Changes for Obama climate goals do not need congressional OK: report

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:50pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during his his year-end news conference in the White House briefing room in Washington, December 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses during his his year-end news conference in the White House briefing room in Washington, December 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group of business leaders, energy experts and former government leaders believes that the Obama administration could tackle climate change by taking measures that do not require congressional approval, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The 207-page report contained about 200 recommendations on how President Barack Obama can use executive authority to advance the climate change action plan he announced in June. It was released by former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who briefed U.S. cabinet officials and senior policy staff focused on energy and climate policy last week.

The recommendations focus on five areas: doubling energy efficiency; financing renewable energy; producing natural gas more responsibly; developing alternative fuels and vehicles; and helping utilities adapt to the country's changed energy landscape.

They highlight measures that every federal agency can take, said Heather Zichal, a former energy and climate policy adviser to Obama who helped coordinate the report.

"The president is going to put pressure on his agencies to identify areas of opportunity" to help the country meet its goal of slashing carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, said Zichal, who left the White House in late 2013.

The report was inspired by a meeting last March between Obama and 14 corporate and private sector leaders to discuss ideas to reshape energy policy. It was produced by the Center for the New Energy Economy (CNEE) at Colorado State University, with contributions from more than 100 business leaders, academics, energy experts and government leaders.

One of the recommendations called on federal agencies to work with electric utilities and regulators across the country to update regulations that have created barriers for new clean energy technologies.

"As one utility executive put it, today's new energy technologies are 10 years ahead of utilities in the United States, and utilities are 10 years ahead of regulations," Ritter said.

Another idea was for the Internal Revenue Service to reform the tax code to level the playing field for private investors who want to bankroll clean energy technologies.

Zichal said proposals like a bipartisan bill introduced last year called the Master Limited Partnership Parity Act and Real Estate Investment Trusts could offer the same tax breaks that support fossil fuel projects to the renewable energy industry.

The report also calls for a federal process to develop methods to account for the full costs of various energy choices, including healthcare costs associated with air pollution.

By calculating those costs, the administration would have more information and choices to develop a "best of the above" energy strategy. That's in contrast to the "all of the above" strategy often cited by the administration.

That strategy uses cost assumptions and acknowledges the need for the continued use of fossil fuel energy sources while calling for a ratcheting down in carbon emissions.

"All of the above" has come under criticism, most recently by several leading U.S. environmental groups that sent a letter last week to new White House energy adviser John Podesta.

In a reply to the groups, Podesta outlined some of the administration's accomplishments on the environment, including new vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards, in light of tough political opposition from Republicans in Congress.

He noted their attempts to defund the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or to weaken its authority to regulate greenhouse gases, and said he had expected to see more support for the administration's work from the groups.

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

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; editing by Ros Krasny and Amanda Kwan)

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Comments (4)
A review of studies from the last two years shows that ~0.01% of climate scientists worldwide refute climate change. Yet 58% of the GOP still denies it.

And this is a brief excerpt from a publication discussing the American Meteorological Society official stance on climate change:

“Climate is always changing. However, many of the observed changes noted above are beyond what can be explained by the natural variability of the climate. It is clear from extensive scientific evidence that the dominant cause of the rapid change in climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in the amount of atmospheric greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide. ”

(also important, for those who insist that global warming is impossible because it’s cold outside right now):

“The difference between weather and climate is critically important in considering predictability. Climate is potentially predictable for much longer time scales than weather for several reasons. One reason is that climate can be meaningfully characterized by seasonal-to-decadal averages and other statistical measures, and the averaged weather is more predictable than individual weather events. A helpful analogy in this regard is that population averages of human mortality are predictable while life spans of individuals are not. A second reason is that climate involves physical systems and processes with long time scales, including the oceans and snow and ice, while weather largely involves atmospheric phenomena (e.g., thunderstorms, intense snow storms) with short time scales. A third reason is that climate can be affected by slowly changing factors such as human-induced changes in the chemical composition of the atmosphere, which alter the natural greenhouse effect.”

Don’t let pseudo-science, paid for in whole by the fossil fuel industry, fool you.

Jan 21, 2014 3:49pm EST  --  Report as abuse
4825 wrote:
Climate change is a misnomer. Our climate always changes. It has for as long as there has been a climate. It used to be that they called it global warming but that did not fit the mold. They have now changed the cry to climate change and like to point to extreme cold or heat as being caused by man. Anyone that believes the earth’s average temperature does not change up and down over time is fooling theirself. Why would any changes we have seen over the last few decades qualify as anything out the norm, because that has been seen for centuries? There have been strong winter storms long before man used fossil fuels. There was an extremely harsh winter in 1777 – 1778 that everyone has read about at Valley Forge during George Washington’s life. Was that climate change or global warming? There have been strong summer storms long before man used fossil fuels. Was that man made? Use the common sense that God gave you and decide for yourself instead of listening only to the folks that make a living selling the hype. Also, try to imagine your life without energy as a part of it. It would not be a pretty sight.

Jan 21, 2014 7:52pm EST  --  Report as abuse
unionwv wrote:
The motherboard article’s assertion is absurd on it’s face. It alleges that the number of scientists sceptical of manmade “global warming” can be inferred by the number of articles they have been allowed to publish in mainline scientific journals.

An accurate presentation of sceptical scientist’s identity and their scientific assessment of mankind’s affect on climate can be found here:

The roughshod methods our divisive president is using against the Congress will result in years of litigation in the courts.

Jan 22, 2014 10:10am EST  --  Report as abuse
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