vehicle tailpipe emissions from burning gasoline produced 1.9 billion tons.

By comparison, the oil that would move through the Keystone pipeline would add 18.7 million metric tons of carbon [dioxide] to the atmosphere annually, the E.P.A. estimated.

[There are two side errors in the passage: Davenport uses “tons of carbon” where she means “tons of carbon dioxide equivalent”. One ton of carbon is the equivalent of 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide. All of her numbers refer to tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Secondly, the estimate was not made by the E.P.A. but by a State Department contractor hired by TransCanada; the E.P.A. cited that analysis but did not make the calculations.]

What the oil-industry contractor for the State Department actually calculated is that the oil that would move through the Keystone pipeline would add 147-168 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere annually, 1.3 to 27.4 million of which (central estimate 18.7 million from the draft assessment) are because tar-sands crude is dirtier than other petroleum sources. Those 18.7 million tons are the “incremental” or “additional” footprint of the pipeline, not the full 160 million-ton footprint.

Based on this order-of-magnitude measurement-switching error, Davenport incorrectly concludes that “the carbon emissions produced by oil that would be moved in the Keystone pipeline would amount to less than 1 percent of United States greenhouse gas emissions, and an infinitesimal slice of the global total.”

In fact, the carbon dioxide emissions produced by oil that would be moved in this single pipeline would amount to 3 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and half a percent of the global carbon footprint. Only thirty-two countries have larger annual footprints than this single tar-sands project.

Climate scientist John Abraham made this point in The Guardian last week. “People who think Keystone is a minor issue don’t understand science and they sure don’t understand economics,” he wrote.

Jason Bordoff
Jason Bordoff
How on earth could Davenport and the pipeline supporters she cites — Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations, Kevin Book of the fossil-industry consultancy ClearView Energy Partners, former Obama White House climate advisor Jason Bordoff of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, Adele Morris of the Brookings Institution, and fossil-industry lobbyist David Goldwyn (a former advisor for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and also a Brookings fellow) — make this basic and outsized mistake?

Putting aside any possible political and economic motivations to support the intentions of the global petroleum industry, the intellectual failure rests on an obvious error made subtle through convolution.

Whether one is looking at actual or incremental footprints of carbon-infrastructure projects, the results should be equivalent from a policy standpoint, although the numbers would be different. Why, then, does the incremental analysis used by the EPA and the State Department’s oil-industry contractors appear to give the absurd result that the Keystone XL impact is “infinitesimal”?

The methodology of incremental footprint analysis assumes a baseline of future projected carbon pollution, and then looks whether a given project would increase or decrease the baseline. The validity of incremental-footprint analysis thus depends on the baseline.

In line with scientific warnings, President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have committed to limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. In the International Energy Agency’s 2°C scenario, global oil consumption would fall by 50 percent from current levels by 2050, within the intended operating lifetime of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Keystone XL final environmental impact statement instead assumes that global oil demand will increase over that time period. The baseline used is the Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, which projects that global oil consumption will increase by 30 to 40 percent by 2040. In that scenario, the world would be on a pathway for rapid and catastrophic global warming of 4 to 6°C (or greater) by 2100.

No matter the analysis, the Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with climate security. The global-warming impact of constructing Keystone XL is only “infinitesimal” if you assume catastrophic global warming is inevitable and that the signed climate pledges of the United States government are worthless.

Perhaps Ms. Davenport should ask Levi, Book, Bordoff, Morris, and Goldwyn if that is their assumption.

Update May 2: The Times has posted a correction:

Correction: May 2, 2014

An article and an accompanying chart on April 22 comparing the projected Keystone XL pipeline with other sources of carbon emissions referred imprecisely to projected emissions from tar-sands oil moving through the pipeline. Producing and burning that oil would emit 18.7 million more metric tons annually than would conventional oil, or far less than 1 percent of United States emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The tar-sands oil would not emit 18.7 million tons total, but about 150 million tons, or less than 3 percent of United States emissions.

The correction itself is in error; the estimate of 18.7 million metric tons is not from the E.P.A., but is from the draft assessment prepared by TransCanada contractor Environmental Resources Management for the State Department.

