For months President Obama has wavered over a key choice: does he appease his ardent environmental supporters or advocate for economic growth that will help the rest of America? In his speech outlining his Climate Action Plan, his choice was clear. He's abandoning what is best for America and has bowed to environmental lobbyists like the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
White House Climate Advisor, Daniel P. Schrag told the New York Times: "Everybody is waiting for action, the one thing the president really needs to do now is to begin the process of shutting down the conventional coal plants." However, the American public is not clamoring for the closure of cost-effective coal-fueled power plants. What they want is cheap energy, but Obama is, as the Washington Post states: "a president bizarrely antagonistic toward domestic energy production and low energy prices."
In the Pew Research Center's annual policy priorities survey, just 28% say dealing with global warming is a top priority for the president and Congress this year. In fact, the president's own research shows that his favorability rating "plummeted" with focus groups when he vowed to attack climate change--yet, promising to use executive action, he's pushed forward with plans he knows couldn't get through Congress.
The Washington Post explains why Obama is now seeking to go around Congress to enact anti-coal regulations by fiat: "When Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, Obama could not get climate control legislation passed."
President Obama's issued a directive for the EPA, instructing them to begin drafting new rules governing emissions from power plants. Current EPA regulations are already closing coal-fueled power plants at an alarming rate--which New Mexico Public Regulations Commissioner Pat Lyons calls "the real energy crisis that no one is talking about." There are no plans to effectively replace the comparatively cheap electricity.
Europe has already tried this experiment and found it to be economically devastating. In April, the European Parliament voted against saving the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)--Europe's flagship environmental program. Roger Helmer, a member of the European Parliament explained that propping up the ETS would "make energy more expensive; undermine European competitiveness even further; drive even more businesses and jobs and investments offshore (known in the jargon as 'carbon leakage'); and force more households and pensioners into fuel poverty." Regarding the April 16 vote, The Financial Times reported: "Complaints from business groups that the carbon market and other climate policies are contributing to higher energy prices at a time when they are already grappling with a weak economy appeared to be decisive in Tuesday's vote."
In Tuesday's speech, Obama did point to one success: "Since 2006, no country on Earth has reduced its total carbon pollution by as much as the United States of America." The US is the only industrialized country to actually lower carbon emissions. We've done it, not through extreme policies--but through private enterprise embracing our abundant natural gas. Encouraging extraction in the US and approving Liquefied Natural Gas export terminals would reduce global carbon emissions and help our economy.
"Rather than new federal regulations, he should be encouraging more natural gas development and approving Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export licenses," states Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government & Public Affairs for the Western Energy Alliance. "By exporting LNG, not only would America benefit from huge job growth, but we would be providing a low-carbon solution to other nations and helping them to likewise reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Germany and Japan have increased their use of coal because they lack access to affordable natural gas, and their carbon emissions have risen. By stubbornly repressing exports, the President is standing in the way of a global solution to a global problem."
The fact that natural gas is only given cursory mention, rather than being an integral part of Obama's National Climate Action Plan, exposes his true motives--which are less about carbon emission reductions and more about furthering America's declining international status. Why else would he emphasize what has proven to not to work and eschew what we know to be effective?
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).