Podesta questions why environmentalists would challenge Obama’s energy strategy

White House senior adviser John D. Podesta questioned why environmentalists would criticize Obama's climate strategy (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
White House senior adviser John D. Podesta questioned why environmentalists would criticize Obama's climate strategy (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Obama's senior adviser John D. Podesta rebuked U.S. environmental leaders Friday for challenging the White House's energy strategy, saying he was "surprised" they would question his commitment to addressing climate change.

In a two-page letter obtained by The Washington Post, Podesta provided a detailed account of steps Obama has taken to reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, and others he has pledged to undertake as part of the climate action plan he unveiled in June. Podesta, who has spent several years championing an aggressive national and global climate strategy as chairman of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, began advising Obama this month on issues including energy and the environment.

He noted that the administration had already adopted strict fuel efficiency rules for cars and light trucks that "will cut 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution," had promoted renewable energy development and is now working to regulate carbon from power plants, impose tighter energy efficiency standards and more stringent fuel economy rules for heavy-duty trucks.

And in the past week, Podesta added, the White House has had to fight off efforts that would have prevented the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants and requiring cleaner fuel and vehicle equipment.

"Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your January 16 letter to President Obama," he wrote.

Podesta did not directly address the major thrust of the environmentalists' argument--that the White House was undercutting its climate efforts by simultaneously espousing an "all of the above" energy strategy that embraces carbon-emitting natural gas, oil and coal.

"The President has been leading the transition, to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production," Podesta wrote. "With the respect to meeting the threats posed by a rapidly-changing climate, implementation of the Climate Action Plan must and will remain the focus of our efforts."

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