Data-Driven Efforts To Boost Climate Change Preparedness and Resilience

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 19 Mar 2014 21:00:00 GMT

On Wednesday, March 19, the White House, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will host an event highlighting the Administration’s commitment to empower America’s communities with the information they need to prepare for the impacts of climate change. The event will include new announcements from Federal agencies, businesses, researchers, academia, and others to deploy data-driven technologies and leverage freely available open government data to build products and services that strengthen our Nation’s ability to prepare for the effects of climate change today and in the future.

The Obama Administration recognizes that even as we act to curb the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, we must also improve our ability to prepare for climate impacts that are already occurring across the country. The insights gathered from scientific data are essential to help communities and businesses better understand and manage the risks associated with climate change. The cutting-edge technologies built by American innovators and businesses must be harnessed in order to unleash the insights of science in ways that directly benefit communities on the front lines of climate change.

Over the past few years, the Obama Administration has launched a series of Open Data Initiatives, which have released troves of valuable data that were previously hard to access in areas such as energy, health, education, public safety, and global development. These data are being used by innovators, businesses, researchers, and the public to create new services and applications that benefit Americans.

  • John Podesta, Counselor to the President
  • Dr. John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Mike Boots, Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality
  • Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, NOAA Administrator and Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
  • Dr. Ellen Stofan, NASA Chief Scientist
  • Jack Dangermond, CEO of Esri
  • Rebecca Moore, Founder of Google Earth Engine
  • Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President & Special Envoy for Climate Change
  • Joel Dunn, Executive Director, Chesapeake Conservancy
  • Denice Ross, Director of Enterprise Information, City of New Orleans
  • Stephen Harper, Global Director, Environment and Energy Policy, Intel Corporation

The event will also feature remarks, presentations, and demonstrations of data-driven tools by private-sector technology companies, communities, scientists, and other climate experts.

MEDIA REGISTRATION: This event is OPEN PRESS. Media wishing to cover this event must RSVP. Press holding White House hard passes must send their name, media outlet, phone, and email, to media_affairs@who.eop.gov, by Wednesday, March 19, at 12:00PM ET, with the subject line “CLIMATE.” Press not holding White House hard passes must include their full legal name, date of birth, Social Security number, gender, country of citizenship, and current city and state of residence. All press will enter the White House at the Northwest Gate.

White House Issues Veto Threat Against House Bill to Kill Power-Plant Carbon Rules

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 05 Mar 2014 21:32:00 GMT

The White House has issued a veto threat against legislation from the Republican-led House of Representatives that would nullify proposed carbon pollution standards for future power plants. The Electricity Security and Affordability Act (H.R. 3826), introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), is up for consideration on the House floor this week.

“H.R. 3826 would nullify proposed carbon pollution standards for future power plants, and arbitrarily restrict the available technologies that could be considered for any new standards,” argued the White House statement. “Finally, the bill could delay indefinitely reductions in carbon pollution from existing power plants by prohibiting forthcoming rules from taking effect until Congress passes legislation setting the effective date of the rules.”

The bill has 94 co-sponsors, including seven Democrats (John Barrow, William Enyart, Jim Matheson, Collin Peterson, Nick Rahall, Terri Sewell, and Mike McIntyre).

Full text of statement:

March 4, 2014 (House Rules)

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY
H.R. 3826 – Electricity Security and Affordability Act
(Rep. Whitfield, R-Kentucky, and 94 cosponsors)

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3826, which would undermine the public health protections of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and stop U.S. progress in cutting dangerous carbon pollution from power plants. In 2009, EPA determined that Greenhouse Gas (GHG) pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting climate changes that are already having a range of negative effects on human health and the environment. Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic GHG emissions. While the United States limits emissions of arsenic, mercury, and lead pollution from power plants, there are no national limits on power plant carbon pollution. As part of his Climate Action Plan, the President directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to work with States, utilities, and other stakeholders to develop standards to end the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from power plants. H.R. 3826 would block those important efforts, threatening the health and safety of Americans.

