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Obama's Final Climate Test: Keep It in the Ground


Obama's Final Climate Test: Keep It in the Ground

Jamie Henn

As President Obama gears up for his final State of the Union address tonight, it's worth revisiting another speech he gave back in March of 2012 in Cushing, Oklahoma.


I think Obama deserves more credit on this issue than Jamie Henn gives him. Left out is the fact that during his first term Obama was able to get about a doubling of fuel efficiency for motor vehicles. This should greatly reduce the demand for oil in the future. Also, Jamie Henn neglected to give credit to Obama for making an agreement with China on reducing emissions and his efforts to convince India to reduce emissions. And really the Paris agreement was largely possible because of his efforts on the international level. Basically Jamie Henn and Barack Obama approach fighting climate change differently,. Jamie Henn believes the main fight is on the supply side and Barack Obama believes it is on the demand side. My own personal view is closer to Obama's. If you can reduce demand the supply will slow down and eventually stop. Reducing demand is how you can keep fossil fuels in the ground. You can't sell something nobody needs.


Reducing demand? Tell that to the Chinese and Indian middle class! In Asia, your status depends on visible consumption and the amount you waste.


You mainly reduce demand for fossil fuels through energy efficiency and renewable energy. If you can improve the energy efficiency of buildings, vehicles, industrial processes enough and deploy enough wind turbines, solar panels, and other sources of renewable energy the demand for fossil fuels will drop. Energy conservation also would help. There are a number of reasons making these changes difficult including no price on carbon emissions in too many places but it seems to me that is how you keep fossil fuels in the ground. If there is a market for fossil fuels they will find their way to this market.


You mainly reduce demand for fossil fuels by reducing demand for fossil fuels and not just by tweaking processes to get greater efficiency. For example, the meat/animal slaughter industry produces about half of all greenhouse gases, according to the Worldwatch Institute, so reducing demand for meat is much more effective than increasing the efficiency of the slaughter process.


You are right. Efficiency in energy use should be a principal target. I fear however that all this will do is to increase the pool of available cheap hydrocarbon-based energy so that more will use it, thereby not reducing consumption and maybe even increasing its use. That's market forces at work. Yes, pricing carbon emissions may be one way to control the problem, but that is unpopular with voters. Again, market forces at work.


Every romantic likes a happy ending, and many people are addicted to tall tales where the hero always does the right thing.

But that Jeckyll-Hyde component mentioned earlier is likely still at play. So not so fast with the following conclusion because in the same way that Obama signed on to stop the Canadian Tar Sands, he sure couldn't push Fast Tracking TPP and TIPP any faster. And those treaties grant ultimate environmental impact questions and answers to investor (as in corporate) courts that will answer to corporations and their shareholders... as in NOT the public, NOT workers, and NOT environmentalists.

This is therefore more faith-based than factual:

"Finally, just weeks before world leaders would gather in Paris to craft a new climate agreement, President Obama stood in the West Wing and announced that he would reject the Keystone XL pipeline because of its impact on the climate. It was a remarkable turnaround from the speech he'd given in Cushing just three and a half years earlier. Gone was the bragging about "drilling all over the place," in was a deep concern about future generations and his climate legacy."

I'd also question this fabrication. If Paris proves any legacy, it will be NYC under water!

"With Keystone XL rejected and the Paris agreement in his back pocket, President Obama may feel like his climate legacy is secured."


Your dogged stands for the status quo, and in this case, such naked support for Obama are pathetic.

Now I see why you plant doubt, suspicion, and innuendo in all of your posts about Bernie Sanders.


I was only referring to carbon dioxide emissions from energy not other sources of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation and methane and nitrous oxide emissions from agrriculture. Those sources require different solutions.


Obama is fighting climate change, that should be obvious. I just think 350.org has taken the wrong approach. Their approach is great for activism but and is in line with what environmentalists have been doing for decades but this is a complex global problem and I feel the focus should be on reducing demand for energy. Granted that isn't great for organizing activists but I don't see how else to leave fossil fuels in the ground. I think trying to stop mining, drilling, and pipelines is impossible on a scale that will make any difference. I would strongly criticize Obama for not even mentioning climate change during much of his first term, not doing more to try to pass cap and trade, allowing oil drilling in Atlantic and Arctic, and leasing so much land coal mining in the West, and setting emissions targets that are too weak. But my main criticism would be for the Republicans. Progressives who aim most of their criticism at Obama and avoid criticism of the denier Republicans seem lost to me.