Posts tagged ‘Obama’

Oil spill seen as energy opportunity for Obama

Some environmentalists and liberal lawmakers believe the BP oil spill has handed President Obama a significant political opportunity to renew his stalled energy and climate bill, and are urging him to push for sweeping legislation to move the country away from reliance on oil and other fossil fuels.

An oil boom stretches across an opening in Lake Eloie near Shell Beach, La.

“He needs a response which is as big as the spill is,” said Wesley Warren, program director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington.

The climate bill that White House officials have been negotiating called for limited greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, transportation fuels and eventually factories. It included large incentives for drilling offshore, nuclear power plant construction and so-called “clean-coal” technology. It also would have required set levels of renewable electricity use nationwide. The bill included several sweeteners to minimize the cost for industry.

But that bill has bogged down in the Senate. And while White House officials continue to call for an energy bill this year, Obama has not publicly linked the call to the gulf spill.

Many environmentalists believe it will now be politically easier now to strengthen the clean-energy provisions of the bill and jettison industry breaks. But many longtime energy analysts say Obama’s options are limited for reducing the nation’s reliance on oil.

“In the near term — near term being 20 years — there is no meaningful alternative to using oil in the transportation sector” on a wide scale, said Charles Ebinger, director of the energy security initiative at the Brookings Institution.

Still, the nation’s reliance on gasoline means choosing between imported oil or increased domestic production — and there, the gulf spill may have an impact.

All signs from Capitol Hill suggest that Obama’s expanded drilling plans will find little support in light of the BP leak.

Environmental groups want the administration to push for enhanced oil recovery on land, especially if gasoline prices spike again and public pressure mounts for more domestic production.

Some drilling advocates are pushing the administration to keep its response to the spill narrowly focused.

“Getting to the bottom of this, considering adding safeguards, things that could prevent this spill from happening again and things getting out of hand” — those should be Obama’s focus, said Ben Lieberman, an energy expert at the free-market Heritage Foundation.

Many economists say Obama’s best chance to reframe the energy debate — and dramatically cut oil use — could also be the least popular—a large gasoline tax on gasoline, with the proceeds dedicated to alternative fuel research, reducing the federal budget deficit, or even refunded to consumers.

White House officials pushed back against a modest proposed fee on gasoline in negotiations over a Senate climate bill.

In an interview Tuesday, one of Obama’s top energy advisors, Carol Browner, said “There’s no doubt that portions of the debate are going to change” because of the gulf spill.

She added: “We want to evaluate, at the end of the day, are we doing what we can to break our dependence on foreign oil… are we putting a cap on dangerous greenhouse-gas pollution? There’s more than one way to get it done.”

If Obama can’t sell an energy transformation after this spill, Ebinger said, “He will miss a unique opportunity to point out to the people, ‘This is a situation we got ourselves into… let’s not be sitting here five to 10 years from now and be saying, we didn’t do anything to address it.'”

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May 5, 2010 at 10:14 AM Leave a comment

Federal Officials Unveil Blueprint for Great Lakes

The Obama administration has developed a five-year blueprint for the Great Lakes, a sprawling ecosystem plagued by toxic contamination, shrinking wildlife habitat and invasive species.

The plan envisions spending more than $2.2 billion for long-awaited repairs after a century of damage to the lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s freshwater.

Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, released the blueprint at a news conference on Sunday in Washington.

Among the goals is taking a “zero-tolerance policy” toward future invasions by foreign species, including the Asian carp, a ravenous fish that has overrun parts of the Mississippi River system and is threatening to enter Lake Michigan.

Others include cleaning up the region’s most heavily polluted sites, restoring wetlands and other crucial habitat, and improving water quality in shallow areas, where runoff from cities and farms has led to unsightly algae blooms and beach closings.

A strategy for monitoring the ecosystem’s health and holding federal agencies accountable for carrying out the plan are also included.

During his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama pledged $5 billion over a decade toward fulfilling a Great Lakes cleanup wish list developed by a coalition of agencies, scientists and advocates.

Congress approved his request last year for a first installment of $475 million. The plan assumes yearly appropriations of the same amount through 2014, except for the $300 million Mr. Obama requested this month in his 2011 budget.

The 41-page plan sets out ecological goals and specific actions to be taken by 16 federal agencies working with state, local and tribal governments and private groups.

Among the goals officials hope to achieve by 2014: cleanup work at five toxic hot spots that have languished on lists for two decades; a 40 percent reduction in the rate at which invasive species are discovered in the lakes; measurable decreases in phosphorus runoff; and protection of nearly 100,000 wetland acres.

It also will help save species like the lake sturgeon, which can reach 8 feet and 200 pounds but is endangered because of overharvesting and habitat degradation. The plan promises to provide 25,000 young sturgeon for stocking programs.