H.R. 3826 would nullify proposed carbon pollution standards for future power plants, and arbitrarily restrict the available technologies that could be considered for any new standards. This requirement would stifle progress in reducing carbon pollution by discouraging the adoption of currently available and effective technology, and would limit further development of cutting-edge clean energy technologies. Finally, the bill could delay indefinitely reductions in carbon pollution from existing power plants by prohibiting forthcoming rules from taking effect until Congress passes legislation setting the effective date of the rules. This would undermine regulatory certainty and prevent timely action on standards for the power sector — the largest source of carbon pollution in the country.

Since it was enacted in 1970, and amended in 1977 and 1990, each time with strong bipartisan support, the CAA has improved the Nation’s air quality and protected public health. Over that same period of time, the economy has grown over 200 percent while emissions of key pollutants have decreased by more than 70 percent. Forty years of clean air regulation has shown that a strong economy and strong environmental and public health protection go hand-in-hand.

The Administration stands ready to work with Congress to enact comprehensive legislation to achieve meaningful reductions in carbon pollution. However, the President has made it clear that if Congress fails to act to protect future generations from the threat of climate change, his Administration will.

Because H.R. 3826 threatens the health and economic welfare of future generations by blocking important standards to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector, if the President is presented with H.R. 3826, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

Hundreds of Youth Activists Arrested at White House for Keystone XL Protest

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 03 Mar 2014 00:37:00 GMT

Arrests at White House398 youth activists were arrested Sunday in front of the White House, after staging a “die-in” protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The protesters marched from the Georgetown University site of President Barack Obama’s 2013 climate speech to the street in front of Secretary of State John Kerry’s house before arriving at the White House. Kerry is slated to make a decision on on whether the pipeline — which will unlock access to Canadian tar sands and have a carbon footprint equivalent to fifty new coal-fired power plants — is in the national interest. President Obama is responsible for the final determination.

“We are trying to escalate as much as we can,” Michael Greenberg, a Columbia University sophomore who helped organize Sunday’s protest, told the National Journal’s Ben Geman. “We are not playing softball with the president any more.”

“Young people are tired of watching a president who ran on the promise of ‘ending the tyranny of oil’ keep caving to the fossil fuel industry,” wrote Jamie Henn, Communications Director for 350 Action, at MSNBC.com

There is a Flickr set of XLDissent photographs, and Annie-Rose Strasser at Climate Progress has compiled photos from Twitter of the march and protest.

“An entire movement has thrown itself into in this Keystone fight, from local frontline groups to big national green organizations,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. “But this weekend shows the power and bravery of some of the most crucial elements: young people, and activists who understand the centrality of environmental justice.”

Commentary: Obama Does Not Believe Global Warming a Civil-War or World-War-II Scale Crisis

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 21 Jan 2014 05:34:00 GMT

Barack ObamaPresident Barack Obama evidently does not believe that fossil-fueled global warming is a nation-threatening crisis, despite repeated scientific warnings that a full-scale mobilization must be enacted now to avert global catastrophe. At the top of his list for accomplishments before the end of his term, instead of a redirection of the national and global economy towards rapid decarbonization, is the goal of beginning “the process of rebuilding the middle class and the ladders into the middle class.”

In response to The New Yorker’s David Remnick’s question of “what he felt he must get done before leaving office,” Obama said:
I think we are fortunate at the moment that we do not face a crisis of the scale and scope that Lincoln or F.D.R. faced.

Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt were president at the start of the Civil War and World War II, respectively.

Obama’s presidency has been marked by a backing away from a sense of urgency about the climate crisis. “Obviously there’s great urgency in dealing with a threat to the entire planet,” Obama said as a candidate in 2007. In an October 2007 speech, he called global warming “the planet’s greatest threat,” “the issue that will determine the very future of life on this Earth,” “a fact that threatens our very existence,” and “the most urgent challenge of this era.”

“Global warming is not a someday problem, it is now,” he said. He pledged “to phase out a carbon-based economy that’s causing our changing climate.” “As President, I will lead this commitment,” he promised.

Six and half years later, global carbon pollution has continued to rise rapidly, fueled in no small part by Obama’s “all of the above” support for increased oil drilling, fracking, and coal mining.

After years of near-to-total silence on the ravages of a polluted climate to the nation, Obama started his second term with a new promise for action.

“As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act,” he said in June 2013.

It looks he doesn’t actually feel the urgency of his own words.

