In Address from Oval Office, Obama Says BP Disaster Highlights Need to Embrace "Clean Energy Future"

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In an address to the nation on the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama said that  "the tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now." 

Obama said "we can't afford not to change how we produce and use energy - because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater."  He mentioned the "strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill" passed by the House of Representatives last year, saying that it "finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America's businesses." 

The President also referred to America's decades-long attempt  to "the transition away from fossil fuels" and noted some of the reasons why we've failed before:

"For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels.  And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.  Time and again, the path forward has been blocked - not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor."

Although he recognized that oil lobbyists and timid politicians are still obstacles, he nonetheless called on the Senate to move, saying  “the one approach I will not accept is inaction.”

Here is the portion of his address (as prepared) addressing the shift away from fossil fuels:

But a larger lesson is that no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20% of the world's oil, but have less than 2% of the world's oil reserves. And that's part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean - because we're running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water. 

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we have talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked - not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor. 

The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean energy jobs and industries that should be here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude. 

We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash American innovation and seize control of our own destiny. 

This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry. As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels. Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries. 

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs - but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment. And only if we rally together and act as one nation - workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors. 

When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence. Last year, the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill - a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America's businesses. 

Now, there are costs associated with this transition. And some believe we can't afford those costs right now. I say we can't afford not to change how we produce and use energy - because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security, and our environment are far greater. 

So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party - as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development - and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development. 

All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fair hearing in the months ahead. But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. 

The President's full address (as prepared) is available online.

 

How you can help: The Senate is set to debate and vote on a climate & energy bill in the final weeks of July or early August (2010). Call your Senators and ask them to vote YES on a climate & energy bill that limits fossil fuel pollution.

Online WWF Resources Regarding U.S. Climate & Energy Policy:

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