04 November 2010

Obama on the Post-Election Politics of Energy

From yesterday's news conference President Obama signals a new way forward (Thanks RC!)  I have highlighted a significant passage:
Laura Meckler.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said earlier that it was clear that Congress was rejecting the idea of a cap-and-trade program, and that you wouldn’t be able to move forward with that. Looking ahead, do you feel the same way about EPA regulating carbon emissions? Would you be open to them doing essentially the same thing through an administrative action, or is that off the table, as well?

And secondly, just to follow up on what you said about changing the way Washington works, do you think that -- you said you didn’t do enough to change the way things were handled in this city. Some of -- in order to get your health care bill passed you needed to make some of those deals. Do you wish, in retrospect, you had not made those deals even if it meant the collapse of the program?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that making sure that families had security and were on a trajectory to lower health care costs was absolutely critical for this country. But you are absolutely right that when you are navigating through a House and a Senate in this kind of pretty partisan environment that it’s a ugly mess when it comes to process. And I think that is something that really affected how people viewed the outcome. That is something that I regret -- that we couldn’t have made the process more -- healthier than it ended up being. But I think the outcome was a good one.

With respect to the EPA, I think the smartest thing for us to do is to see if we can get Democrats and Republicans in a room who are serious about energy independence and are serious about keeping our air clean and our water clean and dealing with the issue of greenhouse gases -- and seeing are there ways that we can make progress in the short term and invest in technologies in the long term that start giving us the tools to reduce greenhouse gases and solve this problem.

The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction. And I think one of the things that's very important for me is not to have us ignore the science, but rather to find ways that we can solve these problems that don’t hurt the economy, that encourage the development of clean energy in this country, that, in fact, may give us opportunities to create entire new industries and create jobs that -- and that put us in a competitive posture around the world.

So I think it’s too early to say whether or not we can make some progress on that front. I think we can. Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.

And I think EPA wants help from the legislature on this. I don’t think that the desire is to somehow be protective of their powers here. I think what they want to do is make sure that the issue is being dealt with.


  1. If he wants to follow the science, then he ought to beg Congress to specifically remove CO2 from the pollutant list.
    Then he should ask that energy be separated from climate science.
    Then he should call for a good audit of all 'alternative energy' efforts that have been subsidized directly by tax payers.
    For starters.

  2. So he's still drinking the AGW Kool-Aide, he knows C&T is dead and he thinks the EPA will do with rules what he couldn't do with regulations.

    Uh huh. And he believes the election wasn't a rejection of his policies and political philosophy, rather it was a communication failure.

    Uh huh.

    I really hope the EPA tries to do something about CO2 so Congress can bitch-slap it back to reality.

    Maybe the new Senator from West Virginia will lead the charge, take "dead aim" at the EPA and take a few shots.

    Sorry . . . couldn't resist after watching his ad so many times.

  3. Roger,

    Any thoughts on the defeat of Prop 23 (60% to 40%), and the reaffirmation of AB32 in California? Seems to me that data points such as this could help add quantitative heft to your iron law, making it a more valuable tool for policy makers. How much are people willing to pay for decarbonization? What is their supported payment amount as a function of how they rate the seriousness of the climate change problem? What is it as a function of their country's GDP? How does the supported payment amount vary by global region and a country's energy access status?

    On page 229 of TCF regarding a carbon tax, you say, "The precise amount of the tax itself ... is less important than that the tax be implemented at the highest price politically possible." Can political science help quantify that price for each Western country today? What role has political science played in the setting of such a price in Germany? Is there a practical role for political science is finding and setting these thresholds?

  4. -1- FOFAS

    CO2 is a pollutant with negative impacts in high enough atmospheric concentrations, just as high enough oxygen concentration poisons mammals. Separating energy-generating CO2 emissions sources from carbon dioxide geo-cycle models would be unscientific - it would imply not observing an observable. How would your proposed 'alternative energy audit' function? Would it compare costs to coal generation? Why not perform an audit of the $550 billion in annual worldwide subsidies for fossil fuel energy while you are at it? Those subsides make the $45B for decarbonizing renewables seem like a beggars lunch.