Podesta Rebukes Environmentalists For Criticizing Obama's "All of the Above" Support For Fossil-Fuel Extraction

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 17 Jan 2014 20:10:00 GMT

Obama’s new top climate adviser rebuked environmental leaders who challenged the president to dump his “all of the above” energy strategy as incompatible with needed climate action. In a letter obtained by the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin, John Podesta questioned why the climate advocates criticized the president for his support of increased fossil-fuel extraction.

Making reference to Obama’s “bold Climate Action Plan” announced in June 2013, Podesta cited “significant decreases in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions” despite “opposition to key components of the plan” from Republicans in the House and Senate. Podesta noted that the plan “commits to additional steps to cut the emissions of carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change,” claiming that the “breadth of the plan makes it impossible to detail those steps in this letter.”

Podesta’s only reference to President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy of increased fossil-fuel extraction came in his criticism of the environmentalists:

Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your January 16 letter to President Obama. The President has been leading the transition,[sic] to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production.

Podesta did not reply to the environmentalists’ mention of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, which he has previously criticized. Upon taking the White House job, Podesta said he would not weigh in on the decision of whether the construction of the pipeline would be in the national interest, a determination to be made by the State Department and President Obama.

Under Podesta’s direction, the Center for American Progress offered divergent views on Obama’s “all of the above” policy:
  • Center for American Progress Director of Climate Strategy Daniel Weiss testified in 2012 and in 2013 in support of Obama’s “all of the above” strategy.
  • Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Joseph Romm, editor of Climate Progress, bluntly said in 2012 that the “all-of-the-above energy strategy” is what defines Obama’s “failed presidency.” He later excoriated Obama’s “big wet kiss to oil and gas.”

The text of the letter, typos included, is below:

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON

January 17, 2014

TO:

Wm. Robert Irvin, American Rivers, President and CEO
Robert Wendelgass, Clean Water Action, President
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife, President and CEO
Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice, President
Maura Cowley, Energy Action Coalition, Executive Director
Margie Alt, Environment America, Executive Director
Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense Fund, President
Eric Pica, Friends of the Earth, President
Gene Karpinski, League of Conservation Voters, President
David Yarnold, National Audubon Society, President and CEO
Larry J. Schweiger, National Wildlife Federation, President & CEO
John Echohawk, Native American Rights Fund, Executive Director
Frances Beinecke, Natural Resources Defense Council, President
Andrew Sharpless, Oceana, Chief Executive Officer
Catherine Thomasson, MD, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Executive Director
John Seager, Population Connection, President
Michael Brune, Sierra Club, Executive Director
Sandy Newman, Voices for Progress, President

I am writing in response to your January 16 letter to President Obama regarding climate change. President Obama understands that climate change poses a significant threat to our environment, to public health and to our economy. He believes it is imperative that we act to address these threats, and that doing so provides an opportunity for the United States to lead in the development and deployment of clean energy technologies needed to reduce emissions. For these reasons, the President has taken steps to address the climate change challenge throughout the last five years, including a issuing a bold Climate Action Plan in June of 2013.

The Climate Action Plan builds on major progress during the President’s first term, including: historic fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles that will cut 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution, cut oil consumption by 12 billion barrels of oil, and save consumer $1.7 trillion over the lifetime of the program; energy efficiency standards for appliances that will cut pollution and save consumers and businesses hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming decades; historic support for renewable energy that has helped to drive down technology costs and more than doubled generation of electricity from wind and solar. These steps by the Obama Administration have contributed to significant decreases in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; 2012 emissions of carbon dioxide were at their lowest level the lowest [sic] in nearly twenty years.

The Climate Action Plan outlined by President Obama in a historic speech at Georgetown in June of 2013 builds on these measures, and commits to additional steps to cut the emissions of carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change. The breadth of the plan makes it impossible to detail those steps in this letter, but key commitments to continue to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions include establishing the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, a multi-sector strategy to reduce methane emissions, action to limit the use of HFCs and promote the use of more climate-friendly alternatives, additional DOE energy efficiency standards, and additional fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy duty vehicles.

