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Washington, D.C. June 26, 2013
Prepared by Edelman Energy
To learn more about Edelman Energy, please contact Amy Malerba Hemingway, senior vice president and global energy lead, at email@example.com or call (202) 371-0200.
After many months of relative silence on climate change issues, President Obama yesterday unveiled a plan to reduce emissions using executive powers that do not require Congressional approval. It has been years since his first major promises on the issue; but a lack of Congressional action has left them unfulfilled. Obama’s plan builds on the U.S.’ commitment to the Copenhagen Agreement – made in 2009 – that by 2020, America will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels. Obama’s plan comes at a time when the energy sector is experiencing a significant shift in the appeal of various fuel sources. The price of oil has remained relatively low – staying under $100 per barrel for more than the past year, while the price of natural gas has begun to rise from historic lows that were spurred by a glut of economically accessible gas, thanks to the advent of horizontal drilling. The wind industry has also enjoyed a boom, in part due to extended tax credits, that spurred the construction of more than 6,700 new wind turbines in 2012, representing 42 percent of all new U.S. electric generating capacity the same year. Turning to the President’s climate action plan, the White House contends that the plan will: Cut Carbon Pollution. The Administration is putting in place tough new rules to cut carbon pollution to “protect the health of our children and move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources that will create good jobs and lower home energy bills.” For example, the plan: Directs EPA to establish carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants; Makes up to $8 billion in loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy and efficiency projects to support investments in innovative technologies; Directs DOI to permit enough renewables project on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes; designates the first-ever hydropower project for priority permitting; and sets a new goal to install 100 megawatts of renewables on federally assisted housing by 2020; while maintaining the commitment to deploy renewables on military installations; Expands the President’s Better Building Challenge; Sets a goal to reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – more than half of the annual carbon pollution from the U.S. energy sector – through efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings; Commits developing fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles; Leverages new opportunities to reduce pollution of highly-potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons; and Directs agencies, including the EPA, to develop a comprehensive methane strategy. Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change. Building on progress over the last four years, the plan: Directs agencies to support local climate-resilient investment by removing barriers or counterproductive policies and modernizing programs; Pilots innovative strategies in the Hurricane Sandy-affected region to strengthen communities against future extreme weather and other climate impacts; Launches an effort to create sustainable and resilient hospitals in the face of climate change through a public-private partnership with the healthcare industry;
Maintains agricultural productivity by delivering tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers, and landowners; and helps communities prepare for drought and wildfire by launching a National Drought Resilience Partnership; and Provides climate preparedness tools and information needed by state, local, and private-sector leaders through a centralized "toolkit" and a new Climate Data Initiative.
Position the U.S. to Lead International Efforts to Address Global Climate Change. Placing America in a leadership role in global climate change negotiations, For example, the plan: Commits to expand major new and existing international initiatives, including bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries; and Calls for the end of U.S. government support for public financing of new coal-fired powers plants overseas, except for the most efficient coal technology available in the world's poorest countries, or facilities deploying carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The White House has released an infographic – found here – that describes additional background on the President’s plan, including data on our current climate reality and impacts Obama’s plan proposes to make. Turning to his address at Georgetown University, President Obama opened the discussion by positioning the need to act on climate change as a health issue backed by scientific data – similar to the U.S. acid rain and pollution issues of the past. The President also focused extensively on natural gas, stating that “we should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions.” Of particular note, Obama addressed the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, opening the possible approval of the project by stating that “our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”
President Obama’s climate action plan, released at 6 a.m. ET on Tuesday, received wide media coverage in the U.S. from environmental and energy reporters ahead of the President’s afternoon address at Georgetown University. Obama’s plan was widely reported on by beltway media outlets in particular, including the Washington Post, Politico and The Hill, which in turn spurred responses from NGOs and industry groups. Of these initial articles, many incorrectly predicted that the President would not mention the Keystone XL pipeline, focusing rather on leveraging the EPA’s authority to cut emissions from existing power plants. During his address, President Obama positioned the need to act on climate change as a science and health issue – similar to the U.S. acid rain and pollution issues of the past. This framing was subsequently reflected in live tweeting from reporters, analysts and other third-party observers during the speech, as well as in articles from energy and environmental blogs. Surprisingly, the major cable news networks – MSNBC, CNN and FOX – each initially aired Obama’s Georgetown University speech before quickly turning to other news, including the trial of George
