Saturday, January 18, 2014

John Podesta Delivers Passive-Aggressive Response to Green Groups, Ignores Key Concerns

On Thursday, a group of 18 prominent environmental groups wrote to President Obama criticizing his "all-of-the-above" energy strategy. The letter highlighted how such a strategy, with its emphasis on boosting oil and natural gas production, undermines his professed commitment to combating climate change both domestically and internationally.

The letter, which addressed the many dangers of increased fossil fuel extraction, highlighted three policy issues of concern: the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking on public lands, and drilling in the Arctic. State Department studies on the Keystone XL pipeline have been riddled with conflicts of interest. Obama has protected fewer public lands than his predecessors, instead opening up lands to oil and gas drilling.  The administration is also strongly supportive of drilling in the Arctic.

USTR Michael Froman has been lobbying the EU to weaken their fuel quality standards and accept dirty tar sands oil. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, under negotiation, is likely to increase fracking and enable major polluters like Exxon Mobil to sue governments for unlimited cash compensation.
Although the administration has made efforts to improve energy efficiency and clean energy, it has undermined its own efforts in policies like those noted above.

Yesterday, John Podesta, who recently joined the White House to work on climate among other issues, wrote a very passive-aggressive response to the environmental groups, ignoring their key concerns and criticizing them for daring to challenge the president's efforts. He just spouts out the president's accomplishments and then spends some time speaking of how bad Republicans are. He does not, at any point, substantively engage with the letter the green groups sent.
I am writing in response to your January 16 letter to President Obama regarding climate change.

President Obama understands that climate change poses a significant threat to our environment, to public health and to our economy. He believes it is imperative that we act to address these threats and that doing so provides an opportunity for the United States to lead in the development and deployment of clean energy technologies needed to reduce emissions. For these reasons, the President has taken steps to address the climate change challenge throughout the last five years, including a issuing a bold Climate Action Plan in June of 2013.

The Climate Action Plan builds on major progress during the President’s first term, including: historic fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for light-duty vehicles that will cut 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide pollution, cut oil consumption by 12 billion barrels of oil, and save consumer $1.7 trillion over the lifetime of the program; energy efficiency standards for appliances that will cut pollution and save consumers and businesses hundreds of dollars in the coming decades; historic support for renewable energy that has helped to drive down technology costs and more than doubled generation of electricity from wind and solar. These steps by the Obama Administration have contributed to significant decreases in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; 2012 emissions of carbon dioxide were at their lowest levels in nearly twenty years.

The Climate Action Plan outlined by President Obama in a historic speech at Georgetown in June of 2013 builds on these measures, and commits to additional steps to cut the emissions of carbon pollution, prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change. The breadth of the plan makes it impossible to detail these steps in this letter, but key commitments to continue to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions include establishing the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, a multi-sector strategy to reduce methane emissions, action to limit the use of HFCs and promote the use of more climate-friendly alternatives, additional DOE energy efficiency standards, and additional fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards for heavy duty vehicles.

We have made significant progress in implementing the plan in the last seven months, and I attach for your review a recent report that details this work. However, significant work lies ahead in meeting the commitments outlined in the Climate Action Plan. In addition, opposition to key components of the plan remains. Last week, the White House had to fight off anti-environmental Appropriations riders, including one that would have prevented the EPA from implementing regulations to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants under section 11(d) of the Clean Air Act, and would have prevented the Administration from moving forward with Tier 3 vehicle and fuel standards. On the day your letter arrived, the Senate Minority Leader filed a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn rules to regulate CO2 emissions from new power plants.

Given this context, I was surprised that you chose to send your January 16 letter to President Obama. The President has been leading the transition, to low-carbon energy sources, and understands the need to consider a balanced approach to all forms of energy development, including oil and gas production.

With respect to meeting the threats posed by a rapidly changing climate, implementation of the Climate Action Plan must and will remain the focus of our efforts. In the meantime, we will continue to welcome your advice, based on your very long experience on how to convince the American public of the need and opportunity to transform dirty energy systems to ones that are cleaner and more efficient.
When reading Podesta's letter, I caught a few typos. I reproduced the letter as written, but I wanted to point those out: 

"including a issuing a bold Climate Action Plan" [extra letter]

"save consumer $1.7 trillion over the lifetime of the program" [missing "s"]

"leading the transition, to low-carbon energy sources" [extraneous comma]

He must have been so worked up with passive-aggressive anger that he didn't edit his own formal letter.

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