"So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good," Obama said.
An eight-page plan released by the White House last night says, "the United States must continue to take steps to reduce carbon pollution while also improving our ability to manage the climate impacts that are already being felt at home. The President has directed his cabinet to identify additional executive actions from across the administration to help reduce pollution, prepare our cities and nation for the worsening effects of climate change, and accelerate the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, which will be assessed if Congress does not take action."
Obama's description of the climate challenge is the exact opposite, or nearly so, of how some Republicans interpret mankind's relationship with the world. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said Obama is "pretty dedicated to ... harming our economy" with emissions-reducing programs.
"By the way, I'm certainly somebody who does not believe in man-made global warming," Johnson said yesterday. "I don't believe the science has just proved that in any way, shape or form. And I have no idea why anybody would want to penalize their economy to the tunes of potentially a trillion dollars or more to address something that may not even be caused by man. And even if it were, probably there's nothing we can do to reverse the course."
GOP lawmaker: U.S. climate record is 'really good'
That viewpoint is not emblematic of Republican philosophy. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) was hopeful yesterday that Obama would spark compromises in Congress by delving into environmental and energy issues during his address.
"There's some common ground on cleaning up the air, energy independence and jobs," Graham said before the speech. "It'd be a good way to get us moving forward."
But areas of compromise are difficult to identify in a Congress where many Republicans described Obama's speech as endorsing heavy-handed programs aimed at killing the economy.
"Look, I think our record on climate change is really good," Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) said after the speech. "Our emissions are down; the European Union's emissions are up. We didn't do cap and trade; they did. The market is changing our energy mix through low natural gas pricing, and that's putting pressure on the coal plants, and that's helping our economic competitiveness overseas."
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, anticipated Obama's threat of using executive authority to stanch the flow of CO2. In 2010, she sought unsuccessfully to hamstring U.S. EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gases by offering a resolution of disapproval. That remains an option in the future, she said yesterday.
"One of these days, hopefully, it'll work," Murkowski said of the resolution.
Before the speech, there was a school of thought that said Obama should intimately link his emphasis on economic issues with climate change. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) described "huge" impacts from warming on his state's economy, from fisheries being affected by ocean acidification to homes and roads "buckling" from melting permafrost. That's more persuasive than prioritizing environmental harm, he suggested.
"Now we're dealing with impacts of climate change," Begich said before the speech. "So again people can debate the science. I'm not debating the science. What I'm debating is, let's make this an economic argument, and I hope [Obama] does that."