Citing moral, economic and weather related concerns, President Barack Obama is set to unveil sweeping measures aimed at reducing U.S. carbon emissions Tuesday during a speech at Georgetown University on climate change. In addition to cutting carbon emissions in America, Obama hopes to prepare the United States for climate change and lead a global effort, working with countries such as China, India and Brazil to accomplish similar goals.
Obama will double-down on several policies already in place, including a widely anticipated move to extend a proposal to regulate carbon standards for new power plants to include existing plants as well, according to a White House fact sheet. Many experts have said the expected Environmental Protection Agency regulation would end the building of new coal plants because doing so would no longer be profitable.
The president also will call for greater energy efficiency in appliances and direct federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense, to meet new renewable energy and energy efficiency goals,
"Last year alone, there were 11 different weather and climate disaster events with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States," said a White House report released Tuesday. "Taken together, these 11 events resulted in over $110 billion in estimated damages, which would make it the second-costliest year on record."
The Obama administration also says it will work to improve infrastructure such as the electricity grid by streamlining new transmission project siting, permitting and review processes at the federal, state and local levels.
The announcements come as Obama's nominee to lead the EPA, Gina McCarthy, is working her way through a contentious nomination process. Though she garnered praise from both the environmental and business communities, the career regulator was approved by a committee vote only after Republicans forced a delay on the scheduled vote by refusing to meet with Democrats. Republicans said the EPA and McCarthy, by extension, were not forthcoming enough with information requests they had made, despite the fact that McCarthy answered more than 1,000 submitted questions.
A conservative energy lobbyist says Obama's announcements were widely anticipated and won't likely poison the well further for McCarthy's nomination.
"Everyone knows this is coming," says the lobbyist, who spoke on background but declined to be named in order to speak freely. "I think the Republicans are going to try to hold up Gina McCarthy, I don't think [Tuesday's speech] is going to change anyone's decision on her, though."
Obama's speech is likely going to be more notable for what he didn't say than what he did, the lobbyist says.
The administration has yet to make an announcement about whether the State Department will permit a vast oil pipeline known as Keystone XL through the middle of the country, to connect oil sands in Canada to refineries on the Gulf coast. For environmentalists, it's a make-or-break issue, as it is for energy companies, businesses and Republicans on the other side.
"I still think Keystone is everything; everything is a decision tree off of Keystone," the lobbyist says, referring to what Obama's energy policy will look like moving forward.
By making a big, flashy speech on reducing carbon emissions, Obama may be attempting to placate those on the left ahead of approving the pipeline project, he speculates.