President Obama’s Backwards Climate Change Approach


By Terrence Neal.

President Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy is tarnishing his climate change legacy.

During his presidency, Obama has taken many actions to combat climate change. The president has pushed for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change, including proposing standards to improve automobile fuel efficiency and regulations to cut carbon pollution from the nation’s power sector. Obama struck a climate deal with China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, which will require countries to cap and cut carbon emissions and meet renewable energy targets. Additionally, the president has safeguarded more land and water than any other former United States President.

While the president has taken the aforementioned actions to address climate change, he has simultaneously pursued a so-called “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. This encourages oil and gas development and exploration, which undermine his climate policy.

Under Obama’s guidance the United States has become the world’s largest producer of natural gas and oil. Increases in domestic oil production have led to cheaper gas prices, which are encouraging Americans to drive more and purchase less fuel efficient vehicles. Ultimately, this leads to increased carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector, which is already responsible for 28 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. Similarly, increased domestic natural gas production has greatly reduced the price of natural gas. As a result, consumers are choosing natural gas, a source of carbon pollution, over renewable alternatives, like wind and solar, therefore hampering the U.S.’s shift away from greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels.

With relatively affordable clean energy alternatives available, the president’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy is unmerited. In comparison to oil and gas development, clean energy development provides a boost to the economy without the emission of greenhouse gases. For example, it is estimated that achieving just 10 percent of Los Angeles’s rooftop solar potential could create 47,000 jobs and eliminate roughly 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. 

In the first month of 2015, Obama has reaffirmed his conflicting climate agenda. On January 25, the President’s administration unveiled a proposal to designate 12.3 million acres of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, which is the highest level of federal protection under which oil and gas drilling is banned. Banning drilling in this oil rich region seemed to reflect an effort to move away from fossil fuels and large step toward combating climate change. However, two days later, the Obama Administration released a draft of a plan for oil and gas leasing that would open up a previously off-limits area along the east coast to offshore drilling. The plan also offers new oil leases for the Gulf of Mexico and opens up areas of the Arctic for drilling.

With contradicting actions like this it is clear that Obama’s climate approach is totally backwards. If Obama wishes to leave behind a respectable climate change legacy and is as serious as he alluded in his 2015 State of the Union about addressing climate change, he must ditch his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy for a clean energy strategy. While it is unreasonable to advocate for the elimination of all fossil fuel use by tomorrow or even ten years from now, President Obama must stop crawling and take real strides towards realizing a climate resilient future.

To show his commitment to addressing climate change going forward, President Obama should veto the Keystone XL Pipeline, increase federal investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency technology, and ban the expansion of offshore drilling, pushing for offshore wind development in its place.

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