In recent months, the press has been replete with reports that America is on the verge of achieving energy independence. For example, a recent study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that by 2020 the U.S. will surpass Saudi Arabia to once again become the world’s largest oil producer. By 2030, according to the IEA, the U.S. could be a net oil exporter.
Energy & Environment
The role America’s energy producers play in advancing our economy continues to be alternately ignored and mischaracterized. Recent comments from the Administration on oil and natural gas tax provisions demonstrate a deeply flawed understanding of the U.S. tax code as it pertains to the thousands of independent producers that ensure the continued development of the job-creating energy our nation relies upon.
President Obama began his second term on the right foot when he stated during his inaugural address that “we will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations . . . The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.” As co-chairmen of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), we wholeheartedly agree with the resident’s sentiments and encourage him to expand upon them during his State of the Union address.
Tonight, President Obama will address the nation at the State of the Union, laying out his priorities for his second term. Climate change is expected to be high on the list, especially following the Inauguration when the president declared that a failure to respond would "betray our children and future generations."
The president has set a goal for the U.S. to reduce emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020; however, the country lacks a clear national plan to get there- and to go even further.
Today, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to testify before the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during its hearing on opportunities and challenges for natural gas. Colorado is the epicenter of both the gas boom and the controversy over its impacts. Natural gas has been an economic boon to our state; it’s how many of us heat our homes and businesses and it can potentially be a cheap, clean and safe energy source for only hundreds of dollars each winter. Extracted properly, natural gas could be a piece of the solution to climate change and a path to reducing local air pollution, like Denver’s brown cloud.
With the announcement that the Sierra Club will engage in an act of civil disobedience for the first time in its 120-year history, this grassroots environmental organization is stepping up to join a long and honorable American tradition that civil rights advocates and so many others have used to strengthen American values.
In the 19th century, the searing injustice of slavery inspired Henry David Thoreau to lay out the principles of civil disobedience, even as he and other antislavery activists helped fugitive slaves reach freedom in Canada via the Underground Railroad. In the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr., led a courageous campaign of nonviolent resistance that ultimately prevailed over a caustic national legacy of racism and segregation. Now the threat of climate disruption, hammered home last year by wildfires, droughts, and superstorm Sandy, again tests our moral values.
After telling the world that he intends to “respond to the threat of climate change,” President Obama set high expectations for his upcoming State of the Union address.
Here are three significant steps to watch for as the President takes his case to the people. All can be done without a dysfunctional Congress:
• Reduce domestic carbon emissions 20 percent by requiring modernization of all existing power facilities, most of which are carbon-belching coal-fired plants.
• Halt construction of the Keystone pipeline from the United States to Canada that would support the dirtiest types of oil and gas extraction.
• Ban oil and gas drilling in Arctic Alaska’s most environmentally sensitive areas.
Business leaders across our nation are demanding direction from Congress and the Obama administration on clean energy policies, seeking an established set of rules and regulations. This unusual push for government guidance comes because the industry knows it needs a shared blueprint to make the investment decisions that will grow businesses, reward shareholders, and create jobs. The production tax credit, for example, has demonstrated the positive impact of federal incentives to attract private investment in wind energy.
As President Obama continues to reconstitute his cabinet he should keep in mind that an understanding of the changing nature of oil will be essential for those in his top team well beyond the Secretary of Energy.
Tomorrow’s oils are not the same as twentieth century crude, or each other. Unconventional oils range from ancient tacky oils that resist flow to ultra-light petroleum liquids trapped in tight shale rocks to immature solids that must be retorted into oil. They require vastly different extraction methods, processing techniques, geographies, petroleum product slates, oil prices, energy markets, and trade patterns.
President Barack Obama embarked on his second term with his inspiring inaugural promise to “respond to the threat of climate change” lest we “betray our children and grandchildren.” He can begin to turn ambition into action at this year’s State of the Union on February 12, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln.
Of all the bold political moves made by Obama, few are as audacious as his deliberate invitations to be compared to our nation’s greatest president Obama announced his candidacy for president at the site of Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech and was sworn into office on Lincoln’s Bible. Like Lincoln, President Obama is a great orator. But Lincoln is revered not for his great speeches, but for his actions at the moment of America’s greatest crisis. For President Obama to be remembered as a great leader, he must act decisively on the existential threat of our era, climate change.
It thus makes sense to look to Lincoln for guidance. In the decades before the Civil War, Americans struggled to reconcile deep qualms about slavery with the wealth it brought to the young nation. The country’s political class was dominated by the entrenched power of the wealthy southern “slaveocracy” committed to the preservation and the expansion of their “peculiar institution.” Failing to challenge the power of King Cotton, weak presidents instead accommodated the slave power. James Monroe ratified the Missouri Compromise, Millard Fillmore agreed to the Compromise of 1850, Pierce and Buchanan dithered as Kansas bled – until Lincoln drew a hard line against slavery’s expansion into the West.
Speaking on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol, two years before he was elected President, Lincoln described the urgency of the threat facing the Union. “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free, I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” Lincoln’s greatness derives from his willingness to force the nation to admit that freedom and slavery could not coincide — that continued inaction, indecision, and compromise meant the end of the nation. Through the nation’s deadliest war, against widespread demands for another round of compromises, another expansion of slavery, Lincoln held firm.