Fossil Fueled Problems Part II: Separating Reality from Rhetoric

Yesterday I visited Nevada and New Mexico to talk about what we’re calling an all-of-the-above energy strategy….So today, I’ve come to Cushing, an oil town because producing more oil and gas here at home has been, and will continue to be, a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy…We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some. So we are drilling all over the place – right now.”

~ Excerpts from President Obama’s recent speech in Cushing, Oklahoma

Is anyone else’s head spinning after President Obama’s declaration of his “all-of-the-above energy strategy?” I feel like I’ve been fed so much contradictory information about his energy policies that I no longer know which way is up and which way is down.

First, there was “Campaign Obama.” In 2006, he gave a speech on energy independence and told the world,

“The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril…what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return. And unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe.”

President Obama Touts "all-of-the-above" in Cushing, OK

That’s pretty clear, right? President Obama said that we need to stop using fossil fuels, or we’re going to be in big trouble.

Some of his actions have supported that assertion. He pushed hard for the 2009 climate bill, which died in the Senate. In his 2012 State of the Union speech, he called for an end to oil subsidies. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent coal regulations may very well prevent the construction of any new coal power plants.

But in 2011, the President halted EPA regulation of smog standards which would have decreased ground-level ozone and the associated health effects, like asthma and other respiratory illnesses.  He’s called for the use of clean coal, which doesn’t exist.

Now, he’s using Republican rhetoric and encouraging drilling “all over the place,” despite the April 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf, the uproar over the Keystone Pipeline, and the recent science showing that fracking causes earthquakes. The “all-of-the-above” strategy is pulled straight from the Republican National Committee’s webpage, which reads,

We believe in energy independence. We support an “all of the above” approach that encourages the production of nuclear power, clean coal, natural gas, solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, as well as offshore drilling in an environmentally responsible way.” 

 Now, if you’ve been paying attention to politics over the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that Republicans have basically decided to make themselves into the anti-environment party, promoting the false choice between environmental health and safety (yes, for people) and economic prosperity. (They’ve obviously never taken ECON101. Google “pollution” and “negative externalities” and see what I mean. And check out how much money the Clean Air Act has saved us.)

What is President Obama doing? I think he’s playing a middle of the road strategy and trying to get re-elected. While that strategy is predictable, it’s certainly not what I was hoping for when I voted for the President promising “Change We Can Believe In.” I want a President who believes in science and who is committed to addressing what is possibly the biggest threat to public health and safety we’ve ever seen.

I’ll be curious to see what direction energy policy takes during the presidential race, especially considering the President’s flip-flopping and contradictory policies. I have a feeling I’m going to be disappointed. Sure, he says he believes in the science, but does he act on it? Recently, not so much. Whether it’s to gain votes or it’s truly what he believes, I’m afraid Barack Obama is shifting towards a Republican, clean coal and climate change denying point of view.

What do you think will happen in the rest of 2012?
Caroline Selle is an environmental activist convinced that small changes have big impacts and has been known to engage in minor battles over the thermostat. When she’s not griping about the lack of public transportation in southern Maryland, Caroline is writing about the human faces of environmental issues, lobbying in D.C., or studying the impacts of media rhetoric on public opinion. She is currently working on a book about the activism around the Keystone XL pipeline. Follow her on Twitter.




  1. You know President Obama is a politician first and foremost. So he has to travel in the middle for those votes. You on the other hand are not a politician and will never be elected to hold a political office, because there are people with very different view of what you hold as your ideal view for an energy strategy. Once you accept that then you have to accomplish some of your goals slowly at the same time tolerating the other side with political savvy. That’s where the “O” man comes in.


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