16 June 2010

Obama's Speech

Keith Kloor has a rundown of reactions to President Obama's speech last night. For me the most interesting bit was this:
I say we can't afford not to change how we produce and use energy -– because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater.

So I'm happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party -– as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development -– and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is somehow too big and too difficult to meet. You know, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon. And yet, time and again, we have refused to settle for the paltry limits of conventional wisdom. Instead, what has defined us as a nation since our founding is the capacity to shape our destiny -– our determination to fight for the America we want for our children. Even if we're unsure exactly what that looks like. Even if we don't yet know precisely how we're going to get there. We know we'll get there.
It is hard to read those words and see a future for cap-and-trade. Admitting that we don't have all the answers is in my opinion a huge step forward and something that the President deserves credit for saying. For too long "I don't know" has been taboo in discussions of climate policy. But understanding the limits of our policy proposals is a first step toward wiser policies.

Obama showed policy leadership in his speech, which will likely have partisans upset. Nonetheless, it is policy leadership that this issue needs, not political posturing. The tone of his speech last night was far more appropriate to the challenge -- much better than boots on necks and asses to kick.


  1. Another big energy speech, and the word nuclear is not even used.

    If people are so concerned about climate change, but yet will not accept nuclear power as valid alternative, they are not serious.

  2. I caught reporting of this on the news here in the UK, earlier. I was pleased to note how an older guy in scruffs sitting at a bar, probably half cut, deftly pointed out the very moment in his speech when Obama switched direction in his rhetoric, coat-racking climate change on his rant about BP's failings.

    We ain't so dumm as dem ackerdemicks fink on us. ;o)

  3. I think Mother Jones had it about right:


    “What a terrible speech.”

    “This gives pablum a bad name. Obama wants a bill. Pretty much any bill will do. But he didn’t say a single word about what he himself wanted.”

    “I felt better about Obama’s response to the spill before the speech than I do now.”

  4. I'll bet Obama feels like heavily favored Spain at this moment. SUI wins 1-0.

  5. I can see major differences between Europe and the USA ahead. The world's biggest Co2 producer isn't going to do very much to reduce it. The country that caused the global economic collapse seems to being doing just fine.

    Europe could be on the verge of financial disaster, partly because credit worthiness of whole countries are being downgraded by the very American credit rating agencies that were the lynch pin of the sub prime scam. The reason European banks are in trouble.

    Obama made himself incredibly unpopular amongst Guardian readers with his anti BP comments. The contrast between the American response to the corporate manslaughter of 15,000 human beings at Bhopal and BP's offer of compensation was a recurrent theme.

    Especially since there has been no substantial enquiry and God's very own 'no bid' contractor, Halliburton was directly involved in the failure of the rig.

  6. I wonder if the need for speechy rhetoric gets in the way of clear thinking and exposition. For example our "addiction" to oil. We use oil because it is relatively convenient, relatively cheap, we have an infrastructure designed to use it, and is a proven technology. If only human nature could be changed to not preferring technologies that are proven, easy, cheap and make our lives easier...

  7. Eric,

    Shame on Americans that Europeans voted themselves early retirement at unsustainable pensions and exorbitant benefit packages.

    As for the president, while his woeful lack of experience is glaringly obvious, I don't really think he is as stupid as his actions indicate. I think he's trapped by the stupidity of his supporters. He turned down international help because of the unions. His moratorium wrecking the local economies was forced by the environmentalists. His statements foolishly trying to assure people that he was in control of the situation were to placate people who think govt has all the answers (Democrats, see e.g. their statements about Bush after Katrina).

    He's incompetent and he's trying to shore up his support by appeals to people whose desires only make things worse. It's a sad combination.

  8. For a good summary of the speech, read this. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2010/06/obama-speech-react.html

    [There's a pipe spewing oil in the gulf so let's build more windmills.]

  9. Stan

    How would you feel if you were shot and the mugger told you you would have been o.k. if you hadn't bought a car, and taken extra health insurance instead ?

    You won't be complaining when American jobs go to China because the Chinese don't have any employment benefits, are paid a quarter of the wages and have much cheaper energy costs.

    Here is former financial regulator (Savings and Loans) William Black's appearance before the House Committee on Financial Services. Talking about the fraudulent activity which took down Lehmans and the global economy. He calls himself a white collar criminologist !



    I don't suppose Mr Obama or his supporters on Wall Street will want to read that.

  10. Eric,

    I'm sorry. I don't seem to have the sleuthing ability sufficient to discern your point.

  11. Obama spoke 2,700 words, with four broad themes: update on the spill and cleanup (345 words); impact on the economy of the Gulf region (418); history of regulatory ineffectiveness - disguised deflection of blame and casting blame to others (previous administration) (778); Obama’s “green energy” agenda (863). Which was the top priority? The speech was organized with inductive logic - bad news first to set the stage for his program. Everything coming before the “green energy” pitch supports his program. Avoiding "cap and tax" at this point was expeditious to avoid public reaction to possibly be brought in later. The crisis, impact, lives of those affected therefore were props in the drive to remake the nation’s energy policy via government expansion into energy. I think this was an intellectual snake-oil pitch, knowing people do not currently favor the energy program but he would likek to force it on Americans using the worst environmental tragedy in history as bait and hook. Never let a crisis go to waste!

  12. Stan

    I was saying the European financial crisis was caused by American based corporate dirty tricks (some of the dirtiest tricks were actually carried out in London).

    Not by the fact that Europe is a more civilised placed than the United States ( better pensions, holidays etc.).

  13. Eric
    Great comment. However keep an eye on the Chinese. All they need to do is refuse to honour derivatives contracts from the big 4 US financial fraudsters and we are in bailout country again...except that the bailout money needs to come from a) China, b) devaluation of the dollar by printing even more of them.

    While your point about Euro pensions is partly valid they are nothing to do with people being sold dud financial products by poorly regulated US fraudsters. However I believe pension liabilities for GM were a huge part of their problem so perhaps you'll also argue that workplace pensions should be pruned too. And yet...don't we always hear about how our lives are improving because of economic progress due to free-market capitalism? That message doesn't somehow square with forcing pensioners to beg for food and shelter or make them work into their 70's to afford their medicines, as in the US.

  14. A lot of good work is being done in the real world on energy independence initiatives so whatever the policy is, the free-market does seem to be working it out by itself. All that governments have to do is cut through all the petty bureaucracy that holds things up.

    Clearly nuclear is an option if it doesn't need public funds and any cleanup money comes from the industry itself. That's what the current UK position is and EDF are apparently quite happy with it.