Officials said the plan — combined with enforcement of existing environmental rules and the creation of new ones where needed — would help make Great Lakes fish safe to eat, their waters suitable for drinking and swimming, and their native plants and animals able to thrive.

The lakes provide drinking water to more than 30 million people and are the backbone of a regional economy dependent on tourism, outdoor recreation, shipping and manufacturing.

“We now have a golden opportunity, even a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to make huge progress,” Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin, co-chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said in a telephone interview Saturday. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time. Now the federal government is putting some real resources behind it.”

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February 22, 2010 at 10:21 AM 1 comment

Obama pledges $8 billion for new nuclear reactors

Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington – Seeking common ground with Republicans on energy and climate issues, President Obama on Tuesday pledged $8 billion in loan guarantees needed to build the first U.S. nuclear reactors in nearly three decades.

The move, along with a tripling of nuclear loan guarantees in the president’s budget, represents a new federal commitment to the low-carbon-emitting, but highly controversial, nuclear power sector long championed by the GOP.

Industry groups and Republican leaders praised the announcement, which has been expected for months, but some environmentalists and free-market think tanks protested.

Speaking at a training center at the Lanham, Md., headquarters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 26, the president spoke favorably of nuclear power as part of a mix of energy alternatives to oil.

“In order to truly harness our potential in clean energy, we’ll have to do more,” Obama said. “In the near term, as we transition to cleaner energy sources, we’ll have to make tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. We’ll need to make continued investments in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies, even as we build greater capacity in renewables like wind and solar.

“And we’ll have to build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in America,” he said.

Obama said his administration would supply about $8 billion in loan guarantees to build two new reactors at an existing nuclear power plant in Burke, Ga., providing thousands of construction jobs in the next few years and about 800 permanent jobs in the years to come.

Free-market groups complained that the loan guarantees could leave taxpayers on the hook for projects too risky for the private sector to finance.

Many environmentalists echoed the concerns and warned that the administration had not mapped a strategy for safe, long-term storage of radioactive waste.

“We’re not really seeing anything but drawbacks to another corporate bailout that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘toxic asset,’ ” said Jim Riccio, nuclear policy analyst for Greenpeace. “It is a dirty and dangerous distraction from the clean energy future the president promised America.”

Obama noted environmentalist opposition in his remarks but insisted that clean, safe nuclear power was environmentally preferable to burning coal in outdated plants.

Many environmental groups were muted or subdued in their criticism Tuesday — a reflection of the delicate politics surrounding ongoing efforts to pass energy and climate legislation in Congress.

Many large conservation groups appear to be tacitly accepting the need to increase federal nuclear support — along with offshore oil and gas drilling, another environmentalist anathema — to attract Republican votes for a measure to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

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February 17, 2010 at 12:34 PM Leave a comment

Obama Changes Tune on Copenhagen Results

President Barack Obama makes a statement at the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009. (AP)

President Barack Obama says the public is justified in its disappointment with the outcome of the United Nations climate change summit.

Despite statements from his advisers proclaiming the summit’s nonbinding agreement a great step forward, Obama says it didn’t take the steps necessary to combat the effects of climate change.

The accord Obama helped broker last week urges major polluters to make deeper emissions cuts but does not require them to do so. Still, despite its shortcomings, Obama says the agreement was better than doing nothing.

“I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen,” Obama said. “It didn’t move us the way we need to.”

He added: “I make no claims, and didn’t make any claims going in, that somehow that was going to be everything that we needed to do to solve climate change… My main responsibility here is to convince the American people that it is smart economics and it is going to be the engine of our economic growth for us to be a leader in clean energy.”

At the summit last week, Obama had said there had been “a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough.”

From CBS and Associate Press

Washington, Dec. 23, 2009

January 20, 2010 at 10:34 AM Leave a comment

Obama heads to Copenhagen

President Barack Obama heads to Copenhagen on Thursday to help secure a U.N. climate pact, staking his credibility on an as yet elusive deal that has ramifications for him at home and on the world stage.

Obama is expected to arrive in the Danish capital on Friday morning, joining about 120 other world leaders to finish a complicated process of reaching a political agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming.

The time is short and the stakes are high. With his top domestic priority of healthcare reform legislation percolating in Washington, the president plans to stay in Copenhagen less than a day.

That may or may not be enough time to overcome persistent disagreements between developed and developing nations that have marred two weeks of talks, but Obama’s presence and contribution could be a potential deal-maker.

The United States has proposed to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020 compared with 2005 levels. That corresponds to a 3 percent reduction from 1990 levels, the baseline used by the European Union and others.

Obama is unlikely to propose a more aggressive emissions reduction target, which many countries have demanded. His goals are based on a bill that passed the House of Representatives but has yet to go through the Senate before it can become law.

