Monday, January 26, 2009

President Obama Addresses Climate Change & Energy Independence

Jan 26: In an early morning statement and signing event, President Obama said, "This moment of peril must be turned to one of progress," and signed his first two Presidential Memoranda aimed at defining a path to energy independence. In what he called, "a down payment on a broader and sustained effort to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," he directed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for carmakers' 2011 model year. In his second memo he directed U.S. EPA to review the California waiver request, previously denied by the Bush administration, that would pave the way for California and some 16 other states to raise emissions standards above and beyond the national standard. President Obama said, "Instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way. The days of Washington dragging its heels are over."

In his opening remarks the President said, "These are extraordinary times, and it calls for swift and extraordinary action. At a time of such great challenge for America, no single issue is as fundamental to our future as energy. America's dependence on oil is one of the most serious threats that our nation has faced. It bankrolls dictators, pays for nuclear proliferation and funds both sides of our struggle against terrorism. It puts the American people at the mercy of shifting gas prices, stifles innovation, and sets back our ability to compete. These urgent dangers to our national and economic security are compounded by the long-term threat of climate change, which, if left unchecked, could result in violent conflict, terrible storms, shrinking coastlines, and irreversible catastrophe. . .

"Year after year, decade after decade, we've chosen delay over decisive action. Rigid ideology has overruled sound science. Special interests have overshadowed common sense. Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results and our leaders raise their voices each time there's a spike on gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump. Now America has arrived at a crossroads. Embedded in American soil, in the wind and the sun, we have the resources to change. Our scientists, businesses and workers have the capacity to move us forward. It falls on us to choose whether to risk the peril that comes with our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence. And for the sake of our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and commitment to change. . .

"Today I'm announcing the first steps on our journey toward energy independence, as we develop new energy, set new fuel efficiency standards and address greenhouse gas emissions. . . First we must take bold action to create a new American energy economy that creates millions of jobs for our people. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan before Congress places a downpayment on this economy. . . Second, we must ensure that the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow are built right here in the United States of America. . . Third, the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

On the California waiver question the President said, "California has shown bold and bipartisan leadership through its effort to forge 21st-century standards, and over a dozen states have followed its lead. But instead of serving as a partner, Washington stood in their way. This refusal to lead risks the creation of a confusing and patchwork set of standards that hurts the environment and the auto industry. . . And that's why I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately review the denial of the California waiver request and determine the best way forward. This will help us create incentives to develop new energy that will make us less dependent on the oil that endangers our security, our economy and our planet."

On global climate change, he said, "Finally, we will make it clear to the world that America is ready to lead. To protect our climate and our collective security, we must call together a truly global coalition. I've made it clear that we will act, but so too must the world. That's how we will deny leverage to dictators and dollars to terrorists, and that's how we will ensure that nations like China and India are doing their part, just as we are now willing to do ours. It is time for America to lead because this moment of peril must be turned into one of progress. . . We will not be put off from action because action is hard. Now is the time to make the tough choices. Now is the time to meet the challenge at this crossroad of history by choosing a future that is safer for our country, prosperous for our planet, and sustainable. . ."

Lisa Jackson, the new EPA Administrator also signaled possible actions related to the California waiver in her memo to EPA staff on Friday (January 23) [
See WIMS 1/23/09] when she said, "EPA must follow the rule of law. The President recognizes that respect for Congressional mandates and judicial decisions is the hallmark of a principled regulatory agency. Under our environmental laws, EPA has room to exercise discretion, and Congress has often looked to EPA to fill in the details of general policies. However, EPA needs to exercise policy discretion in good faith and in keeping with the directives of Congress and the courts. When Congress has been explicit, EPA cannot misinterpret or ignore the language Congress has used. When a court has determined EPA’s responsibilities under our governing statutes, EPA cannot turn a blind eye to the court’s decision or procrastinate in complying."

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee immediately announced that she would hold a press conference at approximately 6 PM today (January 26) to discuss President Obama's announcement asking EPA to review the Bush Administration's denial of California's request for a Clean Air Act waiver to address global warming emissions from motor vehicles. She said, "When it is granted, the waiver will allow California and 18 other states - representing more than half the U.S. population - to regulate tailpipe emissions of global warming pollution from motor vehicles."

Access a White House posting on the President's announcement (
click here). Access the complete transcript of the opening address (click here). Access links to a video of the speech (click here). Access links to the Presidential Memos which should be posted soon (click here). Access a statement from Senator Boxer (click here). Access various WIMS-eNewsUSA blog posts on the California waiver issue (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]