Still drunk on oil: Obama’s speech in Cushing

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What would liberals be saying if President Bush – or hypothetically, a President McCain – had given the speech President Obama gave in Cushing, Oklahoma, on March 22?  “We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some. We are drilling all over the place – right now.”  And of course, not a word about climate change in talking about why we might not want to expedite tar sands production with the Keystone XL pipeline.

From the transcript of President Obama's speech in Cushing, Oklahoma, March 22:

Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. (Applause.) That's important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.

So we are drilling all over the place -- right now. That’s not the challenge. That's not the problem. In fact, the problem in a place like Cushing is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it to where it needs to go -- both to refineries, and then, eventually, all across the country and around the world. …

So, yes, we’re going to keep on drilling. Yes, we’re going to keep on emphasizing production. Yes, we’re going to make sure that we can get oil to where it’s needed. But what we’re also going to be doing as part of an all-of-the-above strategy is looking at how we can continually improve the utilization of renewable energy sources, new clean energy sources, and how do we become more efficient in our use of energy. (Applause.)

And, with this evasive and opportunistic framing, Obama gave the back of his hand to the 1,200 climate activists who gave him a much-needed shove in opposing the pipeline and getting arrested at the White House:

This whole issue of the Keystone pipeline had generated, obviously, a lot of controversy and a lot of politics. And that’s because the original route from Canada into the United States was planned through an area in Nebraska that supplies some drinking water for nearly 2 million Americans, and irrigation for a good portion of America's croplands. And Nebraskans of all political stripes -- including the Republican governor there -- raised some concerns about the safety and wisdom of that route.

So to be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn’t put the health and the safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project.

Joe Romm at Climate Progress called it Obama’s Worst Speech Ever.

Once upon a time, Obama said future generations would remember his ascendance as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

In a Cushing, Oklahoma, speech today, Obama made clear future generations would remember him for something quite different….

Obama will, I’ve said, be remembered for a “failed presidency” simply for failing to seriously fight for a climate bill. And this speech certainly guts any possible claim for a climate legacy.

Our friend Bill McKibben at Huffington Post (Mr. Obama Goes to Cushing, OK) (boldface added):

…True, the most critical part of the pipeline still can't be built -- thanks to Obama and 42 Democratic Senators, the connection to Canada remains blocked, and hence that remains a great victory for the people who rallied so fiercely all fall. But the sense grows that Obama may be setting us up for a bitter disappointment -- that his real allegiance is to the carbon barons. In recent weeks he's been talking tough about removing subsidies for the oil industry, a good idea that many of us will work hard to achieve -- but so far he hasn't mentioned by far the most important subsidy, the fact that unlike every other industry fossil fuel gets to dump its main waste product, carbon, into the atmosphere for free.

And if you think about it, "all of the above" is not a particularly coherent energy policy, not if one worries about climate change. Burning all the oil you can and then putting up a solar panel is like drinking six martinis at lunch and then downing a VitaminWater. You're still a drunk -- just one with your daily requirement of C and D….

Earlier posts:

Obama’s denial of Keystone XL tar sands pipeline permit was an easy decision, for now

Jim Hansen arrest at White House tar sands pipeline protest: “We had a dream”

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