President Obama announces the President’s Climate Action Plan in a speech at Georgetown University.
Transcript of the remarks:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! Thank you, Georgetown! Thank you so much. Everybody, please be seated. And my first announcement today is that you should all take off your jackets. I’m going to do the same. It’s not that sexy, now.
It is good to be back on campus, and it is a great privilege to speak from the steps of this historic hall that welcomed Presidents going back to George Washington.
I want to thank your president, President DeGioia, who’s here today. I want to thank him for hosting us. I want to thank the many members of my Cabinet and my administration. I want to thank Leader Pelosi and the members of Congress who are here. We are very grateful for their support.
And I want to say thank you to the Hoyas in the house for having me back. It was important for me to speak directly to your generation, because the decisions that we make now and in the years ahead will have a profound impact on the world that all of you inherit.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a live broadcast from lunar orbit. So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — the first humans to orbit the moon -– described what they saw, and they read Scripture from the Book of Genesis to the rest of us back here. And later that night, they took a photo that would change the way we see and think about our world.
It was an image of Earth -– beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.
And while the sight of our planet from space might seem routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us seeing our home, our planet, for the first time. Imagine what it looked like to children like me. Even the astronauts were amazed. “It makes you realize,” Lovell would say, “just what you have back there on Earth.”
And around the same time we began exploring space, scientists were studying changes taking place in the Earth’s atmosphere. Now, scientists had known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air. That wasn’t news. But in the late 1950s, the National Weather Service began measuring the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, with the worry that rising levels might someday disrupt the fragile balance that makes our planet so hospitable. And what they’ve found, year after year, is that the levels of carbon pollution in our atmosphere have increased dramatically.
That science, accumulated and reviewed over decades, tells us that our planet is changing in ways that will have profound impacts on all of humankind.
The 12 warmest years in recorded history have all come in the last 15 years. Last year, temperatures in some areas of the ocean reached record highs, and ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest size on record — faster than most models had predicted it would. These are facts.
Now, we know that no single weather event is caused solely by climate change. Droughts and fires and floods, they go back to ancient times. But we also know that in a world that’s warmer than it used to be, all weather events are affected by a warming planet. The fact that sea level in New York, in New York Harbor, are now a foot higher than a century ago — that didn’t cause Hurricane Sandy, but it certainly contributed to the destruction that left large parts of our mightiest city dark and underwater.
The potential impacts go beyond rising sea levels. Here at home, 2012 was the warmest year in our history. Midwest farms were parched by the worst drought since the Dust Bowl, and then drenched by the wettest spring on record. Western wildfires scorched an area larger than the state of Maryland. Just last week, a heat wave in Alaska shot temperatures into the 90s.
And we know that the costs of these events can be measured in lost lives and lost livelihoods, lost homes, lost businesses, hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency services and disaster relief. In fact, those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it — they’re busy dealing with it. Firefighters are braving longer wildfire seasons, and states and federal governments have to figure out how to budget for that. I had to sit on a meeting with the Department of Interior and Agriculture and some of the rest of my team just to figure out how we’re going to pay for more and more expensive fire seasons.
Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next; and the higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer. Mountain communities worry about what smaller snowpacks will mean for tourism — and then, families at the bottom of the mountains wonder what it will mean for their drinking water. Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction in insurance premiums, state and local taxes, and the costs of rebuilding and disaster relief.
So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all that to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.
So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.
As a President, as a father, and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.
I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing. And that’s why, today, I’m announcing a new national climate action plan, and I’m here to enlist your generation’s help in keeping the United States of America a leader — a global leader — in the fight against climate change.
This plan builds on progress that we’ve already made. Last year, I took office — the year that I took office, my administration pledged to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from their 2005 levels by the end of this decade. And we rolled up our sleeves and we got to work. We doubled the electricity we generated from wind and the sun. We doubled the mileage our cars will get on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade.
Here at Georgetown, I unveiled my strategy for a secure energy future. And thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses, we’re starting to produce much more of our own energy. We’re building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades — in Georgia and South Carolina. For the first time in 18 years, America is poised to produce more of our own oil than we buy from other nations. And today, we produce more natural gas than anybody else. So we’re producing energy. And these advances have grown our economy, they’ve created new jobs, they can’t be shipped overseas — and, by the way, they’ve also helped drive our carbon pollution to its lowest levels in nearly 20 years. Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America.
So it’s a good start. But the reason we’re all here in the heat today is because we know we’ve got more to do.
In my State of the Union address, I urged Congress to come up with a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one that Republican and Democratic senators worked on together a few years ago. And I still want to see that happen. I’m willing to work with anyone to make that happen.
But this is a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now. And this is my plan to meet it — a plan to cut carbon pollution; a plan to protect our country from the impacts of climate change; and a plan to lead the world in a coordinated assault on a changing climate.
This plan begins with cutting carbon pollution by changing the way we use energy — using less dirty energy, using more clean energy, wasting less energy throughout our economy.
Forty-three years ago, Congress passed a law called the Clean Air Act of 1970. It was a good law. The reasoning behind it was simple: New technology can protect our health by protecting the air we breathe from harmful pollution. And that law passed the Senate unanimously. Think about that — it passed the Senate unanimously. It passed the House of Representatives 375 to 1. I don’t know who the one guy was — I haven’t looked that up. You can barely get that many votes to name a post office these days.
It was signed into law by a Republican President. It was later strengthened by another Republican President. This used to be a bipartisan issue.
Six years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants covered by that same Clean Air Act. And they required the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, to determine whether they’re a threat to our health and welfare. In 2009, the EPA determined that they are a threat to both our health and our welfare in many different ways — from dirtier air to more common heat waves — and, therefore, subject to regulation.
Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants. But here’s the thing: Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air. None. Zero. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free. That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.
So today, for the sake of our children, and the health and safety of all Americans, I’m directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants.
I’m also directing the EPA to develop these standards in an open and transparent way, to provide flexibility to different states with different needs, and build on the leadership that many states, and cities, and companies have already shown. In fact, many power companies have already begun modernizing their plants, and creating new jobs in the process. Others have shifted to burning cleaner natural gas instead of dirtier fuel sources.
Nearly a dozen states have already implemented or are implementing their own market-based programs to reduce carbon pollution. More than 25 have set energy efficiency targets. More than 35 have set renewable energy targets. Over 1,000 mayors have signed agreements to cut carbon pollution. So the idea of setting higher pollution standards for our power plants is not new. It’s just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country. And that’s what we intend to do.
Now, what you’ll hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy, and basically end American free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health. And every time, they’ve been wrong.
For example, in 1970, when we decided through the Clean Air Act to do something about the smog that was choking our cities — and, by the way, most young people here aren’t old enough to remember what it was like, but when I was going to school in 1979-1980 in Los Angeles, there were days where folks couldn’t go outside. And the sunsets were spectacular because of all the pollution in the air.
But at the time when we passed the Clean Air Act to try to get rid of some of this smog, some of the same doomsayers were saying new pollution standards will decimate the auto industry. Guess what — it didn’t happen. Our air got cleaner.
In 1990, when we decided to do something about acid rain, they said our electricity bills would go up, the lights would go off, businesses around the country would suffer — I quote — “a quiet death.” None of it happened, except we cut acid rain dramatically.
See, the problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity. These critics seem to think that when we ask our businesses to innovate and reduce pollution and lead, they can’t or they won’t do it. They’ll just kind of give up and quit. But in America, we know that’s not true. Look at our history.
When we restricted cancer-causing chemicals in plastics and leaded fuel in our cars, it didn’t end the plastics industry or the oil industry. American chemists came up with better substitutes. When we phased out CFCs — the gases that were depleting the ozone layer — it didn’t kill off refrigerators or air-conditioners or deodorant. American workers and businesses figured out how to do it better without harming the environment as much.
The fuel standards that we put in place just a few years ago didn’t cripple automakers. The American auto industry retooled, and today, our automakers are selling the best cars in the world at a faster rate than they have in five years — with more hybrid, more plug-in, more fuel-efficient cars for everybody to choose from.
So the point is, if you look at our history, don’t bet against American industry. Don’t bet against American workers. Don’t tell folks that we have to choose between the health of our children or the health of our economy.
The old rules may say we can’t protect our environment and promote economic growth at the same time, but in America, we’ve always used new technologies — we’ve used science; we’ve used research and development and discovery to make the old rules obsolete.
Today, we use more clean energy –- more renewables and natural gas -– which is supporting hundreds of thousands of good jobs. We waste less energy, which saves you money at the pump and in your pocketbooks. And guess what — our economy is 60 percent bigger than it was 20 years ago, while our carbon emissions are roughly back to where they were 20 years ago.
So, obviously, we can figure this out. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and. We’ve got to look after our children; we have to look after our future; and we have to grow the economy and create jobs. We can do all of that as long as we don’t fear the future; instead we seize it.
And, by the way, don’t take my word for it — recently, more than 500 businesses, including giants like GM and Nike, issued a Climate Declaration, calling action on climate change “one of the great economic opportunities of the 21st century.” Walmart is working to cut its carbon pollution by 20 percent and transition completely to renewable energy. Walmart deserves a cheer for that. But think about it. Would the biggest company, the biggest retailer in America — would they really do that if it weren’t good for business, if it weren’t good for their shareholders?
A low-carbon, clean energy economy can be an engine of growth for decades to come. And I want America to build that engine. I want America to build that future — right here in the United States of America. That’s our task.
Now, one thing I want to make sure everybody understands — this does not mean that we’re going to suddenly stop producing fossil fuels. Our economy wouldn’t run very well if it did. And transitioning to a clean energy economy takes time. But when the doomsayers trot out the old warnings that these ambitions will somehow hurt our energy supply, just remind them that America produced more oil than we have in 15 years. What is true is that we can’t just drill our way out of the energy and climate challenge that we face. That’s not possible.
I put forward in the past an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil. And, by the way, it’s certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline.
Now, I know there’s been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That’s how it’s always been done. But I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.
Now, even as we’re producing more domestic oil, we’re also producing more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth. And, again, sometimes there are disputes about natural gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.
