Obama's State of the Union climate strategy falls short for future generations

State of the Union climate

Obama giving the 2014 State of the Union Address. Credit: Pete Souza, 2014 via The White House

In the United States’ annual presidential State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made some of his strongest remarks yet in favor of tackling climate change. His championing of fossil fuels in an ‘all of the above’ energy plan, however, falls short of what is needed to meet the demands of the climate crisis.

Obama indicated that he will continue to pursue federal climate and clean energy action as part of the presidential legacy he intends to leave behind.

Climate change is a fact.  And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did. – President Obama

He credited the renewable energy industry for spurring innovation and job creation, particularly the burgeoning American solar industry.

We are extremely pleased that the president of the United States acknowledged the strength of the American solar industry and that the White House highlighted our new jobs data showing that 143,000 Americans now work in the solar industry. – Andrea Luecke, executive director and president of The Solar Foundation

Though Obama’s remarks on climate science and the success of American renewables were applauded, these remarks came after Obama championed a dangerous ‘all of the above’ energy strategy.

An ‘all-of-the-above energy strategy’ cannot work for the President’s own climate action plan and the climate vision he espoused tonight. All energy sources were not created equal. Clean energy is better for our families, communities, future generations, and American competitiveness. The United States should be placing our bets on ‘best of the above,’ not ‘all of the above.’ – Trip Van Noppen, Earthjustice

President Obama continues to endorse increased dependence on domestic oil as well as fracked natural gas, which has been shown to be a ‘bridge fuel to nowhere’ in the fight against climate change.

The simple truth is that promoting All of the Above energy policy (nee “Drill, Baby, Drill”) is the latest form of climate denial. You simply cannot  believe the science of climate change and promote expanded fossil fuel extraction at the same time. – David Turnbull, Campaigns Director at Oil Change International

The natural gas boom only continues the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels and holds back investment in truly clean energy sources. In fact, fracking for natural gas releases dangerous levels of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, negating any of its potential as a climate solution. Fracking also endangers public health by polluting both air and water with harmful toxins.

Unfortunately, the sum total of the President’s commitments fall short of what American families need to ensure a safe, healthy planet for our children. We can’t drill or frack our way out of this problem.  There is far more potential for good job creation in clean energy like solar and wind, and common sense solutions like energy efficiency. – Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club

In total, American organizations following President Obama’s climate and clean energy agenda called for more action to put his words into practice:

One of the best ways President Obama can open doors of opportunity for those who most need it is by connecting his economic vision to his climate agenda. The president’s proposed expansion of truly clean sources of energy like solar and wind power, energy efficiency, and clean vehicles not only fight climate change—they can create good, high-wage employment. – Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO of Green For All

The climate crisis warrants courage and visionary boldness that transcends the politics of the day. President Obama has to leave his comfort zone and take action against the planet-warming pollution spewing from our tailpipes and smokestacks. He must set a national cap for carbon pollution, toughen power plant rules to achieve meaningful emission reductions, and reject dangerous Arctic drilling and the dirty Keystone pipeline. – Kierán Suckling, Executive Director of the Center for Biological Diversity

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