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Energy

Obama Allies Urge Environmental Activists to Avoid Economic Arguments

President Barack Obama wipes his face as he speaks about climate change.(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

photo of Amy Harder
June 25, 2013

A talking points memo sent Monday night ahead of President Obama’s speech Tuesday on climate change tells Obama supporters to downplay economic arguments and words like “regulations.”

The memo, obtained by National Journal, includes a “do’s and don’t’s” list of phrases to use (and not use) when advocating for action on climate change. “Do discuss modernizing and retooling power plants and innovation that will create green jobs…Don’t try to suggest net job increases,” reads one part of the memo.

Ken Berlin, chair of the Energy & Environment Team, a group of national, state and local energy and climate leaders, distributed the memo to his group of about 1,300 people who have organized around these issues for the Obama campaign.

 

Berlin said the memo was written by the Climate Action Coalition, a new coalition of most major environmental groups. He added the umbrella group is coordinated in part by Kevin Curtis, who is also affiliated with The Climate Reality Project, an advocacy group founded by environmentalist and former Vice President Al Gore. A call to Curtis was not immediately returned.

More from the 14-page memo’s “do’s and don’t’s” list: “Do inform audiences about the nature of the problem, who is at fault, and what can be done…Don’t debate the increase in electricity rates. Instead pivot to health & clean air message.” Another one says: “Do use ‘cutting carbon pollution from power plants’…Don’t use ‘regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.’ ”

Berlin acknowledged that although one could read the talking points as pivoting away from the economy, that’s not what the memo meant.

“Essentially, we think the priority arguments to make are the ones that climate change is having an impact now, hurting people now, hurting the economy now,” Berlin told National Journal Tuesday afternoon.

In his speech Tuesday, Obama stressed that combating climate change and growing the economy should not be an “either/or” proposition. “It’s both/and,” Obama said. “We’ve got to look after our children; we have to look after our future; and we have to grow the economy and create jobs.”

Nonetheless, talking points like the one in this memo could further inflame the already incendiary debate around what role Washington should fill in combating global warming. Republicans in Congress maintain that it is an either/or proposition with climate and the economy.

“This is not a problem that calls for a one size fits all solution. Ohio knows this better than most, since more than 80 percent of our electricity comes from coal generation,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in a statement after Obama’s speech. “This new regulation could raise costs for Ohio families, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet.” 

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