Federally supported technology has helped our businesses drill more effectively and extract more gas. And now, we’ll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we’re not seeing methane emissions, and to put people to work modernizing our natural gas infrastructure so that we can power more homes and businesses with cleaner energy.
The bottom line is natural gas is creating jobs. It’s lowering many families’ heat and power bills. And it’s the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future.
And that brings me to the second way that we’re going to reduce carbon pollution — by using more clean energy. Over the past four years, we’ve doubled the electricity that we generate from zero-carbon wind and solar power. And that means jobs — jobs manufacturing the wind turbines that now generate enough electricity to power nearly 15 million homes; jobs installing the solar panels that now generate more than four times the power at less cost than just a few years ago.
I know some Republicans in Washington dismiss these jobs, but those who do need to call home — because 75 percent of all wind energy in this country is generated in Republican districts. And that may explain why last year, Republican governors in Kansas and Oklahoma and Iowa — Iowa, by the way, a state that harnesses almost 25 percent of its electricity from the wind — helped us in the fight to extend tax credits for wind energy manufacturers and producers. Tens of thousands good jobs were on the line, and those jobs were worth the fight.
And countries like China and Germany are going all in in the race for clean energy. I believe Americans build things better than anybody else. I want America to win that race, but we can’t win it if we’re not in it.
So the plan I’m announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun. Today, I’m directing the Interior Department to green light enough private, renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.
The Department of Defense — the biggest energy consumer in America — will install 3 gigawatts of renewable power on its bases, generating about the same amount of electricity each year as you’d get from burning 3 million tons of coal.
And because billions of your tax dollars continue to still subsidize some of the most profitable corporations in the history of the world, my budget once again calls for Congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies, and invest in the clean-energy companies that will fuel our future.
Now, the third way to reduce carbon pollution is to waste less energy — in our cars, our homes, our businesses. The fuel standards we set over the past few years mean that by the middle of the next decade, the cars and trucks we buy will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That means you’ll have to fill up half as often; we’ll all reduce carbon pollution. And we built on that success by setting the first-ever standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses and vans. And in the coming months, we’ll partner with truck makers to do it again for the next generation of vehicles.
Meanwhile, the energy we use in our homes and our businesses and our factories, our schools, our hospitals — that’s responsible for about one-third of our greenhouse gases. The good news is simple upgrades don’t just cut that pollution; they put people to work — manufacturing and installing smarter lights and windows and sensors and appliances. And the savings show up in our electricity bills every month — forever. That’s why we’ve set new energy standards for appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers. And today, our businesses are building better ones that will also cut carbon pollution and cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars.
That means, by the way, that our federal government also has to lead by example. I’m proud that federal agencies have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent since I took office. But we can do even better than that. So today, I’m setting a new goal: Your federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years. We are going to set that goal.
We’ll also encourage private capital to get off the sidelines and get into these energy-saving investments. And by the end of the next decade, these combined efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings will reduce carbon pollution by at least three billion tons. That’s an amount equal to what our entire energy sector emits in nearly half a year.
So I know these standards don’t sound all that sexy, but think of it this way: That’s the equivalent of planting 7.6 billion trees and letting them grow for 10 years — all while doing the dishes. It is a great deal and we need to be doing it.
So using less dirty energy, transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, wasting less energy through our economy is where we need to go. And this plan will get us there faster. But I want to be honest — this will not get us there overnight. The hard truth is carbon pollution has built up in our atmosphere for decades now. And even if we Americans do our part, the planet will slowly keep warming for some time to come. The seas will slowly keep rising and storms will get more severe, based on the science. It’s like tapping the brakes of a car before you come to a complete stop and then can shift into reverse. It’s going to take time for carbon emissions to stabilize.
So in the meantime, we’re going to need to get prepared. And that’s why this plan will also protect critical sectors of our economy and prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that we cannot avoid. States and cities across the country are already taking it upon themselves to get ready. Miami Beach is hardening its water supply against seeping saltwater. We’re partnering with the state of Florida to restore Florida’s natural clean water delivery system — the Everglades. The overwhelmingly Republican legislature in Texas voted to spend money on a new water development bank as a long-running drought cost jobs and forced a town to truck in water from the outside.
New York City is fortifying its 520 miles of coastline as an insurance policy against more frequent and costly storms. And what we’ve learned from Hurricane Sandy and other disasters is that we’ve got to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure that can protect our homes and businesses, and withstand more powerful storms. That means stronger seawalls, natural barriers, hardened power grids, hardened water systems, hardened fuel supplies.
So the budget I sent Congress includes funding to support communities that build these projects, and this plan directs federal agencies to make sure that any new project funded with taxpayer dollars is built to withstand increased flood risks.
And we’ll partner with communities seeking help to prepare for droughts and floods, reduce the risk of wildfires, protect the dunes and wetlands that pull double duty as green space and as natural storm barriers. And we’ll also open our climate data and NASA climate imagery to the public, to make sure that cities and states assess risk under different climate scenarios, so that we don’t waste money building structures that don’t withstand the next storm.
So that’s what my administration will do to support the work already underway across America, not only to cut carbon pollution, but also to protect ourselves from climate change. But as I think everybody here understands, no nation can solve this challenge alone — not even one as powerful as ours. And that’s why the final part of our plan calls on America to lead — lead international efforts to combat a changing climate.
And make no mistake — the world still looks to America to lead. When I spoke to young people in Turkey a few years ago, the first question I got wasn’t about the challenges that part of the world faces. It was about the climate challenge that we all face, and America’s role in addressing it. And it was a fair question, because as the world’s largest economy and second-largest carbon emitter, as a country with unsurpassed ability to drive innovation and scientific breakthroughs, as the country that people around the world continue to look to in times of crisis, we’ve got a vital role to play. We can’t stand on the sidelines. We’ve got a unique responsibility. And the steps that I’ve outlined today prove that we’re willing to meet that responsibility.
Though all America’s carbon pollution fell last year, global carbon pollution rose to a record high. That’s a problem. Developing countries are using more and more energy, and tens of millions of people entering a global middle class naturally want to buy cars and air-conditioners of their own, just like us. Can’t blame them for that. And when you have conversations with poor countries, they’ll say, well, you went through these stages of development — why can’t we?
But what we also have to recognize is these same countries are also more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than we are. They don’t just have as much to lose, they probably have more to lose.
Developing nations with some of the fastest-rising levels of carbon pollution are going to have to take action to meet this challenge alongside us. They’re watching what we do, but we’ve got to make sure that they’re stepping up to the plate as well. We compete for business with them, but we also share a planet. And we have to all shoulder the responsibility for keeping the planet habitable, or we’re going to suffer the consequences — together.
So to help more countries transitioning to cleaner sources of energy and to help them do it faster, we’re going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas. We’ve mobilized billions of dollars in private capital for clean energy projects around the world.
Today, I’m calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas — (applause) — unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there’s no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity. And I urge other countries to join this effort.
And I’m directing my administration to launch negotiations toward global free trade in environmental goods and services, including clean energy technology, to help more countries skip past the dirty phase of development and join a global low-carbon economy. They don’t have to repeat all the same mistakes that we made.
We’ve also intensified our climate cooperation with major emerging economies like India and Brazil, and China — the world’s largest emitter. So, for example, earlier this month, President Xi of China and I reached an important agreement to jointly phase down our production and consumption of dangerous hydrofluorocarbons, and we intend to take more steps together in the months to come. It will make a difference. It’s a significant step in the reduction of carbon emissions.
And finally, my administration will redouble our efforts to engage our international partners in reaching a new global agreement to reduce carbon pollution through concrete action.
Four years ago, in Copenhagen, every major country agreed, for the first time, to limit carbon pollution by 2020. Two years ago, we decided to forge a new agreement beyond 2020 that would apply to all countries, not just developed countries.
What we need is an agreement that’s ambitious — because that’s what the scale of the challenge demands. We need an inclusive agreement -– because every country has to play its part. And we need an agreement that’s flexible — because different nations have different needs. And if we can come together and get this right, we can define a sustainable future for your generation.
So that’s my plan. The actions I’ve announced today should send a strong signal to the world that America intends to take bold action to reduce carbon pollution. We will continue to lead by the power of our example, because that’s what the United States of America has always done.
I am convinced this is the fight America can, and will, lead in the 21st century. And I’m convinced this is a fight that America must lead. But it will require all of us to do our part. We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, and we’ll need farmers to grow new fuels. We’ll need engineers to devise new technologies, and we’ll need businesses to make and sell those technologies. We’ll need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components, but we’ll also need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a new clean energy era.
We’re going to need to give special care to people and communities that are unsettled by this transition — not just here in the United States but around the world. And those of us in positions of responsibility, we’ll need to be less concerned with the judgment of special interests and well-connected donors, and more concerned with the judgment of posterity. Because you and your children, and your children’s children, will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.
As I said before, climate change has become a partisan issue, but it hasn’t always been. It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans led the way on new and innovative policies to tackle these issues. Richard Nixon opened the EPA. George H.W. Bush declared — first U.S. President to declare — “human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and unprecedented ways.” Someone who never shies away from a challenge, John McCain, introduced a market-based cap-and-trade bill to slow carbon pollution.
The woman that I’ve chosen to head up the EPA, Gina McCarthy, she’s worked — (applause) — she’s terrific. Gina has worked for the EPA in my administration, but she’s also worked for five Republican governors. She’s got a long track record of working with industry and business leaders to forge common-sense solutions. Unfortunately, she’s being held up in the Senate. She’s been held up for months, forced to jump through hoops no Cabinet nominee should ever have to –- not because she lacks qualifications, but because there are too many in the Republican Party right now who think that the Environmental Protection Agency has no business protecting our environment from carbon pollution. The Senate should confirm her without any further obstruction or delay. But more broadly, we’ve got to move beyond partisan politics on this issue. I want to be clear — I am willing to work with anybody –- Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians, greens -– anybody — to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas, maybe better ideas, to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth.
Nobody has a monopoly on what is a very hard problem, but I don’t have much patience for anyone who denies that this challenge is real. We don’t have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society. Sticking your head in the sand might make you feel safer, but it’s not going to protect you from the coming storm. And ultimately, we will be judged as a people, and as a society, and as a country on where we go from here.