Zimmerman and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down parts of the Voting Rights Act. However, the President’s remarks were reported after the fact by CNBC, NBC, PBS, CBS and Fox News. The tone of top tier coverage remained neutral, with Fox News reacting negatively to the plan. Critics of Obama’s climate plan focused on three key issues from the speech: the Keystone XL pipeline, elimination of tax breaks for oil and gas companies, and new limits on new and existing power plants. Speaker John Boehner, for example, responded to the prospect that Obama would put forth controls on existing power plants by deeming the idea "absolutely crazy." Top articles recapping the President’s plan include: Obama's New Climate Plan Is a Big Deal for Environmentalists, The Atlantic On Keystone, What President Said Trumps What White House Leaked, Talking Points Memo Obama's scaled-down climate-change agenda, Politico White House adviser: 'War on coal is exactly what's needed', The Hill The word you didn’t hear in Obama’s climate speech. San Francisco Gate Poll: Americans Split on Obama’s Handling of Climate Change, The Huffington Post The Best Green Idea in Obama’s Climate Change Speech, The Daily Beast Obama Unveils Climate Change Strategy: End of Line for U.S. Coal Power? National Geographic Plan B for climate change, The Washington Post Dueling Meaning on Keystone Found in Obama’s Words on Pipeline, BloombergBusinessweek Why Obama's Climate Change Plan Is Hopeless Without China, The Atlantic Republicans face limited options on Obama climate plan, Politico
International Media Coverage
Overall, international media to date have presented neutral to positive reports of President Obama’s climate change speech. International governing bodies like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the European Commission expressed their support of the President’s plan and called on him to take a leading role in future international climate change negotiations. Arabic language news largely focused on summarizing the President’s speech with particular attention given to his call to lower GHG emissions. News sources in China also provided an overview of wide-reaching plan, contrasting the plan with the U.S.’ record of rising emissions and pollution. Spain’s leading daily newspaper, El Pais, was largely positive in its reporting of the new climate change plan. BBC News (global) provided a topline overview of the President’s remarks and then focused on his ability to circumvent Congress to implement his measures. The Financial Times (global) chose to focus on the President’s remarks about the Keystone XL pipeline. “Addressing the most pressing energy-related issue facing the US, Mr. Obama said that the ‘net effects’ of Keystone, which would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands to American refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, would be a key consideration in determining whether his administration would approve the pipeline.” The FT also stated that in Europe, where the Eurozone crisis has pushed the climate change agenda firmly into the political background, environmental campaigners said they hoped Mr. Obama’s speech would puncture arguments tackling global warming as bad for the economy.
The Guardian published an op-ed that President Obama’s plan remains fatally compromised by Obama's unflinching commitment to the maximum possible exploitation of fossil fuels - a contradiction that has set the world on course to trigger unmitigated catastrophe in coming decades. People’s Daily Online (China, picked up by Xinhua) outlined the supporters and opposition to the President’s speech, highlighting that many believe his plan doesn’t do enough and does not address all the climate change issues at hand. The People’s Daily Online also highlighted the United States’ poor record in emissions output over the years. The Independent (United Kingdom) focused on the President’s ability to implement several of the measures outlined in his speech without the authority of Congress and to the ire of many of his Republican critics. The Independent also noted that this is the first time, however, that Washington has pledged to put in place a strategy of mandatory limits on CO2 exhaust from all power plants, both existing and new, using provisions of the 1970 Clean Air Act. UN News Centre announced that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change applauded the President’s speech and stated that, “it can be a critical move forward on the path towards a new, global climate agreement.” When the United States leads action, it also encourages more rapid international efforts to combat climate change by strengthening political trust, building business momentum and driving new technology solutions,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, said in a statement. Public Service Europe reported the European Commission’s announcement that it was “"glad to see the United States finally moving" on the issue of climate change. There had already been growing optimism about the US approach to climate change, which has previously frustrated European policy-makers. In a statement reacting to Obama's speech, Europe's climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the proposals were a "most welcome step forward" that could "put the US on a path towards a low carbon future". Business Insider reported that the plan was positive for the fracking industry. The article stated that the plan cuts down on coal emissions with President Obama’s new initiative to address climate change but that it looks like the Obama administration is embracing natural gas extraction instead. El Nuevo Herald (Miami, Spanish outlet) provided robust coverage and analysis of the President’s speech, focusing on how the United States will significantly increase renewable energy production in subsidized housing communities for low-income people. According to environmentalists, measures to reduce heat-trapping gases emitted by coal-fired power plants would have the greatest impact. The Herald analyzed that by acting independently; Obama's options are somewhat limited. However, environmentalists say that measures to reduce heattrapping gases emitted by coal-fired power plants would have the greatest impact. EFE Verde (picked up by Terra Argentina, noticieros televistas, Las Provincias (Spain) , Ideal Digital (Spain), Terra Columbia) noted President Obama’s commitment to reduce air pollution and willingness to devise a coordinated attack against climate change. In their short post, Ideal noted Obama’s call for the cessation of bipartisanship on the issue of climate change.
