Climate Change in the State of the Union

Last night President Obama gave his State of the Union address. Before the speech started environmentalist and others that care about the environment were anxiously waiting to see if climate change would make it in to the speech and how big of a role it would play. Much like last year, there were some good parts that brought cheers throughout social media from the environmentalist and many things that brought a lot of booing as well.

One part that I have mixed feelings about is domestic oil and gas production. Living in Oklahoma, I have spent my life around the oil and gas industry. Chesapeake’s, one of the largest natural gas producers, headquarters is across the street from the Oklahoma City Whole Foods that I sometimes go to, to shop. I have many friends that work for Chesapeake and other oil and gas producers. The oil and gas industry brings a lot of money and jobs to my state.

However, hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is an environmental disaster, it pollutes our water and air, and the disposal wells used in the process are likely causing earthquakes. And of course oil and gas are both fossil fuels, not only are they causing environmental harm but they will run out, and many believe they will run out soon. If we don’t stop relying on them soon times will be very hard as we run out of both.

We do have to be realistic though, this part may not thrill some of you but we can’t stop using fossil fuels overnight. I’m typing on a computer largely powered by coal and natural gas, though I do buy wind credits through my energy company. The computer you are using right now is also likely powered by coal and natural gas, most likely the car or public transit you use is powered by a fossil fuel. If we stopped production tomorrow we would all be in a lot of trouble. This is the harsh reality of our situation right now.

So I had mixed feelings when President Obama said that we are producing more oil at home right now than we have in 15 years. The fact that it’s produced at home means we get a higher concentration of the pollution but we also get the economic benefits and more fuel isn’t wasted shipping it here. So there are some pros, environmentally, to greater domestic oil production. But of course we can’t continue down this path! And President Obama did give good news as well,

“We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it…….  And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”

And he went on to take a strong stand on climate change. Saying that we must “for the sake of our children and our future” do more to combat climate change. And my favorite quote from the night,

“Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend.  But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15.  Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense.  We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence.  Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”

He went on to urge Congress to create a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. And had a very strong statement to make to Congress,

“But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.  I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

He went on to say solar energy has gotten cheaper and that we need to drive the costs down even more. And praised the increase we have seen in wind energy and said we must generate even more. Some not so great news did follow,

“In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence.  That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.  But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.”

Many gas and oil permits have been issued that aren’t even being used and his administration has been approving more permits non-stop. I do hope that more research is done to make natural gas safer, like I said before we must continue using it for now, it’s not practical to think we can just stop. The problem would just be moved to another country and in my opinion that’s not ethical. He went on to talk about something many of us have been waiting for, conservation and funding research for new technology.

“Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.  If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we.  Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long.  I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years.  The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.”

We lose about 7% of the energy we produce as it transmitted to customers. Our grid is in bad shape and in need of an update. Updating the grid will make renewable energy even more viable and will help bring more jobs to the United States.

“America’s energy sector is just one part of an aging infrastructure badly in need of repair.  Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids.  The CEO of Siemens America – a company that brought hundreds of new jobs to North Carolina – has said that if we upgrade our infrastructure, they’ll bring even more jobs.  And I know that you want these job-creating projects in your districts.  I’ve seen you all at the ribbon-cuttings.”

Overall the speech made me optimistic. However, with the Keystone XL being build just around 20 miles from me, I do still feel we must continue to push for real climate reform. This Sunday many environmentalist will rally in DC for just that, real climate reform. Visit the Sierra Club’s website for more information on the Forward on Climate rally and what you can do to help. We must act and show the President and Congress that we demand real change and that we must act now.

Did you watch the State of the Union, what were your thought? Share in the comments below or on my Facebook page. If you missed the speech you can watch or read it at Politico.

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