Our founders believed that those of us in positions of power are elected not just to serve as custodians of the present, but as caretakers of the future. And they charged us to make decisions with an eye on a longer horizon than the arc of our own political careers. That’s what the American people expect. That’s what they deserve.
And someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safer, more stable world? And I want to be able to say, yes, we did. Don’t you want that?
Americans are not a people who look backwards; we’re a people who look forward. We’re not a people who fear what the future holds; we shape it. What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands.
Understand this is not just a job for politicians. So I’m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends. Tell them what’s at stake. Speak up at town halls, church groups, PTA meetings. Push back on misinformation. Speak up for the facts. Broaden the circle of those who are willing to stand up for our future.
Convince those in power to reduce our carbon pollution. Push your own communities to adopt smarter practices. Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth. And remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the ravages of climate change is a prerequisite for your vote. Make yourself heard on this issue.
I understand the politics will be tough. The challenge we must accept will not reward us with a clear moment of victory. There’s no gathering army to defeat. There’s no peace treaty to sign. When President Kennedy said we’d go to the moon within the decade, we knew we’d build a spaceship and we’d meet the goal. Our progress here will be measured differently — in crises averted, in a planet preserved. But can we imagine a more worthy goal? For while we may not live to see the full realization of our ambition, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the world we leave to our children will be better off for what we did.
“It makes you realize,” that astronaut said all those years ago, “just what you have back there on Earth.” And that image in the photograph, that bright blue ball rising over the moon’s surface, containing everything we hold dear — the laughter of children, a quiet sunset, all the hopes and dreams of posterity — that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. And if we remember that, I’m absolutely sure we’ll succeed.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.
In his annual address to the state of New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) raised an urgent alarm about climate change in the wake of the Superstorm Sandy. “Climate change is real,” he said. “It is denial to say each of these situations is a once-in-a-lifetime. There is a 100-year flood every two years now. It is inarguable that the sea is warmer and there is a changing weather pattern, and the time to act is now.”
President Barack Obama avoided such language in the days after Sandy struck. Obama’s second inaugural address is January 19, 2013.
2008: FIRST MCCAIN-OBAMA DEBATE
MCCAIN: Nuclear power is not only important as far as eliminating our dependence on foreign oil but it’s also responsibility as far as climate change is concerned. An issue I have been involved in for many, many years and I’m proud of the work of the work that I’ve done there along with Senator Clinton.
OBAMA: Over 26 years, Senator McCain voted 23 times against alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel. And so we — we — we’ve got to walk the walk and not just talk the talk when it comes to energy independence, because this is probably going to be just as vital for our economy and the pain that people are feeling at the pump — and, you know, winter’s coming and home heating oil — as it is our national security and the issue of climate change that’s so important.
SECOND MCCAIN-OBAMA DEBATE
QUESTION: Senator McCain, I want to know, we saw that Congress moved pretty fast in the face of an economic crisis. I want to know what you would do within the first two years to make sure that Congress moves fast as far as environmental issues, like climate change and green jobs?
MCCAIN: Well, thank you. Look, we are in tough economic times; we all know that. And let’s keep — never forget the struggle that Americans are in today. But when we can — when we have an issue that we may hand our children and our grandchildren a damaged planet, I have disagreed strongly with the Bush administration on this issue. I traveled all over the world looking at the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, Joe Lieberman and I. And I introduced the first legislation, and we forced votes on it. That’s the good news, my friends. The bad news is we lost. But we kept the debate going, and we kept this issue to — to posing to Americans the danger that climate change opposes. Now, how — what’s — what’s the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. Senator Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that. Look, I — I was on Navy ships that had nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is safe, and it’s clean, and it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. And — and I know that we can reprocess the spent nuclear fuel. The Japanese, the British, the French do it. And we can do it, too. Senator Obama has opposed that. We can move forward, and clean up our climate, and develop green technologies, and alternate — alternative energies for — for hybrid, for hydrogen, for battery-powered cars, so that we can clean up our environment and at the same time get our economy going by creating millions of jobs. We can do that, we as Americans, because we’re the best innovators, we’re the best producers, and 95 percent of the people who are our market live outside of the United States of America.
BROKAW: Senator Obama?
OBAMA: This is one of the biggest challenges of our times.
OBAMA: And it is absolutely critical that we understand this is not just a challenge, it’s an opportunity, because if we create a new energy economy, we can create five million new jobs, easily, here in the United States. It can be an engine that drives us into the future the same way the computer was the engine for economic growth over the last couple of decades. And we can do it, but we’re going to have to make an investment. The same way the computer was originally invented by a bunch of government scientists who were trying to figure out, for defense purposes, how to communicate, we’ve got to understand that this is a national security issue, as well. And that’s why we’ve got to make some investments and I’ve called for investments in solar, wind, geothermal. Contrary to what Senator McCain keeps on saying, I favor nuclear power as one component of our overall energy mix. But this is another example where I think it is important to look at the record. Senator McCain and I actually agree on something. He said a while back that the big problem with energy is that for 30 years, politicians in Washington haven’t done anything. What Senator McCain doesn’t mention is he’s been there 26 of them. And during that time, he voted 23 times against alternative fuels, 23 times. So it’s easy to talk about this stuff during a campaign, but it’s important for us to understand that it requires a sustained effort from the next president. One last point I want to make on energy. Senator McCain talks a lot about drilling, and that’s important, but we have three percent of the world’s oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil. So what that means is that we can’t simply drill our way out of the problem. And we’re not going to be able to deal with the climate crisis if our only solution is to use more fossil fuels that create global warming. We’re going to have to come up with alternatives, and that means that the United States government is working with the private sector to fund the kind of innovation that we can then export to countries like China that also need energy and are setting up one coal power plant a week. We’ve got to make sure that we’re giving them the energy that they need or helping them to create the energy that they need.
THIRD MCCAIN-OBAMA DEBATE
SCHIEFFER: Let’s go to — let’s go to a new topic. We’re running a little behind. Let’s talk about energy and climate control. Every president since Nixon has said what both of you…
MCCAIN: Climate change.
SCHIEFFER: Climate change, yes — has said what both of you have said, and, that is, we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. When Nixon said it, we imported from 17 to 34 percent of our foreign oil. Now, we’re importing more than 60 percent. Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term? And I believe the first question goes to you, Senator McCain. MCCAIN: I believe we can, for all intents and purposes, eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil. Canadian oil is fine. By the way, when Senator Obama said he would unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadians said, “Yes, and we’ll sell our oil to China.” You don’t tell countries you’re going to unilaterally renegotiate agreements with them. We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear plants, power plants, right away. We can store and we can reprocess. Senator Obama will tell you, in the — as the extreme environmentalists do, it has to be safe. Look, we’ve sailed Navy ships around the world for 60 years with nuclear power plants on them. We can store and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Senator Obama, no problem. So the point is with nuclear power, with wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, clean coal technology is key in the heartland of America that’s hurting rather badly. So I think we can easily, within seven, eight, ten years, if we put our minds to it, we can eliminate our dependence on the places in the world that harm our national security if we don’t achieve our independence.
SCHIEFFER: All right. Can we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and by how much in the first term, in four years?
OBAMA: I think that in ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela. I think that’s about a realistic timeframe. And this is the most important issue that our future economy is going to face. Obviously, we’ve got an immediate crisis right now. But nothing is more important than us no longer borrowing $700 billion or more from China and sending it to Saudi Arabia. It’s mortgaging our children’s future. Now, from the start of this campaign, I’ve identified this as one of my top priorities and here is what I think we have to do. Number one, we do need to expand domestic production and that means, for example, telling the oil companies the 68 million acres that they currently have leased that they’re not drilling, use them or lose them. And I think that we should look at offshore drilling and implement it in a way that allows us to get some additional oil. But understand, we only have three to four percent of the world’s oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil, which means that we can’t drill our way out of the problem. That’s why I’ve focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. These have been priorities of mine since I got to the Senate, and it is absolutely critical that we develop a high fuel efficient car that’s built not in Japan and not in South Korea, but built here in the United States of America. We invented the auto industry and the fact that we have fallen so far behind is something that we have to work on.
OBAMA: Now I just want to make one last point because Senator McCain mentioned NAFTA and the issue of trade and that actually bears on this issue. I believe in free trade. But I also believe that for far too long, certainly during the course of the Bush administration with the support of Senator McCain, the attitude has been that any trade agreement is a good trade agreement. And NAFTA doesn’t have — did not have enforceable labor agreements and environmental agreements. And what I said was we should include those and make them enforceable. In the same way that we should enforce rules against China manipulating its currency to make our exports more expensive and their exports to us cheaper. And when it comes to South Korea, we’ve got a trade agreement up right now, they are sending hundreds of thousands of South Korean cars into the United States. That’s all good. We can only get 4,000 to 5,000 into South Korea. That is not free trade. We’ve got to have a president who is going to be advocating on behalf of American businesses and American workers and I make no apology for that.
OCTOBER 2, 2008 BIDEN-PALIN VP DEBATE
IFILL: Governor, I’m happy to talk to you in this next section about energy issues. Let’s talk about climate change. What is true and what is false about what we have heard, read, discussed, debated about the causes of climate change?
PALIN: Yes. Well, as the nation’s only Arctic state and being the governor of that state, Alaska feels and sees impacts of climate change more so than any other state. And we know that it’s real. I’m not one to attribute every man — activity of man to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man’s activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet. But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don’t want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts? We have got to clean up this planet. We have got to encourage other nations also to come along with us with the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that. As governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change sub-cabinet to start dealing with the impacts. We’ve got to reduce emissions. John McCain is right there with an “all of the above” approach to deal with climate change impacts. We’ve got to become energy independent for that reason. Also as we rely more and more on other countries that don’t care as much about the climate as we do, we’re allowing them to produce and to emit and even pollute more than America would ever stand for. So even in dealing with climate change, it’s all the more reason that we have an “all of the above” approach, tapping into alternative sources of energy and conserving fuel, conserving our petroleum products and our hydrocarbons so that we can clean up this planet and deal with climate change.
