White House Walks Line Between Energy Production and Climate Issues

President Obama takes questions from the media in the East Room of the White House on June 29, 2011.
National Journal
Clare Foran
March 4, 2014, 6:31 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama doubled down in sup­port of nat­ur­al gas while at the same time cast­ing him­self as a cli­mate de­fend­er with the re­lease Tues­day of his fisc­al year 2015 budget pro­pos­al.

The budget, which out­lines pres­id­en­tial spend­ing and policy pri­or­it­ies for the com­ing year, touts the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s “all of the above” en­ergy strategy, a polit­ic­al pos­ture that has drawn the ire of en­vir­on­ment­al groups by pro­mot­ing fossil-fuel en­ergy de­vel­op­ment along­side re­new­ables.

This line is noth­ing new. In his State of the Uni­on ad­dress, Obama de­fen­ded nat­ur­al gas as a “bridge fuel” and stated: “The all-of-the-above en­ergy strategy I an­nounced a few years ago is work­ing.” The com­ments set off a firestorm of cri­ti­cism from en­vir­on­ment­al act­iv­ists who in­sist the pres­id­ent won’t leave a leg­acy on cli­mate change if he con­tin­ues to pro­mote nat­ur­al gas.

The fisc­al year 2015 budget shows that the pres­id­ent is un­moved.

It calls for in­crease in­vest­ments in sus­tain­able nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­tion, a clear nod to the pres­id­ent’s be­lief that the fuel is a key in­gredi­ent in the do­mest­ic en­ergy mix. At the same time, however, the budget shows a clear pref­er­ence for clean­er-burn­ing fossil-fuel tech­no­logy. It sets aside $476 mil­lion at the En­ergy De­part­ment to lower the costs of car­bon cap­ture and stor­age tech­no­logy for use in coal and nat­ur­al-gas-fired power plants.

The budget also provides a strong show of sup­port for clean en­ergy, al­loc­at­ing $2.3 bil­lion for DOE’s Of­fice of En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency and Re­new­able En­ergy to “build on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s suc­cess in re­du­cing U.S. de­pend­ence on fossil fuels.” 

The budget al­loc­ates $27.9 bil­lion over­all for DOE, a nearly 2 per­cent drop off from the $28.4 bil­lion re­ques­ted last year. EPA would get $7.9 bil­lion un­der the pro­pos­al, ap­prox­im­ately $300 mil­lion less than last year’s pres­id­en­tial fund­ing re­quest, while the In­teri­or De­part­ment would re­ceive $12 bil­lion, an in­crease of $300 mil­lion over last year’s re­quest. 

The pro­pos­al also high­lights the pres­id­ent’s cli­mate ac­tion plan, show­ing that when it comes to en­ergy and en­vir­on­ment policy, Obama be­lieves he can have his cake and eat it too.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4780) }}

It calls for fund­ing to pro­mote cli­mate-change ad­apt­a­tion and mit­ig­a­tion in a nod to the pres­id­ent’s pro­pos­al for a cli­mate re­si­li­ence fund, a $1 bil­lion pot of money that could be tapped to help com­munit­ies across the U.S. pre­pare for and re­cov­er from ex­treme weath­er linked to cli­mate change. The pro­pos­al also sets out con­ser­va­tion as an ad­min­is­tra­tion pri­or­ity, with a pro­vi­sion to set aside $900 mil­lion an­nu­ally in man­dat­ory fund­ing for Land and Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Fund pro­grams each year. LW­CF pro­grams di­vert money from oil and gas rev­en­ues to con­ser­va­tion ini­ti­at­ives. 

En­vir­on­ment­al­ists won’t be happy to see Obama con­tin­ue to bol­ster nat­ur­al-gas de­vel­op­ment. But in­terest groups look­ing to de­pict the pres­id­ent as in the pock­et of the oil and gas in­dustry will have a hard time of it. The budget clearly out­lines the pres­id­ent’s com­mit­ment to clean en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and cli­mate ac­tion. It also calls on Con­gress to end bil­lions of dol­lars in tax breaks for the the biggest en­ergy com­pan­ies, while at the same time ex­pand­ing and mak­ing per­man­ent the re­new­able-en­ergy pro­duc­tion tax cred­it.

What We're Following See More »
WEST WING REDUX
Allison Janney Takes to the Real White House Podium
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Carolyn Kaster/AP

STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
2 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
3 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
7 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
×