04 November 2010

Obama on the Post-Election Politics of Energy

From yesterday's news conference President Obama signals a new way forward (Thanks RC!)  I have highlighted a significant passage:
Laura Meckler.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said earlier that it was clear that Congress was rejecting the idea of a cap-and-trade program, and that you wouldn’t be able to move forward with that. Looking ahead, do you feel the same way about EPA regulating carbon emissions? Would you be open to them doing essentially the same thing through an administrative action, or is that off the table, as well?

And secondly, just to follow up on what you said about changing the way Washington works, do you think that -- you said you didn’t do enough to change the way things were handled in this city. Some of -- in order to get your health care bill passed you needed to make some of those deals. Do you wish, in retrospect, you had not made those deals even if it meant the collapse of the program?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that making sure that families had security and were on a trajectory to lower health care costs was absolutely critical for this country. But you are absolutely right that when you are navigating through a House and a Senate in this kind of pretty partisan environment that it’s a ugly mess when it comes to process. And I think that is something that really affected how people viewed the outcome. That is something that I regret -- that we couldn’t have made the process more -- healthier than it ended up being. But I think the outcome was a good one.

With respect to the EPA, I think the smartest thing for us to do is to see if we can get Democrats and Republicans in a room who are serious about energy independence and are serious about keeping our air clean and our water clean and dealing with the issue of greenhouse gases -- and seeing are there ways that we can make progress in the short term and invest in technologies in the long term that start giving us the tools to reduce greenhouse gases and solve this problem.

The EPA is under a court order that says greenhouse gases are a pollutant that fall under their jurisdiction. And I think one of the things that's very important for me is not to have us ignore the science, but rather to find ways that we can solve these problems that don’t hurt the economy, that encourage the development of clean energy in this country, that, in fact, may give us opportunities to create entire new industries and create jobs that -- and that put us in a competitive posture around the world.

So I think it’s too early to say whether or not we can make some progress on that front. I think we can. Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end. And I’m going to be looking for other means to address this problem.

And I think EPA wants help from the legislature on this. I don’t think that the desire is to somehow be protective of their powers here. I think what they want to do is make sure that the issue is being dealt with.