IFILL: Senator, what is true and what is false about the causes?
BIDEN: Well, I think it is manmade. I think it’s clearly manmade. And, look, this probably explains the biggest fundamental difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden — Governor Palin and Joe Biden. If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That’s the cause. That’s why the polar icecap is melting. Now, let’s look at the facts. We have 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. We consume 25 percent of the oil in the world. John McCain has voted 20 times in the last decade-and-a-half against funding alternative energy sources, clean energy sources, wind, solar, biofuels. The way in which we can stop the greenhouse gases from emitting. We believe — Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it. China is building one to three new coal-fired plants burning dirty coal per week. It’s polluting not only the atmosphere but the West Coast of the United States. We should export the technology by investing in clean coal technology. We should be creating jobs. John McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources and thinks, I guess, the only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must, but it will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that are going to begun to be drilled. In the meantime, we’re all going to be in real trouble.
IFILL: Let me clear something up, Senator McCain has said he supports caps on carbon emissions. Senator Obama has said he supports clean coal technology, which I don’t believe you’ve always supported.
BIDEN: I have always supported it. That’s a fact.
IFILL: Well, clear it up for us, both of you, and start with Governor Palin.
PALIN: Yes, Senator McCain does support this. The chant is “drill, baby, drill.” And that’s what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into. They know that even in my own energy-producing state we have billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas. And we’re building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline which is North America’s largest and most you expensive infrastructure project ever to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets. Barack Obama and Senator Biden, you’ve said no to everything in trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis that we’re in. You even called drilling — safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore as raping the outer continental shelf. There — with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land, it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that. But also in that “all of the above” approach that Senator McCain supports, the alternative fuels will be tapped into: the nuclear, the clean coal. I was surprised to hear you mention that because you had said that there isn’t anything — such a thing as clean coal. And I think you said it in a rope line, too, at one of your rallies.
IFILL: We do need to keep within our two minutes. But I just wanted to ask you, do you support capping carbon emissions?
PALIN: I do. I do.
IFILL: OK. And on the clean coal issue?
BIDEN: Absolutely. Absolutely we do. We call for setting hard targets, number one…
IFILL: Clean coal.
BIDEN: Oh, I’m sorry.
IFILL: On clean coal.
BIDEN: Oh, on clean coal. My record, just take a look at the record. My record for 25 years has supported clean coal technology. A comment made in a rope line was taken out of context. I was talking about exporting that technology to China so when they burn their dirty coal, it won’t be as dirty, it will be clean. But here’s the bottom line, Gwen: How do we deal with global warming with continued addition to carbon emissions? And if the only answer you have is oil, and John — and the governor says John is for everything. Well, why did John vote 20 times? Maybe he’s for everything as long as it’s not helped forward by the government. Maybe he’s for everything if the free market takes care of it. I don’t know. But he voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources.
OCTOBER 8, 2004 KERRY-BUSH SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE – TOWNHALL STYLE
HUBB: Mr. President, how would you rate yourself as an environmentalist? What specifically has your administration done to improve the condition of our nation’s air and water supply?
BUSH: Off-road diesel engines — we have reached an agreement to reduce pollution from off-road diesel engines by 90 percent. I’ve got a plan to increase the wetlands by 3 million. We’ve got an aggressive brown field program to refurbish inner-city sore spots to useful pieces of property. I proposed to the United States Congress a Clear Skies Initiative to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by 70 percent. I have — was fought for a very strong title in the farm bill for the conservation reserve program to set aside millions of acres of land to help improve wildlife and the habitat. We proposed and passed a healthy forest bill which was essential to working with — particularly in Western states — to make sure that our forests were protected. What happens in those forests, because of lousy federal policy, is they grow to be — they are not — they’re not harvested. They’re not taken care of. And as a result, they’re like tinderboxes. And over the last summers I’ve flown over there. And so, this is a reasonable policy to protect old stands of trees and at the same time make sure our forests aren’t vulnerable to the forest fires that have destroyed acres after acres in the West. We’ve got a good, common-sense policy. Now, I’m going to tell you what I really think is going to happen over time is technology is going to change the way we live for the good for the environment. That’s why I proposed a hydrogen automobile — hydrogen-generated automobile. We’re spending $1 billion to come up with the technologies to do that. That’s why I’m a big proponent of clean coal technology, to make sure we can use coal but in a clean way. I guess you’d say I’m a good steward of the land. The quality of the air’s cleaner since I’ve been the president. Fewer water complaints since I’ve been the president. More land being restored since I’ve been the president. Thank you for your question.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, minute and a half.
KERRY: Boy, to listen to that — the president, I don’t think, is living in a world of reality with respect to the environment. Now, if you’re a Red Sox fan, that’s OK. But if you’re a president, it’s not. Let me just say to you, number one, don’t throw the labels around. Labels don’t mean anything. I supported welfare reform. I led the fight to put 100,000 cops on the streets of America. I’ve been for faith-based initiatives helping to intervene in the lives of young children for years. I was — broke with my party in 1985, one of the first three Democrats to fight for a balanced budget when it was heresy. Labels don’t fit, ladies and gentlemen. Now, when it comes to the issue of the environment, this is one of the worst administrations in modern history. The Clear Skies bill that he just talked about, it’s one of those Orwellian names you pull out of the sky, slap it onto something, like “No Child Left Behind” but you leave millions of children behind. Here they’re leaving the skies and the environment behind. If they just left the Clean Air Act all alone the way it is today, no change, the air would be cleaner than it is if you pass the Clear Skies act. We’re going backwards. In fact, his environmental enforcement chief air-quality person at the EPA resigned in protest over what they’re doing to what they are calling the new source performance standards for air quality. They’re going backwards on the definition for wetlands. They’re going backwards on the water quality. They pulled out of the global warming, declared it dead, didn’t even accept the science. I’m going to be a president who believes in science.
GIBSON: Mr. President?
BUSH: Well, had we joined the Kyoto treaty, which I guess he’s referring to, it would have cost America a lot of jobs. It’s one of these deals where, in order to be popular in the halls of Europe, you sign a treaty. But I thought it would cost a lot — I think there’s a better way to do it. And I just told you the facts, sir. The quality of the air is cleaner since I’ve been the president of the United States. And we’ll continue to spend money on research and development, because I truly believe that’s the way to get from how we live today to being able to live a standard of living that we’re accustomed to and being able to protect our environment better, the use of technologies.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
KERRY: The fact is that the Kyoto treaty was flawed. I was in Kyoto, and I was part of that. I know what happened. But this president didn’t try to fix it. He just declared it dead, ladies and gentlemen, and we walked away from the work of 160 nations over 10 years. You wonder, Nikki, why it is that people don’t like us in some parts of the world. You just say: Hey, we don’t agree with you. Goodbye. The president’s done nothing to try to fix it. I will.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2004 KERRY-BUSH DEBATE
KERRY: You don’t help yourself with other nations when you turn away from the global warming treaty, for instance, or when you refuse to deal at length with the United Nations. …. What I worry about with the president is that he’s not acknowledging what’s on the ground, he’s not acknowledging the realities of North Korea, he’s not acknowledging the truth of the science of stem-cell research or of global warming and other issues.
OCTOBER 11, 2000 BUSH-GORE SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
MODERATOR: New question, new subject. Vice President Gore, on the environment. In your 1992 book you said, quote, “We must make the rescue of our environment the central organizing principle for civilization and there must be a wrenching transformation to save the planet.” Do you still feel that way?
GORE: I do. I think that in this 21st century we will soon see the consequences of what’s called global warming. There was a study just a few weeks ago suggesting that in summertime the north polar ice cap will be completely gone in 50 years. Already many people see the strange weather conditions that the old timers say they’ve never seen before in their lifetimes. And what’s happening is the level of pollution is increasing significantly. Now, here is the good news, Jim. If we take the leadership role and build the new technologies, like the new kinds of cars and trucks that Detroit is itching to build, then we can create millions of good new jobs by being first into the market with these new kinds of cars and trucks and other kinds of technologies. You know the Japanese are breathing down our necks on this. They’re moving very rapidly because they know that it is a fast-growing world market. Some of these other countries, particularly in the developing world, their pollution is much worse than anywhere else and their people want higher standards of living. And so they’re looking for ways to satisfy their desire for a better life and still reduce pollution at the same time. I think that holding onto the old ways and the old argument that the environment and the economy are in conflict is really outdated. We have to be bold. We have to provide leadership. Now it’s true that we disagree on this. The governor said that he doesn’t think this problem is necessarily caused by people. He’s for letting the oil companies into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Houston has just become the smoggiest city in the country. And Texas is number one in industrial pollution. We have a very different outlook. And I’ll tell you this, I will fight for a clean environment in ways that strengthen our economy.
BUSH: Well, let me start with Texas. We are a big industrial state. We reduced our industrial waste by 11%. We cleaned up more brown fields than any other administration in my state’s history, 450 of them. Our water is cleaner now.
MODERATOR: Explain what a brown field is to those who don’t follow this.
BUSH: A brown field is an abandoned industrial site that just sits idle in some of our urban centers. And people are willing to invest capital in the brown fields don’t want to do so for fear of lawsuit. I think we ought to have federal liability protection, depending upon whether or not standards have been met. The book you mentioned that Vice President Gore wrote, he also called for taxing — big energy taxes in order to clean up the environment. And now that the energy prices are high, I guess he’s not advocating those big energy taxes right now. I believe we ought to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund to — with half the money going to states so states can make the right decisions for environmental quality. I think we need to have clean coal technologies. I propose $2 billion worth. By the way, I just found out the other day an interesting fact, that there is a national petroleum reserve right next to — in Prudhoe Bay that your administration opened up for exploration in that pristine area. And it was a smart move because there’s gas reserves up there. We need gas pipelines to bring the gas down. Gas is a clean fuel that we can burn to — we need to make sure that if we decontrol our plants that there’s mandatory — that the plants must conform to clean air standards, the grandfathered plants, that’s what we did in Texas. No excuses. You must conform. In other words, there are practical things we can do. But it starts with working in a collaborative effort with states and local folks. If you own the land, every day is Earth Day. People care a lot about their land and care about their environment. Not all wisdom is in Washington, D.C. on this issue.
