President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address tonight and delivered a statement on energy development and climate change that may leave executives in Kern County's oil industry scratching their collective heads.
Speculation about how the President would address climate change in this speech had grown since his inauguration speech last month. Many wondered if he would take this as an opportunity to ask for a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade bill, or reveal his position on the Keystone tar sands oil pipeline.
None of those areas were directly addressed, however, the President did provide more clues on what can be expected during his last term in office.
He reiterated his support for the nation's energy industry by saying that the country has increased its energy independence by developing more oil and coal than ever before, designing batteries that are ten times more powerful, and increasing the percentage of energy derived from wind, solar, and natural gas.
He then began addressing climate change by stating that emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the major greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, have decreased. However, he left no doubt that he believes climate change is a threat to the nation and that more needs to be done to address it in real ways.
He noted that the 12 hottest years on record have occurred in the last 15 years. He referred to floods, droughts, and wildfires that have been more intense than ever. He then said that we can either assume that climate change is a coincidence and do nothing or agree with the overwhelming belief of scientists that climate change is something that must be addressed in real ways.
He proposed that bipartisan, market based solutions be developed to help address climate change and the negative impacts it will have on the country. He also stated that if Congress failed to act in this area, then he was prepared to address it himself by issuing executive actions to:
- Reduce pollution
- Help communities prepare and plan for climate change impacts
- Develop more sustainable sources of energy.
- Drive down the cost of solar energy
- Encourage more usage of natural gas and cut red tape for new domestic oil and gas production as well as develop new technology to make them cleaner.
- Use oil and gas revenues to fund research to shift cars off of oil for good and free the American public from gasoline price spikes.
- Cut in half the amount of wasted energy over the next 20 years.
The news could be seen as encouraging to local oil companies hoping to increase oil and gas production in the San Joaquin Valley and elsewhere, particularly the President's reference to cutting red tape. However, by the same token, they may be feeling concerned about the costs of cleaner technology and how much of their revenues will be used to fund the proposed programs.
Reading between the lines, the President's statements that he supports the increased development of domestic energy supplies may be seen as a subtle hint that he intends to block the Keystone tar sands pipeline. Because the tar sands oil is located in Canada, failure to support its development will not contradict his support for increased domestic supplies.
In any event, until more details and specific proposals are made, just what exactly will be proposed remains to be seen.