Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Reactions to Obama's energy, climate change comments

Environmental groups are hopeful and urge action. But what was that bit about energy wasted?

Reactions to Obama's energy, climate change comments

Was Obama forceful enough in the environment and energy portion of his State of the Union address last night? Did he say what environmental groups wanted to hear about climate change and other environmental issues? What now?

One observer pointed out that Obama issued the goal for Americans to reduce by 50 percent the amount of energy not that they use in their homes and businesses, but that they waste in their homes and businesses. And they've got 20 years to do it.

So just how ambitious is that? How much is wasted compared to how much is used?

Looking at an incandescent lightbulb, only 10 percent of the energy that goes into it becomes light. The other 90 percent is wasted as heat -- unless it's a cold day and you're also trying to heat the room. So there's an easy mark.

Clearly, it would be a whole more ambitious to say we should cut our energy use in half.

Nevertheless, Steven Nadel, executive director of the nonprofit group, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, was pleased.

"By supporting energy efficiency, the President has made a smart investment that will pay off immediately and down the line for future generations," he said. "There's a good reason why energy efficiency has broad support among business and legislators across the aisle, it's one of the great cost saving success stories for the nation in the last three decades and still has large untapped potential."

Meanwhile, immedately after the State of the Union, the Natural Resources Defense Council conducted a poll of 1.218 registered voters.  Nearly two thirds -- 65 percent -- said they think climate change is a serious problem. A substantial majority support President’s Obama using his authority to reduce arbon pollution. And 62 percent agreed with Obama's view that we must take action "for the sake of our children."

NRDC President Frances Beinecke said is a press release today that the best action "is to reduce the carbon pollution from our dirtiest power plants, the single greatest threat to our climate’s future. That will take presidential leadership. Americans are counting on bold action – for the sake of our children.”

Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt said the president's pledge  “struck a chord with Americans."  She wants to see him reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, limit carbon emissions from power plants and advance clean energy solutions. "We stand ready to support him at every turn along the way,” she said.

Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp predicted that "the sensible first steps" Obama proposed "will be historic, and will build on powerful work at the state and local levels. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the president has the authority and the duty to get started. Ultimately, though, we’ll need even bolder action from Congress in order to shift America to a clean energy economy and prevent the worst impacts of climate change."

The Environmental Defense Fund has produced a TV ad to support President Obama's climate change. Although it will only run in Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Ohio, Maine, and Iowa, I'll embed it below.

As for industry, Regina Hopper, president of America's Natural Gas Alliance said, “We welcome President Obama’s continued acknowledgement of tremendous opportunities that the continued safe and responsible development of American natural gas presents."

But she reamains cautious: “Given its importance, however, it is vital that U.S. policies relating to our industry all pull in a consistent and constructive direction. We will have to take a closer look at the president’s proposals related to taxes and use of revenue from natural gas production to ensure that they don’t have a negative impact on our ability to provide affordable energy and create jobs."

Alex Flint, an official with the Nuclear Energy Institute, commented: "For decades now, nuclear energy—with its added advantage of being the nation's leading low-carbon source of electricity—has been one of the pillars of our electric sector. It is imperative that nuclear energy facilities continue to play a key role in the mix of electricity sources for U.S. energy, environmental and economic goals to be achieved."

Will a divided Congress somehow work together on climate change? Remains to be seen.

The House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition issued a statement after the speech, saying that "This is the moment for action. The choices we make now, whether we choose to act or choose to turn a blind eye, will define our mutual legacy for generations to come."

But if the comments of U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, a Chester County Republican, are indicative of where the Republicans are on the issue ... he didn't even mention it, although he was "pleased to hear the President voice his support for more safe development of American natural resources."

Likewise, it's interesting that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's statement as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, did not mention energy or climate change.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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