MODERATOR: Where do you see the basic difference in very simple terms in two or three sentences between you and the governor on the environment? If a voter wants to make a choice, what is it?
GORE: I’m really strongly committed to clean water and clean air, and cleaning up the new kinds of challenges like global warming. He is right that I’m not in favor of energy taxes. I am in favor of tax cuts to encourage and give incentives for the quicker development of these new kinds of technologies. And let me say again, Detroit is rearing to go on that. We differ on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as I have said. We differ on whether or not pollution controls ought to be voluntary. I don’t think you can — I don’t think you can get results that way. We differ on the kinds of appointments that we would make.
MODERATOR: Would you say it’s a fundamental difference?
GORE: I think it’s a fundamental difference. Let me give you an example.
MODERATOR: Hold on one second.
GORE: Okay, sure.
MODERATOR: We’ve talked about supply. I just want to know for somebody — we’re getting close to the end of our time here. If somebody wanted to vote on the environment, how would you draw the differences, Governor?
BUSH: Well, I don’t believe in command and control out of Washington, D.C. I believe Washington ought to set standards, but again I think we ought to be collaborative at the local levels and I think we ought to work with people at the local levels. And by the way, I just want to make sure — I can’t let him just say something and not correct it. The electric decontrol bill that I fought for and signed in Texas has mandatory emission standards, Mr. Vice President. That’s what we ought to do at the federal level when it comes to grandfathered plants for utilities. I think there’s a difference. I think, for example, take — when they took 40 million acres of land out of circulation without consulting local officials, I thought that was —
MODERATOR: That was out in the west?
BUSH: Out in the west, yeah. And so — on the logging issue. That’s not the way I would have done it. Perhaps some of that land needs to be set aside. But I certainly would have consulted with governors and elected officials before I would have acted unilaterally.
MODERATOR: Would you believe the federal government still has some new rules and new regulations and new laws to pass in the environmental area or do you think —
BUSH: Sure, absolutely, so long as they’re based upon science and they’re reasonable. So long as people have input.
MODERATOR: What about global warming?
BUSH: I think it’s an issue that we need to take very seriously. But I don’t think we know the solution to global warming yet. And I don’t think we’ve got all the facts before we make decisions. I tell you one thing I’m not going to do is I’m not going to let the United States carry the burden for cleaning up the world’s air. Like Kyoto Treaty would have done. China and India were exempted from that treaty. I think we need to be more even-handed, as evidently 99 senators — I think it was 99 senators supported that position.
MODERATOR: Global warming, the Senate did turn it down. I think —
BUSH: 99 to nothing.
GORE: Well, that vote wasn’t exactly — a lot of the supporters of the Kyoto Treaty actually ended up voting for that because the way it was worded. But there’s no doubt there’s a lot of opposition to it in the Senate. I’m not for command and control techniques either. I’m for working with the groups, not just with industry but also with the citizen groups and local communities to control sprawl in ways that the local communities themselves come up with. But I disagree that we don’t know the cause of global warming. I think that we do. It’s pollution, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals that are even more potent, but in smaller quantities, that cause this. Look, the world’s temperature is going up, weather patterns are changing, storms are getting more violent and unpredictable. What are we going to tell our children? I’m a grandfather now. I want to be able to tell my grandson when I’m in my later years that I didn’t turn away from the evidence that showed that we were doing some serious harm. In my faith tradition, it is — it’s written in the book of Matthew, “Where your heart is, there is your treasure also.” And I believe that — that we ought to recognize the value to our children and grandchildren of taking steps that preserve the environment in a way that’s good for them.
BUSH: Yeah, I agree. I just — I think there has been — some of the scientists, I believe, Mr. Vice President, haven’t they been changing their opinion a little bit on global warming? A profound scientist recently made a different —
MODERATOR: Both of you have now violated — excuse me. Both of you have now violated your own rules. Hold that thought.
GORE: I’ve been trying so hard not to.
MODERATOR: I know, I know. But under your alls rules you are not allowed to ask each other a question. I let you do it a moment ago.
MODERATOR: Now you just — twice, sorry. (LAUGHTER)
GORE: That’s an interruption, by the way.
MODERATOR: That’s an interruption, okay. But anyhow, you just did it so now —
BUSH: I’m sorry. I apologize, Mr. Vice President.
MODERATOR: You aren’t allowed to do that either, see? (LAUGHTER) I’m sorry, go ahead and finish your thought. People care about these things I’ve found out.
BUSH: Of course they care about them. Oh, you mean the rules.
MODERATOR: Yeah, right, exactly right. Go ahead.
BUSH: What the heck. I — of course there’s a lot — look, global warming needs to be taken very seriously, and I take it seriously. But science, there’s a lot — there’s differing opinions. And before we react, I think it’s best to have the full accounting, full understanding of what’s taking place. And I think to answer your question, I think both of us care a lot about the environment. We may have different approaches. We may have different approaches in terms of how we deal with local folks. I just cited an example of the administration just unilaterally acting without any input. And I remember you gave a very good answer to New Hampshire about the White Mountains, about how it was important to keep that collaborative effort in place. I feel very strongly the same place. It certainly wasn’t the attitude that took place out west, however.
OCTOBER 9, 1996 KEMP-GORE VP DEBATE
LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, some Democrats have charged that the environment would be in jeopardy if Mr. Kemp and Senator Dole are elected. Do you share that fear?
GORE: I certainly do. Let me first say that. In citing John F. Kennedy’s tax cut in the 1960s, I want to also remind you that Mr. Kemp has pointed out in the past, Bob Dole was in the Congress then. He was one of those who voted against John F. Kennedy’s tax cut. The environment faces dire threats from the kind of legislation that Senator Dole and Speaker Newt Gingrich tried to pass by shutting down the government and attempting to force President Clinton to accept it. They invited the lobbyists for the biggest polluters in America to come into the Congress and literally rewrite the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. President Clinton stopped them dead in their tracks. We have a positive agenda on the environment because we believe very deeply that it’s about our children and our future. Clean air and clean water, cleaning up toxic waste sites, when millions of children live within one mile of them. That’s important. We have a plan to clean up two-thirds of the toxic waste sites in America over the next four years. We’ve already cleaned up more in the last three years than the previous two administrations did in 12. The President just set aside the Utah National Monument. He is protecting the Everglades here in Florida. Bob Dole is opposed to that plan. President Bill Clinton will protect our environment and prevent the kind of attacks on it that we saw in the last Congress and are included in the Republican platform.
KEMP: And so will Bob Dole. I mean, Al, get real. Franklin Roosevelt said in 1932 that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The only thing, Jim, they have to offer is fear. Fear of the environment, fear of the climate, fear of Medicare, fear of Newt, fear of Republicans, fear of Bob, and probably fear of cutting tax rates. They ain’t seen nothing yet. Look, we recognize that this country has to live in balance with our environment. Every one of us who have children and grandchildren recognize how we have to reach a balance. It is not jobs versus our environment. Both are important. This is the most overregulated, overly litigated economy in our nation’s history. And to call a businessman or woman who sits down and has a chance to express his or her interest in how to make these laws work and call them a polluter is just outrageous. It is typical of the anti-capitalistic mentality of this administration. That will change, because we believe in democratic capitalism for everybody.
GORE: There are lots of jobs to be created in cleaning up the environment. All around the world we’re seeing problems that people want to solve because they love their children. They want them to be able to drink clean water and breathe clean air. They don’t want them to live next to toxic waste sites. When the United States of America takes the lead in protecting the environment, we do right by our children, and we also create new business opportunities, new jobs, new sources of prosperity for the United States of America, and we’re going about it in a common sense way.
OCTOBER 13, 1992 GORE-QUAYLE-STOCKDALE VP DEBATE
BRUNO: Okay, I’m not pointing any fingers. Let’s talk about the environment — we’ll get away from controversy. (Laughter) Everyone wants a safe and clean environment, but there’s an ongoing conflict between environmental protection and the need for economic growth and jobs. So the point I throw out on the table is, how do you resolve this conflict between protection of the environment and growth in jobs, and why has it taken so long to deal with basic problems, such as toxic waste dumps, clean air and clean water? And, Vice President Quayle, it’s your turn to start first.
QUAYLE: Hal, that’s a false choice. You don’t have to have a choice between the environment and jobs — you can have both. Look at the president’s record: clean air legislation passed the Democratic Congress because of the leadership of George Bush. It is the most comprehensive clean air act in our history. We are firmly behind preserving our environment, and we have a good record with which to stand. The question comes about: What is going to be their position when it comes to the environment? I say it’s a false choice. You ought to ask somebody in Michigan, a UAW worker in Michigan, if they think increasing the CAFE standards, the fuel economy standards, to 45 miles a gallon is a good idea — 300,000 people out of work. You ought to talk to the timber people in the Northwest where they say that, well, we can only save the owl, forget about jobs. You ought to talk to the coal miners. They’re talking about putting a coal tax on. They’re talking about a tax on utilities, a tax on gasoline and home heating oil — all sorts of taxes. No, Hal, the choice isn’t the environment and jobs. With the right policies — prudent policies — we can have both.
BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale.
STOCKDALE: I read Senator Gore’s book about the environment and I don’t see how he could possibly pay for his proposals in today’s economic climate.
(APPLAUSE) You know, the Marshall Plan of the environment, and so forth. And also, I’m told by some experts that the things that he fears most might not be all that dangerous, according to some scientists. You know, you can overdo, I’m told, environmental cleaning up. If you purify the pond, the water lilies die. You know, I love this planet and I want it to stay here, but I don’t like to have it the private property of fanatics that want to overdo this thing.
BRUNO: Senator Gore.