We have made significant progress in implementing the plan in the last seven months, and I attach for your review a recent report that details this work. However, significant work lies ahead in meeting the commitments outlined in the Climate Action Plan. In addition, opposition to key components of the plan remains. Last week, the White House had to fight off anti-environmental Appropriations riders, including ones that would have prevented the EPA from implementing regulations to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, and would have prevented the Administration from moving forward with Tier 3 vehicle and fuel standards. On the day your letter arrived, the Senate Minority Leader filed a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn rules to regulate CO2 emissions from new power plants.

Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your January 16 letter to President Obama. The President has been leading the transition,[sic] to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production.

With respect to meeting the threats posed by a rapidly changing climate, implementation of the Climate Action Plan must and will remain the focus of our efforts. In the meantime, we will continue to welcome your advice, based on your very long experience on how to convince the American public of the need and opportunity to transform dirty energy systems to ones that are cleaner and more efficient.

Sincerely,

John D. Podesta

Enviro Coalition Letter Calls on Obama to Drop 'All of the Above' Strategy for 'Carbon-Reducing Clean Energy' Strategy

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 17 Jan 2014 04:49:00 GMT

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Thursday, the leaders of the nation’s top environmental organizations aggressively criticized his “all of the above” energy strategy. The 16 groups, ranging from environmental justice organizations such as the Native American Rights Fund to the corporate-friendly Environmental Defense Fund and the progressive advocacy group Voices for Progress, praised the president’s “goal of cutting carbon pollution” but sharply rebuked the White House’s support for expanded fossil-fuel extraction:
An “all of the above” strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford. It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money. It increases environmental injustice while it locks in the extraction of fossil fuels that will inevitably lead to a catastrophic climate future. It threatens our health, our homes, our most sensitive public lands, our oceans and our most precious wild places. Such a policy accelerates development of fuel sources that can negate the important progress you’ve already made on lowering U.S. carbon pollution, and it undermines U.S. credibility in the international community.

The groups made special note of Obama’s announcement in June that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be judged for the “net effects” of its “impact on climate.” The Keystone XL pipeline is incompatible with the 2°ree;C warming limit to which Obama has committed the United States, but the administration may attempt to use a different, high-emissions scenario as the baseline against which to judge the pipeline’s “net effects.”

The environmentalists concluded with the recommendation that the White House’s “all of the above” strategy be replaced with a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy:
We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy rather than an “all of the above” strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.

The full text of the letter is below.

American Rivers * Clean Water Action * Defenders of Wildlife * Earthjustice *
Energy Action Coalition * Environment America * Environmental Defense Fund *
Friends of the Earth * League of Conservation Voters * National Audubon Society *
National Wildlife Federation * Native American Rights Fund *
Natural Resources Defense Council * Oceana * Physicians for Social Responsibility *
Population Connection * Sierra Club * Voices for Progress

January 16, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D. C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We applaud the actions you have taken to reduce economy-wide carbon pollution and your commitment last June “to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution” and “lead the world in a coordinated assault on climate change.” We look forward to continuing to work with you to achieve these goals.

In that speech, you referenced that in the past you had put forward an “all of the above” energy strategy, yet noted that we cannot just drill our way out of our energy and climate challenge. We believe that continued reliance on an “all of the above” energy strategy would be fundamentally at odds with your goal of cutting carbon pollution and would undermine our nation’s capacity to respond to the threat of climate disruption. With record-high atmospheric carbon concentrations and the rising threat of extreme heat, drought, wildfires and super storms, America’s energy policies must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, not simply reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

We understand that the U.S. cannot immediately end its use of fossil fuels and we also appreciate the advantages of being more energy independent. But an “all of the above” approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignores the impacts of carbon-intense fuels and is wrong for America’s future. America requires an ambitious energy vision that reduces consumption of these fuels in order to meet the scale of the climate crisis.

An “all of the above” strategy is a compromise that future generations can’t afford. It fails to prioritize clean energy and solutions that have already begun to replace fossil fuels, revitalize American industry, and save Americans money. It increases environmental injustice while it locks in the extraction of fossil fuels that will inevitably lead to a catastrophic climate future. It threatens our health, our homes, our most sensitive public lands, our oceans and our most precious wild places. Such a policy accelerates development of fuel sources that can negate the important progress you’ve already made on lowering U.S. carbon pollution, and it undermines U.S. credibility in the international community.

