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Despite Stirring Speech, Obama Unclear on Climate Change

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POTUS and FLOTUS at the 2013 Inauguration | Photo: Glyn Lowe/Flickr/Creative Commons License
During his second inaugural address yesterday, in among the stirring sentiments about "Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall," President Obama said that the United States' continued failure to address climate change "would betray our children and future generations." Aides have indicated that his upcoming State of The Union address will reveal some of his proposed climate strategy for his second term. But will the action match the rhetoric?

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Here's the text of the relevant portion of Obama's Second Inaugural Address;

But will the President's "path toward sustainable energy sources" include a carbon tax, which most analysts agree is a crucial tool in discouraging the emission of greenhouse gases? It would seem not.

As evidence, take the President's statement in his first post-election press conference November 14 in response to a query about climate change:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney amplified the President's position in a press conference the next day aboard Air Force One, as the President and his press entourage headed to New York to tour the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy:

If Obama doesn't change course and start to push for a price on carbon emissions, then what does his "path toward sustainable energy sources" consist of? One hint can be found in reporter Ben Geman's piece on The Hill regarding a small Inaugural gathering Monday night in DC, attended by Obama's green energy team.

In attendance at the Environmental & Clean Energy Inaugural Ball were outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and White House Science adviser John Holdren. Addressing the dinner, which was sponsored by a range of alternative energy trade groups and corporations speakers lauded the President's actions in his first term -- mainly permitting 10 gigawatts of public lands renewables and boosting the nation's vehicle fuel economy standards. The clear implication was that the next four years would offer more of the same, though a few specifics were mentioned, such as enacting stricter controls on emissions from power plants .

Though White House climate and energy aide Heather Zichal told the crowd that energy and climate would be a "top priority" during Obama's second term, she didn't offer many specifics. "I am not going to get in front of my boss on this one," Zichal told Geman. "I think you will, in due time, see a really aggressive agenda on the energy and climate initiative in line with what the president talked about today." Zichal added that the upcoming State of The Union address would likely hold more specifics.

Whether those specifics extend beyond what is politically palatable remains to be seen.

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For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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