GORE: Bill Clinton and I believe we can create millions of new jobs by leading the environmental revolution instead of dragging our feet and bringing up the rear. You know, Japan and Germany are both opening proclaiming to the world now that the biggest new market in the history of world business is the market for the new products and technologies that foster economic progress without environmental destruction. Why is the Japanese business organization — the largest one they have, the Ki Den Ren (phonetic), arguing for tougher environmental standards than those embodied in US law? Why is MITI — their trade organization — calling on all Japanese corporations everywhere in the world to exceed by as much as possible the environmental standards of every country in which they’re operating? Well, maybe they’re just dumb about business competition. But maybe they know something that George Bush and Dan Quayle don’t know — that the future will call for greater efficiency and greater environmental efficiency. This is a value an issue that touches my basic values. I’m taught in my religious tradition that we are given dominion over the Earth, but we’re required to be good stewards of the Earth, and that means to take care of it. We’re not doing that now under the Bush-Quayle policies. They have gutted the Clean Air Act. They have broken his pledge to be the environmental president. Bill Clinton and I will change that.
BRUNO: Okay. Discussion period now. Again, leave time for each other, please. Vice President Quayle, go ahead.
QUAYLE: Well, I’m tempted to yield to Admiral Stockdale on this. But I — you know, the fact of the matter is that one of the proposals that Senator Gore has suggested is to have the taxpayers of America spend $100 billion a year on environmental projects in foreign countries —
GORE: That’s not true —
QUAYLE: Foreign aid — well, Senator, it’s in your book. On page 304 —
GORE: No, it’s not.
QUAYLE: It is there.
(APPLAUSE) It is in your book. You know, Hal, I wanted to bring the Gore book tonight, because I figured he was going to pull a Bill Clinton on me and he has. Because he’s going to disavow what’s in his book. It’s in your book —
QUAYLE: It comes out to $100 billion of foreign aid for environmental projects.
BRUNO: All right. Let’s give him a chance to answer.
QUAYLE: Now, how are we going to pay for it? How are we going to pay for an extra $100 billion of the taxpayers’ money for this?
GORE: Dan, I appreciate you reading my book very much, but you’ve got it wrong.
QUAYLE: No, I’ve got it right.
GORE: There’s no such proposal.
QUAYLE: Okay, well, we’ll find —
BRUNO: Let him talk, Mr Vice President. Let the senator talk. Go ahead.
GORE: There is no such proposal. What I have called upon is a cooperative effort by the US and Europe and Asia to work together in opening up new markets throughout the world for the new technologies that are necessary in order to reconcile the imperatives of economic progress with the imperatives of environmental protection. Take Mexico City for an example. They are shutting down factories right now, not because of their economy, but because they’re choking to death on the air pollution. They’re banning automobiles some days of the week. Now what they want is not new laser-guided missile systems. What they want are new engines and new factories and new products that don’t pollute the air and the water, but nevertheless allow them to have a decent standard of living for their people. Last year 35 % of our exports went to developing countries, countries where the population is expanding worldwide by as much as one billion people every ten years. We cannot stick our heads in the sand and pretend that we don’t face a global environmental crisis, nor should we assume that it’s going to cost jobs. Quite the contrary. We are going to be able to create jobs as Japan and Germany are planning to do right now, if we have the guts to leave. Now earlier we heard about the auto industry and the timber industry. There have been 250,000 jobs lost in the automobile industry during the Reagan-Bush-Quayle years. There have been tens of thousands of jobs lost in the timber industry. What they like to do is point the finger of blame with one hand and hand out pink slips with the other hand. They’ve done a poor job both with the economy and the environment.
(APPLAUSE.) It’s time for a change.
BRUNO: Admiral Stockdale, you had something you wanted to say here?
STOCKDALE: I know that — I read where Senator Gore’s mentor had disagree with some of the scientific data that is in his book. How do you respond to those criticisms of that sort? Do you —
QUAYLE: Deny it.
GORE: Well — (Laughter.)
STOCKDALE: Do you take this into account? (Laughter.)
GORE: No, I — let me respond. Thank you, Admiral, for saying that. You’re talking about Roger Revelle. His family wrote a lengthy letter saying how terribly he had been misquoted and had his remarks taken completely out of context just before he died. (Jeers.) He believed up until the day he died — no, it’s true, he died last year —
BRUNO: I’d ask the audience to stop, please.
GORE: — and just before he died, he co- authored an article which was — had statements taken completely out of context. In fact the vast majority of the world’s scientists — and they have worked on this extensively — believe that we must have an effort to face up to the problems we face with the environment. And if we just stick out heads in the sand and pretend that it’s not real, we’re not doing ourselves a favor. Even worse than that, we’re telling our children and all future generations that we weren’t willing to face up to this obligation.
QUAYLE: Hal, can I —
GORE: I believe that we have a mandate —
BRUNO: Sure. We’ve still got time.
GORE: — to try to solve this problem, particularly when we can do it while we create jobs in the process.
BRUNO: Go ahead, Mr. Vice President, there’s still time. Not much, though.
QUAYLE: I know it. We’ve got to have a little equal time here now, Hal. In the book you also suggest taxes on gasoline, taxes on utilities, taxes on carbon, taxes on timber. There’s a whole host of taxes. And I don’t just — I don’t believe raising taxes is the way to solve our environmental problems. And you talk about the bad situation in the auto industry. You seem to say that the answer is, well, I’ll just make it that much worse by increasing the CAFE standards. Yes, the auto industry is hurting, it’s been hurting for a long time, and increasing the CAFE standards to 45 miles per gallon, like you and Bill Clinton are suggesting, will put, as I said, 300,000 people out of work.
OCTOBER 5, 1988: BENTSEN-QUAYLE VP DEBATE
MARGOLIS: Senator, we’ve all just finished – most America has just finished one of the hottest summers it can remember. And apparently this year will be the fifth out of the last nine that are among the hottest on record. No one knows, but most scientists think, that something we’re doing, human beings are doing, are exacerbating this problem, and that this could, in a couple of generations, threaten our descendants comfort and health and perhaps even their existence. As Vice President what would you urge our government to do to deal with this problem? And specifically as a Texan, could you support a substantial reduction in the use of fossil fuels which might be necessary down the road?
BENTSEN: Well, I think what you can do in that one, and which would be very helpful, is to use a lot more natural gas, which burns a lot cleaner. And what Mike Dukakis has said is that he’ll try to break down those regulatory roadblocks that you have in the regulatory agency that denies much of the passage of that natural gas to the northeast, a way, in turn, can fight against acid rain which is another threat, because it’s sterilizing our lakes, it’s killing our fish. And it’s interesting to me to see in the resume of Senator Quayle that he brags on the fact that he’s been able to fight the acid rain legislation. I don’t think that that’s a proper objective in trying to clean up this environment. But the greenhouse effect is one that has to be a threat to all of us, and we have to look for alternative sources of fuel. And I’ve supported that very strongly. The Department of Energy is one that has cut back substantially on the study of those alternative sources of fuels. We can use other things that’ll help the farmer. We can convert corn to ethanol, and I would push for that very strong. So absolutely. I’ll do those things that are necessary to put the environment of our country number one. Because if we don’t protect that, we’ll destroy the future of our children. And we must be committed to trying – to clean up the water, clean up the air, and do everything we can, not only from a research standpoint, but also in the applied legislation to see that that’s carried out.
WOODRUFF: Senator Quayle?
QUAYLE: Vice President George Bush has said that he will take on the environmental problem. He has said further that he will deal with the acid rain legislation and reduce millions of tons of the S02 content. That legislation won’t get through the Congress this year. But it will get through in a George Bush Administration, a George Bush Administration that is committed to the environment. Now the greenhouse effect is an important environmental issue. It is important for us to get the data in, to see what alternatives we might have to the fossil fuels, and make sure we know what we’re doing. And there are some explorations and things that we can consider in this area. The drought highlighted the problem that we have, and therefore, we need to get on with it, and in a George Bush Administration, you can bet that we will.
The two-day conference will bring together stakeholders from across the government, renewable energy industry, and conservation community to discuss the administration’s efforts to rapidly and responsibly stand-up renewable energy projects on our nation’s public lands.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will open the workshop with a roundtable discussion about the Administration’s work to build a clean energy economy. Immediately following the roundtable, the Secretaries will hold a press conference to discuss how President Obama’s tax cuts are encouraging business investment and job creation in wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies.Roundtable Discussion with Secretaries Salazar, Chu, Vilsack
- Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior
- Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
- Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
10:15 a.m. Press Conference
Department of the Interior
1849 C St., NW
Washington, D.C. 20240
All credentialed media are invited to cover the event. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Wonk Room.President Barack Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer he would have fired BP CEO Tony Hayward for his dismissive comments about the foreign oil giant’s Gulf of Mexico disaster. After relating Hayward’s “very big ocean,” “very very modest” and “I’d like my life back” comments, Lauer asked, “He doesn’t work for you, but if he did, would you want him out?” Obama replied that Hayward would be out of a job:
He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements.
Hayward’s dismissive comments are not unusual for BP management—Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg, COO Doug Suttles, BP America President Lamar McKay, and Managing Director Bob Dudley have likewise minimized off the scale of the disaster and the devastation to the United States of America while overselling their failed attempts to stop the oil gusher, which may now be flowing at four million gallons a day.
According to National Incident Commander Thad Allen, Tony Hayward is still actively involved in the oil disaster response, discussing issues regularly with Allen. In addition to the failed efforts to stop the leaks, BP still controls claims processing, environmental contractors on land and sea, volunteer assistance, access to the disaster site, hotlines, and data collection.
From the Wonk Room.Although both immigration and climate reform are top priorities for the Obama administration, White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes said, it is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who “sets the agenda.” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd questioned Barnes Monday morning over the conflict between Reid and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that derailed the expected unveiling of comprehensive climate legislation Monday. Barnes said that energy reform – what President Obama has called one of his “foundational priorities” – is “critical to this country,” while immigration reform is “important.” However, she repeatedly indicated that the responsibility for moving forward lies with Reid:
MELODY BARNES: What the president and administration want is to work with Congress, Republicans and Democrats in Congress to address these big issues. The Senate Majority Leader will make a decision how to go forward. Immigration reform is important. We also know that comprehensive energy reform is critical to this country. We have to get away from reliance on foreign oil. We know we can create clean energy jobs. So both of these are top priorities for this president. We’re going to be working with the Senate.
