Obama starts unveiling his plans for climate change, clean energy

Obama

President Obama called for stronger action on climate change and support of clean energy research during his State of the Union speech, and now he’s showing his cards for how he might carry that out. On Friday Obama is expected to propose funneling $2 billion worth of federal leases for oil and gas companies into research and deployment of cleaner vehicles, reports the New York Times. At the same time, Bloomberg reports that Obama could also use a law from the Nixon-era to tell federal agencies that they need to consider climate change impacts before approving infrastructure projects like oil pipelines.

The moves show how Obama is getting creative at a time when Congress isn’t likely to approve budget increases for clean energy support, or other policies like a cap and trade program or carbon tax. The stimulus package, which injected some $90 billion into clean energy projects and incentives, has largely been spent or the funds expired, so clean energy companies and projects are facing a steep drop in federal support in 2013.

Barack Obama

Yet, many will note that the moves are piece meal and not as aggressive as Obama originally proposed when he first ran for office. And some of Obama’s concessions to the natural gas and oil industry will likely anger environmentalists and some clean energy advocates. The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration plans to rewrite its proposal to regulate greenhouse emissions using the Environmental Protection Agency, making the proposal weaker and potentially delaying regulations.

The proposal for using $2 billion in federal leases will emerge over the coming weeks. Obama brought up this plan in the State of the Union speech, calling it an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. Obama said “If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.”

The use of the infrastructure law is a new idea, and will no doubt prove controversial. A manufacturing association told Bloomberg that the notion had them “freaked out.” The law originally was used to protect water, air and soil from infrastructure projects that could have negative environmental effects.

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