Aleqtisadiya (Saudi Arabia) honed in on the President’s remarks about Americans paying the price for climate change and the need “to protect our children and grandchildren from its affects.” Their coverage also noted the President’s desire to cut greenhouse gases from coalfired power plants. Macleans (Canada) specifically focused on the mention of the Keystone Xl project, highlighting the President’s statement that the pipeline should only be approved by U.S. authorities if it won’t lead to a net increase of greenhouse gas emissions. Bangkok Post published an op-ed by Andrew Hammond, an associate partner at Reputation Inc., who stated that the President’s plan will be welcomed by many across the world, and comes during a period when it may seem hard not to be pessimistic about the global battle to manage the huge risks of climate change. AlRiyadh (Saudi Arabia) provided a topline overview of the President’s climate change speech focusing on specific targets for emissions reductions. AlMuheet (Paris-based, Arabic publication) announced that France welcomed President Obama’s climate change plan citing the endorsement from the French minister of foreign affairs, the minister of environment and energy and the minister of development. The ministers called on President Obama to participate more in international climate negotiations. ElNashra (Lebanon) outlined the main points of the President’s speech, playing close attention to issues of greenhouse gas emissions. El Khaleej Times (UAE) provided an outline of the President’s speech and labeling the plan, the United States first national climate action plan. El Pais (Spain) labeled Obama’s climate change plan ambitious and a major undertaking. El Pais was extremely complimentary but highlighted the challenges that lay ahead. According to El Pais, along with the legalization of undocumented immigrants, now being discussed in Congress, and the reduction of nuclear arsenals, announced last week in Berlin, this calendar against climate change is one of the most significant steps taken by this Administration.
REACTIONS TO THE PRESIDENT’S PLAN
Though individual companies have been slow to address the President’s plan, energy industry groups and Republican politicians have reacted negatively to the President’s plan, specifically in regards to Obama’s endorsement of reducing tax breaks for oil and gas companies, as well as putting further restrictions on coal-fired power plants. Overall environmental NGOs spoke positively of Obama’s plan. However, the more extreme environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, voiced concerns that the plan is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough to address fracking and other environmental issues.
Think tanks such as the Brookings Institute and The Council on Foreign Relations have remained neutral on the policy thus far, and have pointed to their Fellows to address their personal opinions on the plan. Reactions from key stakeholders include: Positive: Sierra Club, executive director Michael Brune: "The President's plan gives us hope that he will cement his climate legacy and protect future generations by rejecting the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline, ending destructive oil drilling in the Arctic, halting mountaintop removal, stopping reckless liquefied natural gas exports, and abandoning dirty fuels in favor of clean energy." American Wind Energy Association, CEO Tom Kiernan: "AWEA supports climate policies to achieve science-based greenhouse gas targets. And since wind energy is the leading solution to power-sector carbon emissions, we're ready to do our part to help America address global warming, especially in the early years of the climate protection effort when few other solutions are as readily deployable and scalable." American Gas Association, official statement from president and CEO Dave McCurdy (excerpt): “Working alongside renewables and energy efficiency, our domestic abundance of natural gas provides an incredible opportunity to deliver the essential energy that will help drive economic growth while protecting the environment. Natural gas utilities are committed to actions that, in the words of the President, 'save families money, make our businesses more competitive and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.' … In communities throughout the country, demand for safe and responsible delivery of natural gas has increased and local utilities have heeded that call, upgrading and expanding what the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration calls the safest and most reliable method of delivering energy in the nation. We welcome President Obama’s support in these efforts. … The President can further advance our nation’s climate goals by supporting advanced technologies using natural gas, such as natural gas vehicles, microgrids, distributed generation and combined heat and power. These innovations have great potential to reduce emissions in the transportation, building and manufacturing sectors while providing customers an affordable, resilient energy solution.” Environmental Defense Fund tweeted: “The President announces his climate plan today. Are the days of silence and inaction over? Support #Obama's #climate plan!” National Resources Defense Council tweeted: “President Obama's plan will help us turn the tide. It will make a profound and lasting difference in America's fight against climate change…the President also called for reducing other significant global warming pollutants such as methane and hydrofluorocarbons. But even as we reduce emissions from fossil fuels, America must also expand our clean energy resources.” Securing America’s Energy Future tweeted: “Glad to hear POTUS supporting #NatGas, #EVs, #EnergySecurity, & all-of-the-above in today's speech #ActOnClimate pic.twitter.com/Eh17tYzl2t.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): “The president is using all the tools in his tool box and I applaud him for that.”