CHUCK TODD: Can either be signed this year?
BARNES: We’re hoping to move forward with the majority leader as he sets the agenda.
Reid’s staff had leaked to reporters that the majority leader wanted the Senate to consider an immigration bill before climate legislation, a statement that made little sense other than a response to local political pressures. As Graham, who has been the lead Republican on both issues, voiced his displeasure, it seems neither Reid nor the White House reached out to quell his anger. Graham and Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) American Power Act is ready to be unveiled for direct floor consideration, but immigration reform requires “significant committee work that has not yet begun”—as Reid said. President Obama has been keeping his pledge to immigration reform advocates to raise the issue with Republicans like Sen. Scott Brown (D-MA) to get on board with Graham and Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) immigration effort, but the two bills aren’t on the same timetable.
In addition to the fealty of most Republicans to killer fossil industries, Democrats have competing camps on the best pathway to energy action, with senators like Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pushing for alternate strategies to President Obama’s comprehensive climate reform. Reid has waffled on whether he would be willing to risk conflict with Democratic committee chairs by taking climate reform straight to the floor. This potential conflict with senators like agriculture chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and finance chair Max Baucus (D-MT) would likely have to be mediated by the President, even as Graham would have the responsibility of locking down Republican votes other than himself.
TODD: I understand that there’s this idea that everybody here wants to walk and chew gum at the same time but we will know Washington sort of can handle one big issue at a time. Financial reform at some point feels like it’s going to wrap interrupt next couple weeks. It sounds like energy, immigration, can you really expect this town to handle both at the same time or is there going to have to be one over the other?
BARNES: When we walked in the door we inherited big problems. I think what this president has shown is he can handle a number of challenges at the same time.
TODD: Maybe he can but Congress is a different story. We know they have their priorities. I guess what I’m asking, would the White House accept immigration going before energy?
BARNES: What the president and administration want is to work with Congress, Republicans and Democrats in Congress to address these big issues. The Senate Majority Leader will make a decision how to go forward. immigration reform is important. We also know that comprehensive energy reform is critical to this country. We have to get away from reliance on foreign oil. We know we can create clean energy jobs. So both of these are top priorities for this president. We’re going to be working with the Senate.
TODD: Can either be signed this year?
BARNES: We’re hoping to move forward with the majority leader as he sets the agenda.
TODD: If he’s picking immigration, he’s setting the agenda.
BARNES: He’s the majority leader.
In a corporate statement released today, coal company Massey Energy criticized President Barack Obama for saying that “owners responsible for conditions in the Upper Big Branch mine should be held accountable for decisions they made and preventive measures they failed to take.” Massey called the President’s remarks “regrettable,” and say that Mr. Obama “has been misinformed.”
Today’s statements by the White House about the Upper Big Branch tragedy are regrettable. We fear that the President has been misinformed about our record and the mining industry in general.
As to our record, we note that in 2009, under this administration, MSHA presented Massey Energy with three “Sentinels of Safety” Awards – the highest number of such awards ever received by one company in a single year.
There has been criticism regarding the backlog of violations that have been appealed. There have been violations at Upper Big Branch that the Company does not agree with and a number of those violations have been appealed. The percentage of violations appealed at UBB and Massey is similar to that for the industry as a whole.
The enormous backlog of appeals waiting to be heard has been frustrating to all involved. We urge Congress to appropriate the funds necessary to enable this system to work better by helping government regulators to resolve the enormous backlog at MSHA. Regardless of the backlog, however, it’s important to understand that all violations must be fixed and are fixed to the satisfaction of state and federal agencies before mines are allowed to continue operating. Most violations are fixed the same day they are discovered.
Massey believes in safety, accountability and responsibility. We seek the truth in the ongoing investigations and are cooperating with federal and state agencies to determine the cause of the tragic accident at Upper Big Branch Mine. Unfortunately, some are rushing to judgment for political gain or to avoid blame. Our goal is to communicate transparently as the facts unfold.
Today, President Barack Obama discussed the initial findings of an investigation by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Joe Main, and MSHA Administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health Kevin Stricklin:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. On April 5th, the United States suffered the worst mine disaster in more than a generation. Twenty-nine lives were lost. Families have been devastated. Communities have been upended. And during this painful time, all of us are mourning with the people of Montcoal and Whitesville and Naoma and the Coal River Valley. The people of West Virginia are in our prayers.
But we owe them more than prayers. We owe them action. We owe them accountability. We owe them an assurance that when they go to work every day, when they enter that dark mine, they are not alone. They ought to know that behind them there is a company that’s doing what it takes to protect them, and a government that is looking out for their safety.
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, I asked the officials standing with me – Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Joe Main and Kevin Stricklin with the Mine Safety and Health Administration – to lead an investigation into what caused the explosion at Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch mine. I asked them to report back with preliminary findings this week.
We just concluded a meeting, where they briefed me on their investigation. I want to emphasize that this investigation is ongoing, and there’s still a lot that we don’t know. But we do know that this tragedy was triggered by a failure at the Upper Big Branch mine—a failure first and foremost of management, but also a failure of oversight and a failure of laws so riddled with loopholes that they allow unsafe conditions to continue.
So today I’ve directed Secretary Solis, Assistant Secretary Main, and Administrator Stricklin to work closely with state mining officials to press ahead with this investigation—so we can help make sure a disaster like this never happens again. Owners responsible for conditions in the Upper Big Branch mine should be held accountable for decisions they made and preventive measures they failed to take. And I’ve asked Secretary Solis to work with the Justice Department to ensure that every tool in the federal government is available in this investigation.
But this isn’t just about a single mine. It’s about all of our mines. The safety record at the Massey Upper Big Branch mine was troubling. And it’s clear that while there are many responsible companies, far too many mines aren’t doing enough to protect their workers’ safety.
Larry Summers: Nuclear War And Climate Change Are The 'Only Two Ways Mankind Can Affect The Basic Terms Of Life On Earth'
Below is the text of the remarks from Dr. Lawrence Summers, the Director of the White House’s National Economic Council, to the U.S. Energy Information Administration Conference.
A few months before I came into government, my twin daughters completed their course in AP U.S. history at their local high school and I reviewed for their test with them. There were two aspects of that experience that stuck with me as I thought about my objectives in advising President Obama.
The first is that while I, as a macroeconomist, thought of the 1982 recession as a big deal, thought of the inflation of the 1970s as a big deal, thought about the 1987 stock market crash as a big deal, none of them got mentioned in my daughters’ history course.
On the other hand, they spent six weeks on the events of the 1930s.
And the lesson I took away, coming into office a year ago, was that our first priority had to be making sure that a depression was avoided. Making sure that the vicious cycle of deleveraging and contraction that then plagued the economy was first contained and then ultimately reversed. And so this was remembered as a very disturbing economic fluctuation, but not as the kind of depression that defined an era.
And the evidence, I think, suggests that the President has made very substantial progress with that objective.
- Fifteen months ago, a depression did not look unlikely as three-quarters of a million Americans were losing their jobs each month.
- The stock market was, after correcting for inflation, at 1966 levels.
- And the output was declining at 6 percent a quarter.
Today, we have a long way to go, but a 6 percent GDP loss in first quarter gave way to a 6 percent gain in GDP, according to the most recent statistics.
Markets have risen by 75 percent since last March as conditions have substantially normalized.
And while there are special factors and there will be fluctuations, the economy has begun to produce jobs again: 162,000 last month, the largest increase in the number of jobs in three years.
While we have a long way to go in an economy with 9.7 percent unemployment and $1 trillion short of potential, we are at last moving in the right direction.
As we move in the right direction, as this recovery unfolds, as what economists call the left tail of the distribution recedes in likelihood, it becomes essential that
- We think about the renewal of the American economy;
- We think about creating an economy with a stronger foundation for prosperity than the one that we inherited;
- We invest more and consume less;
- We technologically engineer more and we financially engineer less;
- We look to the long view and to the short view less;
- We compete in the global economy and we win.
To do so, in many areas, will require a change in our gestalt. Not the continuation of existing battles and of existing conflicts, but the reformulation of problems in new ways that permit us to cut across old debates and to as a nation move forward.
It is the accomplishment of those tasks of national economic renewal that are what came through again and again as what history remembered in that history course my daughters took.
Whether it was the land grant colleges and intercontinental railroad of President Lincoln, whether it was the Sherman Act and national parks and much more of President Theodore Roosevelt, whether it was the expansion of the concept of protection so as to save the market economy from itself with Social Security and unemployment insurance and deposit insurance of President Franklin Roosevelt, ultimately the most historically memorable accomplishments are those which renew our market system, which approach problems in different ways, and extend our efforts to create a more stable and more durable and more secure prosperity.
And it is that across a range of areas that will, I believe, define President Obama’s presidency when its history is written.
That was the motivation for the President’s historic battle for comprehensive health reform.
That was the motivation and is the continuing motivation for our efforts to insist that we rebuild our financial system and particularly the way in which it is regulated on a much more secure foundation after all the crises of the last generation.
And it is this approach of a new gestalt, a new view, a new paradigm, and a commitment to renewal that I believe needs to shape our approach to energy policy going forward.
To be sure, energy policy is about much more than economics.
There are only two ways in which mankind can affect the basic terms of life on earth on a planetary scale. One is what happens with respect to nuclear weapons. That’s outside my sphere, but in Prague later this week and in Washington next week we are making substantial progress with respect to the challenge of nuclear weapons.
The other, of course, is with respect to global climate change, where it is an imperative for this planet that we act so as to reduce the risks that current science points up.
Equally, it is imperative that we address the consequences of excessive dependence on oil for our national security. Our dependence on government-controlled oil supplies from the most politically fragile parts of the world represents a serious national security concern. And it’s one that at long last we have to address.
There are others who will speak at this conference who can speak more knowledgeably to those two challenges than I can. So I want to address the rest of my remarks to the relationship between our energy strategy and our broadest economic objectives.
What do I mean when I say reformulate our national energy policy base?
You know, we’ve been talking about the need for national energy policy strategies and the like, probably since the founding of the republic, but certainly with very great frequency and in every presidential campaign since the first energy shock of 1973. Nearly 40 years. And the debate, frankly, has fallen into a series of ruts.