Mr. President, we were very heartened by your commitment that the climate impacts of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would be “absolutely critical” to the decision and that it would be contrary to the “national interest” to approve a project that would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” We believe that a climate impact lens should be applied to all decisions regarding new fossil fuel development, and urge that a “carbon-reducing clean energy” strategy rather than an “all of the above” strategy become the operative paradigm for your administration’s energy decisions.

In the coming months your administration will be making key decisions regarding fossil fuel development — including the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic ocean — that will either set us on a path to achieve the clean energy future we all envision or will significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. We urge you to make climate impacts and emission increases critical considerations in each of these decisions.

Mr. President, we applaud you for your commitment to tackle the climate crisis and to build an economy powered by energy that is clean, safe, secure, and sustainable.

Sincerely,

Wm. Robert Irvin
President and CEO
American Rivers

Robert Wendelgass
President
Clean Water Action

Jamie Rappaport Clark
President and CEO
Defenders of Wildlife

Trip Van Noppen
President
Earthjustice

Maura Cowley
Executive Director
Energy Action Coalition

Margie Alt
Executive Director
Environment America

Fred Krupp
President
Environmental Defense Fund

Eric Pica
President
Friends of the Earth

John Seager
President
Population Connection
Gene Karpinski
President
League of Conservation Voters

David Yarnold
President and CEO
National Audubon Society

Larry J. Schweiger
President & CEO
National Wildlife Federation

John Echohawk
Executive Director
Native American Rights Fund

Frances Beinecke
President
Natural Resources Defense Council

Andrew Sharpless
Chief Executive Officer
Oceana

Catherine Thomasson, MD
Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

Sandy Newman
President
Voices for Progress

New White House Adviser John Podesta: 'Unconventional Sources of Fossil Fuels Cannot Be Our Energy Future'

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 10 Dec 2013 22:03:00 GMT

John Podesta, an advocate for strong climate action and opponent of the exploitation of unconventional fossil fuels, is joining the White House as a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, the New York Times reports.

In a 2010 keynote address at Canada 2020’s “‘Greening’ The Oil Sands: Debunking the Myths and Confronting the Realities,” a Canadian conference promoting tar sands extraction, Podesta apologized for being the “skunk” at the “garden party” as he laid out his profound skepticism about “green” tar sands, comparing it to “clean coal” and “error-free deepwater drilling.”

Below are some key excerpts:

Today, there is almost unanimous agreement that we can add another cost to dependence on high-carbon fuels. And this one is beyond our ability to calculate.

Failing to curb our dependence on fossil fuels will create a world dramatically different than the one we’re currently accustomed to; one in which sea level rise, extreme weather, and reduced resource supplies will not only cause irreparable harm to ecosystems around the globe, but also tremendous human suffering and conflict.

Oil extraction from tar sands is polluting, destructive, expensive, and energy intensive. These things are facts. I think suggesting this process can come close to approximating being “greened” is largely misleading, or far too optimistic, or perhaps both. It stands alongside clean coal and error-free deepwater drilling as more PR than reality.

Oil sands can’t simply be as good as conventional oil. We need to reduce fossil fuel use and accelerate the transition to cleaner technologies, in the transportation sector and elsewhere.

We either rapidly green the world’s engine of economic growth, or we suffer consequences that are very difficult to even fully comprehend, in addition to those we already tolerate. Unconventional sources of fossil fuels cannot be our energy future.

In January 2013, Podesta announced his opposition to Arctic drilling, saying in a Bloomberg op-ed that “there is no safe and responsible way to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean”:
Now, following a series of mishaps and errors, as well as overwhelming weather conditions, it has become clear that there is no safe and responsible way to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean. . . The Obama administration shouldn’t issue any new permits to Shell this year and should suspend all action on other companies’ applications to drill in this remote and unpredictable region.

“Moving beyond fossil fuel pollution will involve exciting work, new opportunities, new products and innovation, and stronger communities,” Podesta said in 2009 Congressional testimony.

In contrast, Podesta has laid out an optimistic vision for smart grids, utility-scale renewable energy development, and global clean-energy investment.

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