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Sierra Club Reacts to President Obama's Remarks on Clean Energy, Climate Bill
& Other Obama Administration Announcements on Coal, Biofuels

Washington, D.C.--In remarks to Senate Democrats this morning, President Obama exhorted the caucus not to give up on the bipartisan, comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation being assembled by Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman.  The president also cautioned senators not to take "the easy way out" and pass so-called energy-only legislation that does not put a price on carbon.  Video of the relevant section of the president's remarks can be seen at:

In addition, the Obama administration this afternoon announced a new, comprehensive strategy on biofuels, including the Environmental Protection Agency's final rule regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard.  Following a meeting with governors from across the country, the administration today also released a memo creating an interagency task force on carbon capture and sequestration.  This comes after the creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear power last week.     

Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director

On comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation: 

"The president today strongly reaffirmed his call for the Senate to pass bipartisan, comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation--just as he did last week in the State of the Union and earlier this week in his budget.

"We also strongly agree with the president that the Senate should not take 'the easy way out' and simply try and pass a so-called energy-only bill.  We've already been down that road several times before and it's time for Congress to get serious about passing a bill that includes a price on carbon, as well as incentives for clean energy. Only comprehensive legislation can finance a responsible transition to a clean energy future with more jobs, less pollution, and greater security.  Indeed, the 'energy-only' bill pending in the Senate is not only unacceptable as currently written, it could actually mean greater emissions, more offshore drilling, and little, if any, new clean energy.

"In addition to slashing our dangerous dependence on oil and creating millions of new jobs, comprehensive legislation will restore American industry, rebuild the middle class, and rescue our economy by putting it back on a path to long-term, sustained prosperity."

On coal, nuclear power and offshore drilling:

"While we stand wholeheartedly behind President Obama's overall vision, there are some areas of disagreement.  We believe that there is no such thing as 'clean coal.'  While further research into carbon capture and sequestration technology may ultimately prove useful and economically feasible for existing facilities, we do not support building new coal plants using a costly and unproven technology that even the coal industry itself refuses to expend its own resources on to commercialize.  And while nuclear power and offshore drilling may be necessary to win a few votes in the Senate, they don't do anything to help us transition to the clean energy future.  Any legislation, especially when taxpayer dollars are being spent, needs to prioritize the cleanest, cheapest, fastest, and safest means of reducing emissions.  As the president himself said this morning, 'one of the best ways to be on the forefront in energy is to incentivize clean energy, and discourage the old sources or methods that aren't going to work in the future.'  We believe coal, nuclear power, and more offshore drilling are all things that are not going to work in the clean energy future. 

On biofuels:

"We are pleased that EPA followed both the law and science in crafting the final Renewable Fuel Standard rule.  The emissions associated with indirect land use changes are indeed significant and it would have been irresponsible for EPA not consider them in its assessment of various fuels.  It's essential that all renewable fuels actually result in lower overall emissions.  EPA was under tremendous pressure from special interests and their Congressional allies and we applaud them for standing strong.  It's very important that EPA be allowed to discharge its duties based on science and the law--not petty politics or parochial special interests. 

"While today's announcement marks significant progress, it is simply not sustainable to continue using massive amounts of food for fuel.  While EPA could not fix the law that grandfathers huge amounts of corn ethanol, this is a long-term problem that must be addressed. 

"We support the administration's plans to widen the availability of alternative fuels; however, we must be sure that the implementation of these plans does not result in unintended negative consequences."

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