Photo via Post Gazette
Though the clean energy legislation introduced to the Senate a couple weeks ago has faded into the background as the BP Gulf spill rages on, there's still a real opportunity for lawmakers to make the case for transitioning away from fossil fuels. And greens have been waiting for Obama to make a distinct indication that he recognized this -- and to publicly link the Gulf coast disaster to the dangers of oil dependence. It looks like he's finally gotten the memo, and that clean energy is again on the agenda in a big way. Now, I've been no fan of the president's response to the spill, but the opportunity for a sound policy response is still very much there. Here's an excerpt from the President's speech at Carnegie Mellon University earlier today:
The votes may not be there right now, but I intend to find them in the coming months. I will make the case for a clean energy future wherever I can, and I will work with anyone from either party to get this done. But we will get this done. The next generation will not be held hostage to energy sources from the last century. We will not move back. America will move forward.If I may: woop. This is exactly the message that needs to gain traction if any political good is going to come from the calamitous disaster in the Gulf. Linking the two makes for a sensible strategy to advocate for clean energy, and according to Climate Progress, insiders have been saying that Obama would adopt such a strategy this month. And indeed he has:
The catastrophe unfolding in the Gulf right now may prove to be a result of human error - or corporations taking dangerous short-cuts that compromised safety. But we have to acknowledge that there are inherent risks to drilling four miles beneath the surface of the Earth - risks that are bound to increase the harder oil extraction becomes. Just like we have to acknowledge that an America run solely on fossil fuels should not be the vision we have for our children and grandchildren....And it's equally encouraging to know that the rhetoric contains distinct policy goals as well:
The time has come, once and for all, for this nation to fully embrace a clean energy future. That means continuing our unprecedented effort to make everything from our homes and businesses to our cars and trucks more energy efficient.... And it means rolling back billions of dollars in tax breaks to oil companies so we can prioritize investments in clean energy research and development.Obama has spoke of eliminating the subsidies and tax breaks to oil companies before, and planned to do so in this budget -- if the disaster in the Gulf doesn't give him the momentum to do so, I don't know what will. As for pricing carbon, it's clear that this needs to be a part of the US energy strategy going forward in some capacity (tax, more likely, cap and trade). And I'm glad Obama has gotten back to the bullhorn to trumpet this necessity. Time will tell if he can channel the rhetoric into policy ...
But the only way the transition to clean energy will succeed is if the private sector is fully invested in this future - if capital comes off the sidelines and the ingenuity of our entrepreneurs is unleashed. And the only way to do that is by finally putting a price on carbon pollution.