Obama, in Speech, Defends ‘All Of The Above’ Energy Plan

National Journal
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Ben Geman
Jan. 28, 2014, 4:29 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama is re­buff­ing en­vir­on­ment­al­ists who want him to aban­don his sup­port for do­mest­ic oil-and-gas drilling.

But he’s pledging wil­der­ness pro­tec­tion and call­ing for new steps to en­sure the na­tion’s gas pro­duc­tion surge doesn’t strand com­munit­ies when the boom times end.

“The all-of-the-above en­ergy strategy I an­nounced a few years ago is work­ing, and today, Amer­ica is closer to en­ergy in­de­pend­ence than we’ve been in dec­ades,” Obama said in Tues­day’s State of the Uni­on ad­dress.

The speech ar­rives shortly after ma­jor green groups called on Obama to ditch the “all of the above” policy that backs fossil-fuel de­vel­op­ment along­side the green en­ergy sources that en­vir­on­ment­al­ists em­brace.

But Obama noted that, “if ex­trac­ted safely,” nat­ur­al gas is “the bridge fuel that can power our eco­nomy with less of the car­bon pol­lu­tion that causes cli­mate change.”

He also touted safe­guards. “My ad­min­is­tra­tion will keep work­ing with the in­dustry to sus­tain pro­duc­tion and job growth while strength­en­ing pro­tec­tion of our air, our wa­ter, and our com­munit­ies,” he said.

In a “fact sheet” dis­trib­uted along­side the speech, the White House called on Con­gress to help cre­ate “sus­tain­able shale gas growth zones.”

The White House said this would help “re­gions come to­geth­er to make sure shale gas is de­veloped in a safe, re­spons­ible way that helps build di­verse and re­si­li­ent re­gion­al eco­nom­ies that can with­stand boom-and-bust cycles and can be lead­ers in build­ing and de­ploy­ing clean en­ergy tech­no­lo­gies.”

As part of his pro­mo­tion of nat­ur­al gas, the White House said Obama would pro­pose new in­cent­ives for me­di­um- and heavy-duty trucks to run on nat­ur­al gas or oth­er al­tern­at­ive fuels.

Obama said Con­gress can cre­ate jobs by “build­ing fuel­ing sta­tions that shift more cars and trucks from for­eign oil to Amer­ic­an nat­ur­al gas.”

Obama pro­moted the na­tion’s oil-pro­duc­tion boom early in the speech, not­ing that the U.S. is pro­du­cing more oil than im­ports for the first time in roughly two dec­ades.

However, he also hin­ted at great­er use of ex­ec­ut­ive powers to pro­tect wil­der­ness. “I’ll use my au­thor­ity to pro­tect more of our pristine fed­er­al lands for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” he said.

Else­where, Obama high­lighted an­oth­er ma­jor ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion un­der­way: planned En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency rules that will im­pose car­bon-emis­sions stand­ards on power plants. The com­ments come as the planned reg­u­la­tions face in­creas­ing at­tacks from Re­pub­lic­ans and in­dustry groups.

“Over the past eight years, the United States has re­duced our total car­bon pol­lu­tion more than any oth­er na­tion on Earth. 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. That’s why I dir­ec­ted my ad­min­is­tra­tion to work with states, util­it­ies, and oth­ers to set new stand­ards on the amount of car­bon pol­lu­tion our power plants are al­lowed to dump in­to the air,” Obama said.

The text of the speech is avail­able here.