Obama vows to take independent action on climate change

13 February 2013 03:42  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that if Congress fails to pass appropriate climate change legislation, he will take independent action to combat global warming and transition the US to more sustainable sources of energy.

In his annual state of the union message delivered before Congress on Tuesday night, Obama said that the US is “finally poised to control our own energy future”, noting that the nation is producing domestic oil at a pace not seen in 15 years and that natural gas production is at record highs.

“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change,” he said, adding that recent US droughts, hurricanes and wildfires support “the overwhelming judgment of science” that climate change is happening.

We must act, he said, “before it is too late”.

“The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth,” Obama said.

“I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” he said, citing earlier congressional efforts that failed to pass in both chambers.

“But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” he said.

“I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare out communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy,” Obama said.

Under existing law, the US president can issue executive orders to implement polices and practices that otherwise would not meet the approval of Congress as new legislation.

The US energy industry and many in the petrochemicals and downstream chemicals manufacturing sectors have been sharply critical of various Obama administration executive orders and regulatory initiatives aimed at reducing carbon dioxide and other emissions along with fossil energy production and use.

But Obama also credited newly abundant production of natural gas from shale deposits, noting that “the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence”. 

He said that his administration would “keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits”.  However, energy industry officials have repeatedly charged that the administration has suppressed oil and gas drilling, especially on federal lands.

Obama also indicated that he will push for greater use of natural gas as a transportation fuel, saying that he will use oil and gas drilling royalties to fund research “to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good”.

Some US petrochemical producers have expressed concern that greater use of natgas as a transportation fuel combined with increased exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) could drive up domestic prices for natural gas, the principal feedstock and power fuel for the industry.

In his first state of the union address since winning a second four-year term as president, Obama also called for increased taxes “for the well-off and well-connected” and lamented that “corporate profits have rocketed to all-time highs – but for more than a decade wages and incomes have barely budged”.

He said he would press Congress to raise the current US minimum wage of $7.25/hour to $9/hour.

He also called for increased efforts to combat cyber attacks against US infrastructure and financial institutions, and he said he was launching talks toward a comprehensive trade and investment partnership with the EU.

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy


By: Joe Kamalick
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