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David Roberts Finds Tiny Glimmer of Hope in Obama's Speech

In the midst of a sweepingly dismissive critical response to Obama's Oval Office speech Tuesday evening, David Roberts took a closer look and found small signs of calculated purpose amongst what many others labeled campaign-style pandering. Although the President couched his rhetoric in hazy, third-person subjects—"some believe," "others wonder"—Roberts highlights a point in the speech where Obama sent what could have been a subtle but determined message to the Senate about what he'd like to see in a clean energy bill.

With the prospect of a carbon cap or price this year all but on its last legs, Roberts asks:

What, then, should he ask of a bill? What are the top energy, as opposed to climate, priorities? As it happens, most of the energy options on the table are mediocre-to-terrible (mainly Bingaman's and Lugar's Bill). That side of the bill badly needs strengthening in three key areas if it's to be a substantial step forward:

It needs tougher, more ambitious energy efficiency provisions, particularly focused on the built environment. More efficiency would yield more jobs, lower household costs, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

It needs a stronger renewable energy standard, one that spurs more renewable energy deployment than business-as-usual (unlike Bingaman's meager [PDF] 15 percent by 2021) and is focused on renewable energy rather than clean coal and nuclear (unlike Lugar's "clean energy standard").

Finally, it needs to invest a hell of a lot more money into clean energy R&D.


He then excerpts part of the speech that addresses these issues, albeit in a quite distanced tone.

Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development—and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development.


Says Roberts, "That's hardly enough to salvage the speech, of course. But it's not nothing." Read the full piece on Grist.

Photo courtesy of via Grist.

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