  5. I'm not sure I agree with the characterization of Cap and Trade as "a means, not an end".

  6. From the same press conference. (Note: GOP leadership also said nuclear energy is a probable area to find common ground.)

    THE PRESIDENT: " Well, I think I’ve been willing to compromise in the past and I'm going to be willing to compromise going forward on a whole range of issues. Let me give you an example -- the issue of energy that I just mentioned.

    I think there are a lot of Republicans that ran against the energy bill that passed in the House last year. And so it’s doubtful that you could get the votes to pass that through the House this year or next year or the year after. But that doesn't mean there isn't agreement that we should have a better energy policy. And so let’s find those areas where we can agree.

    We’ve got, I think, broad agreement that we’ve got terrific natural gas resources in this country. Are we doing everything we can to develop those? There's a lot of agreement around the need to make sure that electric cars are developed here in the United States, that we don't fall behind other countries. Are there things that we can do to encourage that? And there's already been bipartisan interest on those issues.

    There's been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases. Is that an area where we can move forward?"

    LFTR the "green" nuclear. 10000 times cleaner and much cheaper than current nuclear. A wise target for NRC and government lab investment.


  7. Ross McKitrick's presentation says it all:

    The case against the case against conventional energy:

    “The only people who want to push wind energy for its own sake are those who expect to profit from it.”

    “Windmills don’t run on wind, they run on [government] subsidies.”

    “Solar panels are not powered by sunlight, they are powered by taxpayers.”

    "In other words, the green energy sector takes $2 worth of inputs and produces $1 worth of energy."

    "This is not wealth-creation, it is wealth destruction."

    "It is not job creation, since even more jobs have to be destroyed to fund the subsidies."


  8. The subject that I expect there might be agreement on is the archaic grid. I seem to remember that in the last Congress, Republicans said they would support efforts regarding that if it was separated from other energy issues. But that does cost money and I'm skeptical that any funds for anything new are possible in the new Congress, but if there is a place where it is possible, I think some type of improved smart grid is the best likelihood.

  9. Sam,
    When CO2 passes 10000ppm let's get together and worry about toxicity- for when it easees up towads 50000ppm. and if you breather pure water, I understand it is very bad for the health as well.
    What is unscientific is to confuse CO2 with actual pollution. And what is disengenuous is to keep repeating the untrue assertion that fossil fuels receive the same sort of subsidies that 'alternative energy' receives.
    The audit would be to let people really understand that wind power rated capacity of 1GW actually delivers at best about 280MW, and must be backed up at all times with non-wind resources. And to disclose just who is making what off of the direct operating subsidies that wind utterly relies on.

  10. Obama's biggest corporate sponsor was Goldman Sachs, arguably the world's biggest potential benificiary of cap and trade. Science and scientists are willing and extremely well rewarded cyphers of Wall Street.

    "With respect to the EPA, I think the smartest thing for us to do is to see if we can get Democrats and Republicans in a room who are serious about energy independence "

    Energy independence is another ridiculous lie. I wonder when Emmanuel Goldstein is going to make an appearance blowing up an American oil well.

    If Al Queda ever develop the intelligence to join the millions of Mexicans crossing the border, it would be curtains for modern civilisation. They hate our freedoms and our airline security systems !

  11. Sam said... 3
    "Any thoughts on the defeat of Prop 23 (60% to 40%), and the reaffirmation of AB32 in California? Seems to me that data points such as this could help add quantitative heft to your iron law, making it a more valuable tool for policy makers."

    Large parts of California have a climate that remains well within the human comfort zone the majority of the time. A healthy person could survive without air-conditioning and central heating in Southern California.

    California had a 1,043 cooling degrees days in 2009 compared to Arizona's 3,342 cooling degree days.

    California's 2,674 heating degree days is 1/3rd that of Colorado's 7,680.

    For many Californian's heating and cooling are not 'life and death' issues. For most of the rest of the country heating and/or cooling are life and death issues.