Obama touts all-of-the-above energy strategy in State of the Union speech; draws “trying to have it both ways” ire from biofuels, environmental groups

January 28, 2014 |

Draws fire from biofuels, environmental groups for emphasis on fossil fuels, back-off on renewables; 110,000 sign VoteVets.org  petition in support of RFS

In Washington, US President Barack Obama delivered the 2014 State of the Union speech, and declared that “the all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working.” The complete text of the President’s remarks on energy policy are here:

“One of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy. The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we’ve been in decades.

“One of the reasons why is natural gas – if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change. Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas. I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas. My administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.

“It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too. Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can’t be outsourced. Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.

“And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume. When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars. In the coming months, I’ll build on that success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

“Taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet. Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. But we have to act with more urgency – because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods…Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

Biofuels reaction: rhetoric nice, but reversal on RFS hits only clean energy, climate policy on the books

“The President talked a lot about fuels of the future.  The transportation fuel of the future is biofuels – and it’s ready now,”said Adam Monroe, Americas Regional President for Novozymes. “The Renewable Fuel Standard is the Nation’s only long-term energy and climate policy. It has cut the emissions that lead to climate change, while creating wealth through investment, jobs and rural growth. Strong, stable policy is key to keeping this momentum. We can’t let our environment and economy suffer because of policy instability.”

The Fuels America coalition commented: “We are heartened by the President’s commitment to an all-of-the-above energy policy. However, his Administration’s proposal to reverse the progress of the Renewable Fuel Standard contradicts this rhetoric. Today is the final day of the EPA comment period on their proposed Renewable Volume Obligations and we hope the agency considers the thousands of comments from farm families, small business owners, labor groups and environmental advocates. These are the real people who will lose their livelihoods and their faith in this Administration’s commitment to a clean energy future if the EPA proceeds down its current path.”

Sierra Club: “Trying to have it both ways”.

The speech drew instant negative response from Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, over the Administration’s natural gas agenda. “President Obama said:  “Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

“But in tonight’s speech,” Brune continued, “President Obama missed his opportunity to truly commit to that vision. As long as his administration keeps throwing lifelines to old sources of energy like oil and gas, we won’t be able to lead the world on clean energy solutions like wind and solar. Our government shouldn’t be in the business of propping up yesterday’s dirty fuels. It’s time to end oil and gas fracking on public lands. He’s trying to have it both ways –but we can’t drill and frack our way out of the climate hole we’re in.  Getting all of the energy we need without using fossil fuels is no longer a question of whether we can — but whether we will. ”

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation: “The energy innovation challenges underpinning climate change require far more attention than these modest carbon reduction efforts.”

“The President’s speech also highlighted what’s wrong with America’s energy and climate strategy. An all-of-the-above approach that leads with natural gas and EPA regulations is not a long-term solution. Natural gas, while marginally cleaner than coal, is no substitute for a transition to renewables, nuclear, carbon capture, biofuels, and electric vehicles. And carbon caps on power plants, while accelerating the shift to natural gas, is no substitute for consumers choosing clean energy because it makes economic sense rather than through government mandates. The energy innovation challenges underpinning climate change require far more attention than these modest carbon reduction efforts.”

110,000 signature petition received by EPA in support of RFS2

The speech coincided with the end of comments on the EPA’s proposal on 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard volumes. More than 31 US Senators signed letters of support for RFS2, and  110,000 signatures on a petition to support RFS2 were received by EPA yesterday from VoteVets.org.

The largest progressive group of veterans in America, VoteVets.org, today was joined by Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley in delivering over 110,000 petition signatures to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, calling on the agency to protect the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).

“The 110,000 people that voiced their opinion on the critical importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard deserve to be heard,” Braley said. “The RFS improves our economy and contributes to our energy independence—and the EPA needs to understand that Americans don’t support their misguided attempt to alter a law that’s working so well.”

“This issue is clear cut,” said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran, and Chairman of VoteVets.org.  “The less dependent on oil we are, the lower the prices become worldwide.  Our enemies often benefit from the rising prices of oil – even those we do not buy oil from – and use those dollars against us and our troops.  This is an issue of protecting our men and women in uniform, and the EPA must do its part to ensure America’s dependence on oil is decreased, not increased.  Ethanol is a key part of making that happen.  Now is the time for the EPA to stand up to big oil, and stand up for our troops.”

POET, BIO hit hard on EPA’s proposed structure for RFS volumes: “misuse of RFS general waiver provisions”

In the comments, Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section, wrore, “A court would not likely uphold the 2014 RFS rule as proposed, given that EPA’s proposed interpretation of its authority under the general and cellulosic waiver authorities exceeds the bounds of appropriate deference under the law.”

POET’s comments were even sharper: “EPA’s reversing course now—and reducing without justification Congressionally-mandated targets—is both contrary to law and sets bad policy, undermining the environmental benefits of the RFS while also rewarding obligated parties for their avoiding the increased use of biofuels.

“In particular, EPA must set the 2014 RFS conventional renewable fuel target at no less than the statutory level of 14.4 billion gallons. Any reduction in this target would undermine the regulatory predictability of the RFS and investment in advanced biofuels,…EPA must avoid misusing RFS general waiver provisions [and] should not seek to manipulate RIN prices so that they fail to incentivize feasible, near-term increases in the use of ethanol blends over E10 (such as E85 and E15) and biodiesel.”

Complete text of SOTU speech

The complete text of the Obama State of the Union speech is here.

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