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December 17, 2009 at 10:17 AM Leave a comment

U.S. sends a parade of promises to Copenhagen

Reporting from Copenhagen – A double-decker white tour boat sailed Wednesday afternoon toward a crescent of giant steel propellers towering above the seawater and spinning in a stiff winter wind.

The boat’s guest of honor, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, rose to laud his hosts and to assure them that his country was taking steps to “get our act together” on offshore wind power.

“We see Denmark as a leader and an example in wind, especially offshore,” Salazar told a cabin filled mostly with European journalists and wind-energy officials. “We know we have a tremendous way to go.”

Denmark draws more than 20% of its electricity from wind, the highest percentage in the world and one envied by U.S. officials eager to boost production of renewable energy.

Salazar is perhaps the Obama administration’s strongest proponent of offshore wind, frequently asserting that the Atlantic coast alone holds enough wind power potential to cover the entire nation’s current electricity demand.

His hastily organized harbor tour helped launch a weeklong charm offensive by the Obama administration at the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, a push to sell world government and business leaders on the United States’ increased commitment to renewable energy and combating climate change.

In public, at least, there appears to be a long way to go, as evidenced in part by an exchange Wednesday between representatives of the U.S. and China.

The United States’ special climate envoy, Todd Stern, urged China to honor its pledge to reduce its carbon emissions and to include that commitment in an international climate change agreement. China’s chief climate negotiator, Yu Qingtai, not only rejected the idea, he also criticized the U.S. for failing to provide financial aid to developing countries and reduce its own emissions of harmful gases.

Such sentiment toward the U.S. was anticipated. While Salazar was motoring through waters shrouded in gray, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson briefed reporters and activists on the administration’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions unilaterally. She touted the administration’s declaration this week that those gases endanger human health and are thus subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.

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December 11, 2009 at 2:59 PM 1 comment

Obama calls for climate deal, U.S. target under fire

In a move that could boost Obama’s position when world leaders join the U.N. talks next week, three U.S. senators outlined a compromise climate bill on Thursday that aims to win the votes needed for passage next year.

Accepting his Nobel Peace Prize in neighbouring Norway, Obama warned of dire consequences if the world did nothing to curb rising carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation which scientists say are heating up the atmosphere.

“The world must come together to confront climate change,” Obama said in his acceptance speech. “There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades,” he added.

Obama will propose cuts in U.S. emissions in Copenhagen but has yet to get the backing of Congress. While a climate bill passed narrowly in the House of Representatives in June, the Senate has yet to approve legislation.

In Washington the senators did not offer details of their compromise but said a target to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 was “achievable and reasonable.

The December 7-18 Copenhagen talks are meant to agree on the outlines of a tougher climate pact to expand or replace the existing Kyoto Protocol from 2013. But they have become bogged down over who should curb their emissions, who is most responsible and who should pay.

The talks are expected to deliver agreement on an initial fund of around $10 billion a year until 2012 to help poor nations to fight climate change and make their economies greener. But developing countries believe emissions cuts promised by rich nations, especially the United States, are far too low.

Tiny Tuvalu, a cluster of low-lying Pacific islands, brought part of the talks to a standstill on Thursday. The main plenary sessions were suspended for consultations, although delegates continued holding side-meetings.

RISING SEAS

Tuvalu, which fears being washed off the map by rising seas, insisted the conference must consider its proposal for a legally binding treaty on far deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions than the United States and other rich nations are offering,

Tuvalu’s stance exposed rifts between developing nations, many of which would be required to do much more under its proposal to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Nations including India and China spoke out against Tuvalu’s plan.

Most other nations reckon Copenhagen can agree only a political text with legal texts to be worked out next year.

Rich nations’ emissions cuts targets remain a major sticking point in the talks. Poorer nations blame industrialised countries for most of the greenhouse gas pollution in the air and say they must make deep cuts.

The United States has offered a provisional target of 17 percent below 2005 levels — equal to a 3 percent cut from 1990 levels while the European Union has pledged a cut of 20 percent below 1990 levels that could be raised to 30 percent if others also act.

China, Brazil and small island states all say the pledge is far too modest.

The U.N.’s top climate change official, Yvo de Boer, said developed countries would have to deepen planned emission cuts to a range of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels, as outlined by a U.N. climate panel.

“That for me is the goal,” de Boer told Reuters. Offers so far from rich nations total about 14 to 18 percent below 1990 levels.

“Many countries have come here with initial offers for targets indicating there is flexibility in the numbers,” he said. “Whether that is achieved or not depends first of all on a discussion within the group of major developed countries.”

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December 11, 2009 at 2:45 PM Leave a comment

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