State of the Union

Lawmakers react to President Obama's energy and climate remarks

Calling on the Senate to enact comprehensive climate and energy legislation, President Obama made a clean energy and green jobs push last night, during his first State of the Union address. Can the Senate deliver legislation this year? During today's E&ETV Event Coverage, lawmakers react to Obama's remarks. E&E's Monica Trauzzi talks to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee; Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.); and Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) immediately following the speech.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to E&ETV's coverage of the State of the Union. I'm Monica Trauzzi. The president tonight calling on Congress to enact comprehensive climate and energy reform, but not making a push for cap and trade. We spoke to lawmakers immediately following the speech and here are their reactions. Congressman, overall impressions of the president's speech tonight, did he make an adequate push on climate and energy?

Earl Blumenauer: I thought the speech was solid. I liked the combination of some very specific information that he focused in on, a little bit of humor, but as far as our concerns about climate and energy, I was pleased. I mean, he has referenced the bipartisan operation in the Senate. He encouraged the Senate to move forward and not hold things up. He gave some running room for the deal that I think it's being worked on over there, but being very clear that it was still important, it was a priority. I was pleased.

Monica Trauzzi: He did encourage the Senate to try to pass climate and energy legislation, but he didn't mention cap and trade specifically. Do we read into that at all?

Earl Blumenauer: I think not. I mean, it's very clear the survey research, actually, cap and trade is viewed positively by the majority of the American public as is their concerns about climate. I think this is one where we don't need to get hung up on specific terminology. I think it's clear where we're going, and I think there's a real opportunity in the Senate to get there.

Monica Trauzzi: The House passed cap-and-trade legislation last year. Does the political will exist in the Senate to get it done in an election year?

Earl Blumenauer: Well, that is a real question. I think the facts are that this is something that the Senate can actually do that will make a difference in terms of security for the United States, make a difference in terms of jobs and in terms of the economy. This is something that's not going away. There is a big push by a broad bipartisan coalition, including labor, business, local governments, the clergy. I think the pieces are there. I think they ignore it at their peril and, of course, the peril of the climate.

Monica Trauzzi: Congressman, big push on clean energy and jobs tonight from the president. Did he hit the mark?

Doc Hastings: Well, I've been saying since this administration took office that actions speak louder than words and we've heard these words before about utilizing all of our energy, but the actions, frankly, have been entirely different. So, until we see some real positive steps I'm afraid this is going to be a repeat of last year where it's just words. I mean, for example, he talked about becoming more energy independent, yet he essentially, by de facto, closes off the outer continental shelf, he suspends oil leases on federal lands. So those are all actions and yet tonight he talks about being some what energy independent and utilizing not only those fuels, but other fuels. So, I'll wait to see what the actions are, but I'm afraid this is simply a rerun of the rhetoric we heard last year.

Monica Trauzzi: What about his push for climate and energy legislation in the Senate? The House passed it last year. Can the Senate get it done? Did he do enough tonight to push the Senate in that direction?

Doc Hastings: I don't think so. I mean the Senate is a little bit different body, obviously, than the House. They have a different makeup, different concerns. What he said tonight I don't think would probably change anybody's minds, because, again, it goes back to the rhetoric. He talks about utilizing all of our energy resources, but yet the focus is only on, for example, green energy. We need an all-of-the-above energy plan, not a government run or a government mandated, green energy only approach and that's what he said over and over tonight.

Monica Trauzzi: Will the jobs bill be the vehicle through which we see energy reform happening this year?

Doc Hastings: Well, I don't know. You know, time will tell. The energy reform, at least that the House has passed, was a cap and trade. Whether something follows I can't say.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, thank you. The president tonight making a big push on clean energy and jobs, didn't mention cap and trade though. Is that a problem?

Lee Terry: Well, it's not a problem with me if he wants to abandon the trade and cap-and-trade aspect and focus on clean energies that will naturally reduce carbon emissions. I liked the president's part of the speech on energy. I mean he included everything. He talked about nuclear power, he talked about clean-coal technologies, he even talked about gas and oil in addition to alternative energies like biofuels and wind. So that's what I've been pushing for. We've got to have a complete portfolio and in the markup on cap and trade in our committee though they rejected all of the nuclear amendments, all of the clean-coal technology amendments, anything to do with oil. So the president stated it, I hope he means what he says. I want to hear more than words on this plan, but I think it's something that many of us on the Republican side can embrace.

Monica Trauzzi: So, now it's up to the Senate to pass their own piece of climate legislation. Do you think the political will exists, especially in an election year, to make that happen? Do you think we'll see it?

Lee Terry: The people want us to do an energy bill. They're very suspicious of cap and trade, so if the Senate wants to focus on a clean fuels bill and clean coal and nuclear power, they can get that passed in the Senate. The issue is, will this House leadership accept that as an alternative?

Monica Trauzzi: And will they?

Lee Terry: Good question, they should. I can't predict what Nancy Pelosi will do, but they should and the people want it, so I think the speaker will come to reason on it.

Monica Trauzzi: Do you think there will be a push to use the jobs bill as a vehicle for pushing some form of energy reform?

Lee Terry: Well, it can be used for a jobs bill, but the president on jobs talked about small businesses and that's going to be the big driver of jobs to help get back the 7 million jobs that have been lost. Green technologies are going to create some, but it's not going to make up the big number of jobs that we have to create. That's going to be in small businesses.

Monica Trauzzi: A lot of pressure on the president going into this speech. Do you think he hit the mark?

Lee Terry: Well, he gave a great speech, poetic in places, but I think the American people and I will join them in saying now we need to see action. We need more than words. We've had words all year, now it's time to get it done.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, thank you for your time.

Lee Terry: Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi: Thank you. With midterm elections right around the corner Senate Democrats will face an uphill battle as they try to pass climate and energy legislation. For E&ETV I'm Monica Trauzzi.

[End of Audio]



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