The Washington Post

Obama’s 7 State of the Union talking points. No. 2: Saving the planet

President Obama will deliver his sixth State of the Union address on Jan. 28. Over the next few days, The Fix is previewing Obama's major themes and challenges in the speech, focusing on one issue a day leading up to Tuesday's address. Today's talking point is the environment.

Seven months after President Obama unveiled his vision for grappling with climate change, some environmentalists hope he will choose Tuesday’s State of the Union Address to announce how he plans to go farther in protecting the warming planet.


File: President Obama speaks about climate change at Georgetown University in Washington, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Some in the fossil fuel industry, in contrast, are looking for what they would consider a more reasonable approach. “2014 has the potential to be a breakthrough year on climate in the U.S. and the president has the opportunity to show stronger leadership this year than he has,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “At the top of the list,” he added, “is a renewed commitment to get tough on the climate action plan.” For Brune that would mean “much more vigorous support for clean energy growth,” including government grants, investment in research and development, reducing emissions by the federal government and talking about renewables as a creator of jobs.

And it would mean further efforts to curtail the use of coal to generate electricity.  In September, the Environmental Protection Agency issued proposed new rules governing future coal-fired plants, and the agency is scheduled to release standards for existing plants in June.

Last week, some of the nation’s leading environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, broke with Obama over the administration's energy policy, which still embraces gas, oil and coal. The groups want a strict climate test on all energy decisions.

On the other hand, Nancy Gravatt, senior vice president for communications at the National Mining Association, said she hopes Obama will move toward “policies that are truly aligned with an ‘all of the above’ energy policy” and scale back proposed EPA standards for coal plants that “rely on unproven or commercially unavailable technology.” With coal still the fuel for nearly 40% of electricity generation in the United States, Gravatt said the industry wants Obama to enunciate policies that “leverage the power and value of coal, which is our nation’s largest energy source and source of electricity.”

She also said the mining industry is looking for progress on speeding up the granting of permits for mines, which, she said, can take ten years. The product of those efforts is crucial to upgrading the country’s infrastructure, Gravatt said.

With Congress stalemated over new designations of wild lands, some wilderness groups are holding out hope that Obama will choose this year, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Wilderness Act, to renew a commitment to protect public lands.

That would include using the American Antiquities Act to protect more sites, if necessary, and better funding the agencies responsible for wilderness and wildlife, said Jeremy Garncarz, senior director of wild lands designation at the Wilderness Society.“There’s an opportunity here for him to really talk about continuing to protect what really defined our nation,” Garncarz said.

Talking point No. 1: Defending Obamacare.

Lenny Bernstein covers health and medicine. He started as an editor on the Post’s National Desk in 2000 and has worked in Metro and Sports.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Republicans debate Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the next debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Listen
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote.
New Hampshire polling averages
Polling in New Hampshire has typically been volatile after Iowa's caucuses, but Bernie Sanders, from its neighboring state Vermont, has been holding a lead over Hillary Clinton.
55% 38%
Listen
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 6: GOP debate

on ABC News, in Manchester, N.H.

Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.