Obama revisits energy policy, cap-and-trade and EPA regulation


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Besides acknowledging a ‘shellacking’ in midterm congressional elections, President Obama on Wednesday addressed some of the fronts on which Republicans and ‘tea party’ activists claimed victory: Environmental Protection Agency regulation on greenhouse gas and the cap-and-trade approach to energy policy.

Although he said there were areas where Republicans and Democrats agree on energy, the president offered a dismal prospect for comprehensive energy legislation at least until 2012.


‘I think there are a lot of Republicans that ran against the energy bill that passed in the House last year, and so it’s doubtful that you could get the votes to pass that through the House this year or next year or the year after,’ Obama told reporters at the White House.

The president also defended the legal basis for the EPA to focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions: a Supreme Court decision directing it to do so under the authority of the Clean Air Act.

‘The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction. One of the things that’s very important for me is not to have us ignore the science, but rather to find ways that we can solve these problems that don’t hurt the economy, that encourage the development of clean energy in this country, that in fact may give us opportunities to create entire new industries and create jobs ... that put us in a competitive posture around the world.’

The president also appeared to nuance his stance on a ‘cap-and-trade’ bill to control greenhouse gas emissions through a trading market. Several analyses showed more than two dozen members of Congress who voted for the Waxman-Markey bill lost their elections. And he hinted at a more conciliatory tone between Congress and the EPA, which reportedly will be a target of GOP House committees.

‘Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem. And I think the EPA wants help from the legislature on this. I don’t think that, you know, the desire is to somehow be protective of their powers here. I think what they want to do is make sure that the issue’s being dealt with.’

Obama twice brought up the nation’s reserves of natural gas and mentioned a revived nuclear power industry as an avenue of enhancing energy independence. ‘We’ve got, I think, broad agreement that we’ve got terrific natural gas resources in this country. Are we doing everything we can to develop those? ...There’s been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases. Is that an area where we can move forward? ...So, you know, I think when it comes to something like energy, what we’re probably going to have to do is say, here are some areas where there’s just too much disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. We can’t get this done right now. But let’s not wait.’


Related: Proposition 23: Backers were out-spent, out-organized

-- Geoff Mohan