Neutral: American Electric Power, spokeswoman Melissa McHenry: "The focus on resilience, clean coal technologies, electric vehicles, energy efficiency and transmission investment demonstrates that the administration is looking at a full portfolio of actions to address the issue—not just cutting emissions from power plants," Edison Electric Institute*, president Tom Kuhn: “The nation's shareholder-owned electric companies will want to ensure that any new policies or regulations to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants "contain achievable compliance limits and deadlines, minimize costs to customers, and are consistent with the industry’s ongoing investments to transition to a cleaner generating fleet and enhanced electric grid. It is also critical that fuel diversity and support for clean energy technologies be maintained, not hindered.” America’s Natural Gas Alliance, president and CEO Marty Durbin: “While many details are yet to come, it’s worth noting that President Obama again recognized the benefits of natural gas as an American source of energy that is clean, reliable and affordable. Thanks in large part to natural gas, our nation’s carbon emissions are at 20-year lows, a milestone accomplished principally though market forces that can be traced directly to the shale gas revolution in states and communities across the country… We’re concerned, therefore, that the president continues to single out the oil and natural gas industry for punitive tax treatment. Like all other capitalintensive industries, cost recovery is critical to the success of the natural gas industry. So, for example, eliminating the Intangible Drilling Cost deduction would lower investment and production, not only increasing natural gas costs, but diminishing our ability to deliver the jobs, environmental benefits and energy security that come with domestic natural gas production” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, president Eileen Claussen: "In crafting the power plant rules, EPA should consult widely with utilities and with the states, which ultimately must implement them. We strongly encourage EPA to devise a flexible strategy that allows a variety of state-level policies, including market-based approaches, and allows utilities to cut emissions at the lowest possible cost." Greenpeace statement: “It appears that the President will finally begin to make good on his climate promises, but to truly meet his obligation to future generations, this must be the foundation – not the final act – of his climate legacy…The President intends to hand pass on a healthy and sustainable world for our children, there is no place for the Keystone pipeline, ‘clean coal,’ fracking, Arctic oil drilling, or giant giveaways to the coal industry.” o Greenpeace also tweeted: “There is no place for fracking and #oil drilling if @BarackObama wants to #actonclimate http://bit.ly/19yIRkJ”
Negative: American Petroleum Institute* – Official statement from president and CEO Jack Gerard: “The president recognizes the important role natural gas has played in reducing CO2 levels to near 20 year lows, thanks to private investments in energy exploration, production and refining. Those investments in America’s energy potential have led us to the point of being the world’s largest
producer of natural gas, and flipped plans to import LNG into plans to export it. But by recycling his plans to raise taxes on U.S. oil and natural gas companies, President Obama runs the risk of unwinding the significant environmental benefits from natural gas, threatens our economic recovery and dampens our ability to create millions of jobs for Americans. Ironically, the president’s plan to raise taxes by eliminating cost recovery for U.S. oil and natural gas companies would jeopardize his own climate goals by making some of those investments uneconomic. After a handful of years, we would see less domestic energy production – particularly of natural gas – more imports, fewer new jobs, and, eventually, depressed tax, royalty and other revenues to governments at all levels.” National Mining Association*: o Official statement from president and chief executive Hal Quinn: “Americans are looking for jobs and economic security. Coal power plants generate more electricity and create and sustain more jobs than any other energy source. So policies that shut off coal energy damage the nation's job and economic engine, while also raising costs to American consumers. New coal plants are best-in-class global leaders in generating efficient, clean, reliable and affordable electricity. Existing coal plants are being upgraded to be cleaner than ever before to supply reliable electricity that keeps our country growing and competitive. Our policies need to be aligned with our national interest so that coal continues to create jobs and keeps America competitive.” o Luke Popovich, spokesman for NMA: "The impact could be economic havoc." American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers* – Official statement from president Charles T. Drevna: “We welcome the fact that President Obama seems to be finally acknowledging the value of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, actions speak louder than words. We hope his statement means the State Department will immediately approve the pipeline, since several environmental reviews have concluded that building Keystone XL will lead to fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than if we did not build it. Moving ahead on this project