The State of the Union address is an event that always makes me feel patriotic — proud to be an American, to live in a democracy, to have the chance to participate in our governance.
Last year millions of us demanded that President Obama give us a plan to slow global warming. Industrial carbon emissions are the biggest contributors to the greenhouse gas blanket that is destabilizing our climate. We must cut them.
The president proposed three enormously significant initiatives. They aren’t sexy, they aren’t easy to turn into three-word slogans; they aren’t even that easy to understand.
They are the most significant things any president has ever done to stop climate change.
One is EPA’s upcoming rule to increase fuel economy standards and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for heavy duty vehicles, building on the Administration’s previous success with cars and trucks.
The other two: EPA has proposed that new coal plants must be designed to significantly reduce carbon emissions. EPA will be proposing pollution limits for existing power plants this summer. As coal plants now are the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases, these two rules will have enormous consequence.
What else will help stop our climate from changing for the worse? Several other key things:
- Strong national rules on natural gas development–zero tolerance for leaking methane.
- Further investment in wind, solar and battery technologies.
- An end to fossil fuel subsidies and taxpayer support for a wealthy and established industry.
- Greater energy efficiency in all the stuff we use.
- Support for good old American ingenuity in developing entirely new sources of power.
Who knows what else? Life is full of surprises. Right now, everything helps; it’s smart politics and smart science to use all the tools at hand. We need more affordable energy choices.
America is, once again, an energy superpower. We are harvesting so much oil and gas here that we can export it. Energy has played a huge role in our growth — as it does in any country’s growth. We have an opportunity to be smart about cleaning up our current energy sources and developing the new–and non-polluting–energy resources that will sustain our future–and that of our children.
Unfortunately, even before the new carbon rules are out, wealthy corporate polluters — and the politicians who serve their interests — are fighting them. They claim it is patriotic to burn fossil fuels. This would be laughable, if it were not so cynical. Is it patriotic to ignore the warnings of danger from the world’s most esteemed scientists? Is it patriotic to gamble with human life on this planet? Of course not.
We are not just an energy superpower, we are a moral superpower too. We still have suasion on the global stage. And we have standing in international science, technology, and engineering communities. Let’s not waste all that energy, either.
It is up to us to participate in the state of this beloved union. We must tell the President to keep up the pressure to deploy smart power. Keep up the pressure to cut greenhouse gas pollution. Keep up the pressure to stop climate change. Keep America great — and keep our planet safe.