- Is it going to be energy efficiency and conservation, or is it going to be increased exploration?
- Are we going to focus on renewable power, or are we going to focus nuclear power?
- Is our central objective environmental protection, or is our central objective economic progress? * Is our focus the profits for producers, or is it the costs for consumers?
I could give more examples. Those debates have their place and they have illuminated tradeoffs that policymakers ignore at their peril.
But I would say to you that if ever there was an issue where we needed to move from “either/or” to “both/and,” that it is energy.
Instead of debating the relative importance of the priorities of different camps on the left and on the right, of the Southwest and of those in New England, of those oriented to the economy or those oriented to the environment, instead we have the opportunity to move forward by embracing the priorities of multiple groups, by taking an eclectic approach to forming a new energy policy.
For this much is clear from the record of four decades when emissions have gone up, when dependence has increased, and when our goals again and again have not been met.
Which, I ask you, has greater danger going forward: that we will, in the name of comprehensive energy policy somehow do too much that will affect energy markets by encouraging efficiency or encouraging exploration, or that we will again miss the opportunity, that we will again not act strongly enough with respect to a gathering storm?
Read the history of great nations. Read how they succeed and read how they fail. Their ability to mobilize to solve problems before they are absolutely imminent crises is what determines their longevity. That’s why this task of economic renewal is so important broadly. And that’s why I believe it is so important that we move for economic reasons to pass comprehensive energy legislation.
I believe comprehensive energy legislation can contribute to our prosperity in five ways.
First, it will raise demand and create jobs.Under the Recovery Act:
- We will double the renewable energy capacity over the next three years.
- We will make critical investments in transformative technology.
- We will enhance the energy efficiency of federal buildings by 75%.
What better time is it to make these kinds of investments than now, when we have substantial unemployed resources?
And we are making them in the way that is most cost effective in terms of creating demand to a significant extent. If the government spends a dollar, that is a dollar of demand. If the government lends a dollar with a 10 percent credit subsidy because it is likely to be paid back, then the cost to the government is 10 cents, but the extra demand created can be a dollar before you even get to its multiplier effect as it reverberates through the economy.
That is why it’s so important that at a moment when credit markets are having their difficulties, albeit reduced difficulties, the Recovery Act has made significant credit available to support up to $40 billion in renewable energy and transmission.
Support for energy investment that creates demand and puts people back to work at a time of unemployed resources and excess capacity is the first way that energy policy strengths our economy.
Second, comprehensive energy legislation will reduce uncertainty and increase confidence. The cheapest stimulus program in the world is enhanced confidence.
I first met Ben Bernanke 35 years ago, when we were both graduate students in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His PhD thesis was an important part around exactly this point. He studied the question of the impact of uncertainty on investment. His example, when he talked about his work, was a boiler.
- If you knew the price of energy was going to be high, you’d be one kind of boiler.
- If you knew the price of energy was going to be low, you’d be another kind of boiler.
- If you didn’t know what the price of energy was going to be, you’d stick with your existing boiler for another year, waiting to see what was going to happen to the price of energy.
Until we pass comprehensive energy legislation, that is exactly what we are doing. We are creating an environment in which there is no certainty for someone building a new power plant.
There is no certainty for someone making the commitment to an industrial production process.
There is no certainty for someone thinking about the generation of automobile models after the current generation of automobile models, five or ten years out.
Clarity brings certainty, certainty brings confidence, and that is what moves the economy forward.
I would also say to you also that uncertainty is not just about our own future policy. Look at the full range of the distribution of oil prices as you can infer from options. As long as we are as dependent on foreign oil as we now are, there is a substantial uncertainty about the range of outcomes, and that too discourages investment, reduces confidence, and slows our economy relative to what we could have achieved.
Third, comprehensive energy legislation will reduce reliance on heavy-handed regulation and increase reliance on market forces.
This is true in our country and this is true around the world.
You know, the first rule of holes is that when you’re in a hole, you should stop digging. In that spirit, the first principle of rational energy policy is that when a fuel is associated with all kinds of what we economists call externalities, pollution locally, carbon dioxide globally, national security risks associate with importation, it is a bad idea to subsidize it.
Yet around the world, fossil fuel subsidies exceed $300 billion a year – $300 billion a year – and account for 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
I think there’s a chance that when the history is written the most important thing that happened in the last year was the agreement by the G20 countries that contain the vast majority of the world’s GDP to eliminate over time their energy subsidies. It doesn’t go far enough – ultimately the price of carbon is going to have to rise – but an elimination of those $300 billion of energy subsidies is a substantial step forward towards allowing market forces to operate in the energy arena.
It’s not just eliminating subsidies in other countries. It’s what we do here. Now I’m an economist, so I’m a bit of an evangelist for markets. But anyone who thinks about our energy policy debates has to be impressed by the record of the smaller-scale, because this is a smaller-scale issue, but similarly designed sulfur oxide program in the United States.
Many thought it was too hard to introduce a market. Many thought that the right answer was command-and-control legislation. But the fact is that by 2000 sulfur dioxide pollution had fallen nearly below 30 percent below 1990 levels, and the cost was a relatively small fraction of what everybody expected in 1990.
We are going to regulate fossil fuel emissions in the future. Much better than we do it with market based mechanisms than enable those who can economize most cheaply to be the ones who economize.
Allowing market forces to operate is the third reason why this is so important.
Adding flexibility for the private sector will be particularly important with respect to ensuring that we take advantage of the vast increase in our potential natural gas supplies that has been identified over the past several years.
Fourth, the right energy legislation will support what is for the very long run most important for our economy, which is our leadership in innovation.
If what’s true in the short run is that what determines how many people are working is how much demand there is for the products they’re willing to produce, what determines our standard of living in the long run is how productive we are. And that depends on our ability to innovate and bring those innovations to market.
In the nineteenth century, the technologies that reverberated across the economy included the transcontinental railroad, the telegraph, and the steam engine.
In the twentieth, it was the automobile, the jet plane, and, over the last generation, everything associated with information technology.
We can’t know exactly what the next defining innovation will be. It will come in multiple, different sectors. Each one of these technologies has their own story.
But think about maximizing potential and minimizing risk for our country.
Should we not seek to assure our leadership in energy and environmental technology, given their stake in some of the largest problems facing the planet?
That’s why the President’s energy agenda is directed at strengthening the economic ecology that has been so crucial for America’s prosperity – an educated workforce, a fluid environment that stimulates entrepreneurship.
When you think about the strengths and weaknesses of our country, never forget this: we are the only country in the world where, if you have a sufficiently good idea, you can raise your first $100 million dollars before you buy your first suit. That is, and that has been, a crucial feature of our country, and it is something we have to perpetuate.
Enacting comprehensive energy legislation will help our country move down the technological learning curves in key sectors associated with energy efficiency, associated with battery technology, associated with renewables, that will be economically important in the years ahead.
Finally, the emphasis on innovation is tied to my fifth and last point. Comprehensive energy legislation will strengthen our international competitive position. The twentieth century was an American century for many reasons. The size and scale of our country. The quality of our democracy. But I would say to you that it also had to do with our leadership in key science and technology.
The twentieth century was a century of physics. The atomic bomb, the nuclear reactor, the computer, the silicon chip, the transistor, the Internet. We led in all those technologies, and that was crucial to why we led the world.
No one knows exactly what will define leadership in the twenty-first century, but I would suggest to you that making sure that we lead as a developer of the technology is crucial.
I would suggest something else to you. Producers need markets. We are the largest economy in the world. If we use the fact that we are the largest economy in the world, and we will be for a good long time, to ensure that we are also the world’s largest market for innovative energy technology in every sphere, that will create a virtuous circle of innovation and adoption, adoption and innovation, that can be a very substantial source for our country in the new century.
Ultimately, economic policy choices, like investment decisions for a family, involve seeking opportunity and involve minimizing risk.
If you think about the risks to our ecology, the risks to our security, we minimize those risks with comprehensive energy policy.
And if you think about the opportunity to lead in what is really important, we maximize that opportunity with comprehensive energy legislation.
That’s why energy is so crucial a part of President Obama’s economic strategy.
Thank you very much.
Today, President Barack Obama announced a sweeping new offshore drilling policy, opening “vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling” for the first time. This plan would also restore the ban on drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. White House officials “pitched the changes as ways to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil and create jobs,” the Associated Press reports. For years, Obama has explained that new offshore drilling would not “reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil” :
“The days of running a 21st century economy on a 20th century fossil fuel are numbered – and we need to realize that before it’s too late.”
“The truth is, an oil future is not a secure future for America.”
“We could open up every square inch of America to drilling and we still wouldn’t even make a dent in our oil dependency.” 9/15/05
“It would be nice if we could produce our way out of this problem, but it’s just not possible.” 2/28/06
“Instead of making tough political decisions about how to reduce our insatiable demand for oil, this bill continues to lull the American people into thinking that we can drill our way out of our energy problems. ” 8/1/06
“Now is the time to end this addiction, and to understand that drilling is a stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution. Not even close.” 8/28/08
In the beginning of August 2008, as Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future (ASWF) “Drill Here, Drill Now” campaign overlapped the presidential campaign, and oil and gas prices were skyrocketing to record levels, Obama abandoned his “blanket opposition to expanded offshore drilling,” saying that he would be willing “to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage” in order to get Republican votes for comprehensive climate and energy reform.
In 2005 and 2006, Obama talked about the “tough decisions” of “how to reduce our insatiable demand for oil” and “investing in more hybrids and renewable energy sources, raising CAFE standards and helping our auto industry transition to a fuel-efficient future,” instead of drilling. In his State of the Union speech in 2010, in contrast, Obama said that “clean energy jobs” means “making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.”
Conservatives are treating the announcement with disdain— ASWF said the president’s plan “is likely to be an attempt by Obama to seduce the public (into) believing that he will do something in the future on offshore drilling,” but amounts to little more than window-dressing. Americans for Prosperity vice president Phil Kerpen commented that “the idea that this is a big concession in exchange for which Congress should jumpstart climate legislation is ridiculous.”