is critical for creating thousands of jobs, as well as maintaining and strengthening America’s national and economic security. Unfortunately, the overall plan is poised to once again pick winners and losers among energy producers, but at the end of the day, the biggest loser will be the U.S. economy. If world action is dependent on the ‘United States taking the lead,’ as advocates of fossil fuel energy rationing have claimed, then why haven’t nations with poor environmental standards followed our lead in reducing GHGs and other emissions over the last twelve years? Our air is cleaner than it has been in more than 20 years and yet, in far too many cities abroad, the air is easier to chew than it is to breathe. While the President is paying lip service to the fact that GHG emissions here are the same as GHG emissions abroad, he is still talking about taking unilateral measures to ration energy regardless of whether or not he is able to gain international cooperation. Despite leading most of the world in air quality, President Obama appears ready to implement additional costly regulations that will produce little if any tangible benefits. His plan will give a competitive advantage to less environmentally friendly nations, including Russia and China, which are unlikely to significantly retool their economies to address environmental concerns.
Ironically, the President’s proposal ignores his own regulatory contradictions and also makes claims with little basis in fact. He claims to have a goal of reducing GHG emissions, but is moving forward with Tier 3 gasoline and other stationary source regulations that will increase such emissions. He also expresses support for the RFS, despite data from EPA and the National Academy of Sciences showing that the broken ethanol mandate will increase GHG and other criteria pollutant emissions. Additionally, it is specious at best to make the link between asthma and GHG emissions. The Administration’s own data shows that since 1980, emissions of pollutants linked to asthma have decreased 63 percent, while GHG emissions in that time period increased 21 percent before stabilizing and then decreasing over the last decade. Not only does this show there is no correlation between the two, but regulations to reduce asthma causing pollutants requires more energy use, once again increasing GHG emissions. The President cannot have it all ways.” National Association of Manufacturers statement: “President Obama today revealed his most ambitious regulatory agenda yet, one that would remake the entire U.S. economy. During the campaign, the President regularly touted increasing manufacturing jobs, and he rightly recognized that a strong and vibrant manufacturing sector is key to robust and sustained economic growth and job creation. Unfortunately, under his watch, he seems intent on taking actions that would put manufacturing in the United States out of business. The President’s plan puts our country on a path toward the elimination of fossil fuels from our energy mix that is wholly inconsistent with his promotion of an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan just a few months ago. Heritage Foundation, analyst Nick Loris: "The danger of President Obama's climate change speech is that, regardless of the economic burden these policies will inflict upon Americans and regardless of the barely noticeable environmental impact, this Administration is intent on moving forward." National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, CEO Jo Ann Emerson: “Electric cooperatives oppose President Obama’s proposal to use the Clean Air Act to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. America’s rural communities depend on coal-fired generation for affordable electric power and would be disproportionately penalized by this scheme. Folks in rural communities and those with low or fixed incomes already spend more of their household budget on energy; this proposal would increase their burden. The President's proposal would be, in effect, a regressive new climate tax on America’s most economically vulnerable citizens.” Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV): "By shutting down the production of coal, not only will the president make it impossible for America to become energy-independent, but he could deliver an unrecoverable blow to coal-rich states like West Virginia." Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV): “We’re looking for an all-energy policy that secures our nation, makes us less dependent on foreign oil or foreign energy — and we can do that, but we’ve got to use everything we have in balance with the environment and the economy… That’s all we’ve ever said.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): “President Obama today declared a war on coal, and thus declared a war on Kentucky jobs and our economy," said Paul. "Whether it is through the retroactive denial of permits, onerous regulations on coal-fired power plants, or unreasonable environmental requirements, the policies of this administration are threatening the very way of life that has sustained Kentucky communities for generations… "As a defender of the free market and of coal, I will continue to fight back against the EPA and any other federal agency whose goal is to stifle coal production. I will continue to stand up for our miners in Washington as we continue to recognize the sacrifices they make to provide food for their families and energy for America.”
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