President Obama covered plenty of policy ground during Tuesday's State of the Union address, but observers looking for clear leadership on the environment were left with a hazy, conflicted picture of where the administration stands.
Of the 7,000 words contained in Obama's prepared speech, climate and energy accounted for less then 500. His coverage of climate change and emphatic calls for energy independence were delivered under the guise of an "all of the above" energy strategy, which includes expanded natural gas development.
“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way,” Obama said. “But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.”
Instead of mapping out his administration's plans to address global warming, Obama pointed out the work they have already done, such as improving vehicle fuel economy and proposing limits to greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.
He also remained silent on whether a permit will be issued for Keystone XL, the controversial pipeline that would send oil from the tar sands in Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
Environmental groups lamented that the president failed to take a strong stand against fossil fuel pollution.
“President Obama has already taken steps to cut carbon pollution with cleaner car standards for motor vehicles, and investments in clean energy and energy efficiency,” said a statement from a coalition of environmental groups including Earthjustice, the Environmental Defense Fund, Environment America, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Now the administration will focus on dirty power plants – the largest U.S. source of carbon pollution.”
There was a brief mention of solar energy in this year’s speech, but Obama didn’t say specifically how his administration would support the development of the solar industry.
“We want to see some real leadership, but instead we saw the president fully embrace fracking and really put forward no new programs,” said Jamie Henn, co-founder of the environmental group 350.org. “The rhetoric on climate change was good, but the actual policy wasn’t there.”
(h/t Al Jazeera)
Photo: Barack Obama speaks in 2012 at Sempra U.S. Gas & Power's Copper Mountain Solar 1 facility in Nevada, the largest photovoltaic solar plant in the United States. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)