President Barack Obama wasn't even finished with his State of the Union address Tuesday night, when environmental coalition and industry groups began lauding and lambasting, respectively, his announced plan to tighten climate protections and energy regulations.
The president has made natural gas production a hallmark of his stated "all-of-the-above" energy policy, and it's a theme he returned to in his latest address. Speaking at length on the nation's energy policy, he credited natural gas production for having reduced the country's oil imports, provided thousands of jobs, and reduced carbon emissions.
But while natural gas, when burned, emits fewer greenhouse gases than oil or coal, extracting the resource often negates those gains. The drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has frequently poisoned waterways and set-off earthquakes, studies show, and, when not done with methane-capture equipment, it gives off plenty of carbon emissions, too.
Tuesday night, Obama signaled that he planned to get tougher with natural gas, even as he supported its continued growth.
"If extracted safely, it's the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change," he said, pledging to "keep working with the [energy] industry to sustain production and job growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, and our communities."
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions welcomed the plan.
"We commend President Obama for again putting the issue of climate change before Congress and the American public," Eileen Claussen, president of the pro-environment group, in a statement. "The coming year will be critical in shaping America's response to climate change."
The National Resources Defense Council agreed.
"Power plants account for 40 percent of our carbon pollution, and President Obama tonight underscored why we must move quickly to impose limits on them, as we do now for other pollutants," said Frances Beinecke, the group's president, in a release.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, meanwhile, invoked the matter of jobs, arguing – as it has before – that tighter regulations would raise costs and therefore impede the economy.
"Increased energy costs place an outsized burden on lower and fixed income families and make it more difficult for businesses to succeed," Mike Duncan, the group's president and chief executive officer, said.