The State of the Union is “All of the Above”
So, I almost didn’t write Cliffnotes this week, since my colleague Pat McVeigh did such a wonderful job on Pat’s Picks that my own contribution seemed kind of superfluous. Check out her really beautiful ode to California’s rain, or lack thereof, in which she channels another great Californian, Joan Didion. She covers the water issue in depth so I won’t focus on it here, but trust me that it’s top of mind for anyone working on climate and energy issues in the Golden State this month, and likely this year.
I am just coming off a 24 hour whirlwind trip to D.C. (redeye there, evening flight back, more time in the air than on the ground) so I am going to take the easy way out this week and revert to shorthand and bullet points. Here are some highlights from the past week:
The State of the Union is “All of the Above”: President Obama definitely focused on climate and energy in the SOTU on Tuesday night, giving time to oil and gas production along with energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. There’s been a lot of ink spilled in anger over the President’s refusal to drop his “all of the above” framing of national energy issues; Slate has this slightly different take, arguing that by “all of the above,” the President really just means natural gas and renewable energy. Coal, importantly, is nowhere to be seen in his energy vision; neither it seems is nuclear power. This President has chosen his baseload power source, and it seems to be natural gas. (Amy Harder has a nice piece on the relationship between natural gas and climate change here. The spoiler: it’s complicated.)
Some key excerpts from the speech, for those who missed it:
- Natural Gas: “If extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.”
- Solar: “It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar.”
- Subsidies: “Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.”
- Fuel Efficiency: “When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.”
- Urgency: “But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods.”
- Line of the Night: “The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”
Businesses (and Armies!) Wake up to Climate Risks: There were some great articles this week underscoring the increasing economic risk of not dealing with climate change, something we’re of course focused on every day in our Risky Business work. Here are some of the best articles of the week:
- Barry Ritholtz in Bloomberg, talking about how companies are moving beyond the debate over the science of climate change and on to the debate about just how climate impacts will affect the business community (and who will be the winners and losers).
- Coral Davenport in the NY Times, with a great discussion about the debate in Congress over whether to extend a flood insurance program that passes on the cost of living in risky, flood-prone areas to homeowners rather than taxpayers; this sounds great but it’s playing out in deeply political ways along the coasts.
- Neil Bhatiya, blogging for the Century Foundation on why climate change is a major national security threat, right up there with cyber-attacks and terrorism.
A Climate Hero Leaves Congress… We’re all mourning the loss to our nation’s government of Rep. Henry Waxman, who has served over 40 years in the House of Representatives and been a true leader in pushing for Congress to recognize and deal with the impacts of climate change.
…Maybe He Should Come Work for Us: Next Generation is hiring! We have two internships posted here and here. Ask anyone: our internships are the best around: challenging, exciting, and paid pretty well. Send a cover letter, résumé, and two brief writing samples to email@example.com.
That’s all folks; keep on praying for rain, and I’ll see you next week!