Greens hit Obama on en­ergy plan

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - BUSINESS - By DINA CAP­PIELLO

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is stick­ing to a fos­sil-fuel de­pen­dent en­ergy pol­icy, de­liv­er­ing a blow to a month­s­long, be­hind-the-scenes ef­fort by nearly ev­ery ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal group to con­vince the White House that the pol­icy is at odds with his goals on global warm­ing.

The di­vi­sion be­tween Obama and some of his staunch­est sup­port­ers has been sim­mer­ing for months, a sur­pris­ing schism that shows the fine line the en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mu­nity has walked with a Demo­cratic pres­i­dent who has taken sig­nif­i­cant steps on cli­mate change, and the re­cal­ci­trance of Obama’s White House when it is crit­i­cized, even by its al­lies.

Days be­fore Obama’s State of the Union speech, the heads of 18 en­vi­ron­men­tal groups sent a let­ter to the pres­i­dent that had long been in the works say­ing his pol­icy doesn’t make sense. They see a con­tra­dic­tion in in­creased Amer­i­can pro­duc­tion of en­ergy from oil and nat­u­ral gas at the same time the gov­ern­ment is at­tempt­ing to re­duce the pol­lu­tion blamed for global warm­ing.

“We be­lieve that con­tin­ued re­liance on an ‘all-of-the-above’ en­ergy strat­egy would be fun­da­men­tally at odds with your goal of cut­ting carbon pol­lu­tion,” they wrote. But in his Tues­day night speech, Obama pro­claimed that em­brac­ing all forms of en­ergy, even carbon- pol­lu­tion fos­sil fu­els such as oil and nat­u­ral gas, is work­ing.

“Taken to­gether, our en­ergy pol­icy is cre­at­ing jobs and lead­ing to a cleaner, safer planet,” said Obama.

White House of­fi­cials knew last spring that a let­ter ob­ject­ing to Obama’s en­ergy pol­icy was in the works. They urged the en­vi­ron­men­tal groups to wait un­til af­ter Obama de­liv­ered a speech on cli­mate change in June, hop­ing his ag­gres­sive steps on global warm­ing would change their minds.

“There is a cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance in­side the ad­min­is­tra­tion. We be­lieve their com­mit­ment to fight cli­mate change is gen­uine, and yet the en­ergy pol­icy goals of the ad­min­is­tra­tion make ad­dress­ing cli­mate change much more dif­fi­cult,” Michael Brune, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Sierra Club, said in an in­ter­view with the As­so­ci­ated Press.

The en­vi­ron­men­tal groups’ stance could be dis­missed as ad­vo­cacy groups just do­ing what they do — push­ing the pres­i­dent to go fur­ther on an is­sue im­por­tant to their mem­bers.

Al­ready, they have protested a pipe­line project car­ry­ing Cana­dian tar sands oil into the U.S., fought to shut­ter coal­fired power plants and op­posed hy­draulic frac­tur­ing. But for the ma­jor groups, the let­ter marked new ter­ri­tory, the first time the lobby has been both united and sharply crit­i­cal of Obama’s cen­tral en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sue and one they sup­port in prin­ci­ple: curb­ing cli­mate change.

“Not a lot of th­ese groups have said it aloud. It does mark a shift in en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mu­nity,” said Maura Cowley, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the En­ergy Ac­tion Coali­tion, who signed the let­ter.

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