Environmentalists urge Obama to flex White House muscle to back climate bill

A large coalition of environmentalists wants President Barack Obama to step up efforts to win passage of sweeping climate change and energy legislation this year.

An “open letter” Tuesday from scores of national and state-based groups comes as Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) seek traction for legislation they unveiled last week.

“Mr. President, we ask you to urgently convene all stakeholders and lead the effort to craft a comprehensive clean energy and climate policy that will be enacted this year and will move America toward energy independence built on clean American power,” states the letter from the World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Environment Group and many others.

The letter argues that the fatal Gulf of Mexico rig explosion and spill “reminds us of the danger of our existing dependence on fossil fuels, and that the need for safer and cleaner energy alternatives has never been more clear or urgent.”

But prospects for climate legislation this year are highly uncertain. The climate bill faces competing Senate priorities, and resistance among many Republicans and some Democrats to mandatory greenhouse gas caps.

Also, it’s unclear whether the Gulf spill will boost efforts to move a climate bill or harden disputes among offshore drilling opponents and advocates of expanded production.