President Obama’s decision to devote time in his second inaugural address Monday to address climate change came as a surprise to many in the energy and environmental community, but maybe it shouldn’t have been such a shock. An early indication that the Obama White House was going to take a tough stance on global warming in the president’s second term may have come last week, when word began to circulate that the president intends to appoint Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough as his next chief of staff. While the White House has yet to officially confirm that McDonough is Obama’s choice to be his next top staffer, it’s been widely reported since last week that McDonough’s appointment is more a matter of when than if.
MidAmerican Energy Co., a unit of billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Iowa’s largest energy company, is phasing out coal in seven boilers at three company power plants, according to a settlement with the Sierra Club. The proposed consent decree, filed today in Southern Iowa U.S. District Court, follows a lawsuit threat from the Sierra Club in July. Environmentalists accused the company of Clean Air Act violations at its Neal Energy Center, Walter Scott Jr. Energy Center and Riverside Generating Station.
The town of Newport, Ore. (population 9,968), calls itself the “Dungeness crab capital of the world.” Soon, though, it may instead be known as the wave energy capital of America. The Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (NNMREC), based out of Oregon State University, recently announced plans to build the United States’ first utility-scale, grid-connected wave energy test site in Newport. At what will be called the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC), scientists and engineers will test up to four devices brought in by different developers to determine the cost of deep-water wave energy technology, as well as the environmental and social impacts.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday rolled out a measure he hopes will put the state on the path to becoming a leader in offshore wind energy development in the mid-Atlantic region. The governor’s third try in three years resembles a bill he pushed for last year. It would establish a regulatory framework to create an incentive for companies to invest in an offshore wind project by requiring electricity suppliers to buy offshore renewable energy credits.
Basking in praise from environmentalists because President Obama shined a spotlight on climate change in his inaugural address, the White House today sought to avoid raising expectations about specific new legislation aimed at curbing global warming. “I’m not going to speculate for you about future actions,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said when asked about how Obama intends to follow up on climate change comments.
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who is said to be in the running to take over the Department of Energy if Steven Chu resigns, captivated a crowd of DOE staff and outside stakeholders with a pitch to promote clean energy deployment with a state-based competition modeled on the popular education program “Race to the Top.” Granholm’s pitch came at DOE’s “All Stars” event Saturday afternoon that featured a series of presentations from energy experts modeled off TED talks.
Vice President Joe Biden last night urged environmentalists to “keep the faith” on climate issues as he made a surprise appearance at the Green Inaugural Ball. President Obama is committed to tackling the issue during his second term, Biden said to roaring applause at the event, hosted by the National Wildlife Federation at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum.
President Obama prominently featured climate change — calling out skeptics and calling for America to lead a worldwide transition to new energy technologies — in his inaugural address today. While this second address on the steps of the Capitol was about 300 words shorter than his first, Obama spent a great deal more time today on energy and environmental issues in a speech meant as a call to action on the current challenges facing America.
It was heartening to see President Obama include an ample reference to the importance of climate-smart energy policies in his short inaugural address today. The speech is presumably a sketch of what’s to come in the State of the Union message and policy initiatives this year.
The inauguration is over, and a new Congress is getting organized this week. So time to get to work, right?
Not so fast, at least when it comes to the plethora of pending energy and environmental issues — from power plant rules to pipeline permits — that are awaiting action in President Obama’s second term and will draw intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill.