State of the Union Preview: Energy and the Environment

Experts weigh in on what Obama may say on energy and environmental policy.

President Barack Obama addresses Congress in his 2013 State of the Union as Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner look on. Obama is scheduled to deliver his 2014 State of the Union on Tuesday night, Jan. 28, 2014.
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It's time for State of the Union Bingo: Energy and Environment edition.

One year after President Barack Obama made investment in clean energy and climate change initiatives signature parts of his 2013 State of the Union address, and six months after he rolled out his Climate Action Plan, top energy and environmental policy experts offered their predictions to U.S. News & World Report on which items will make it into Obama's 2014 address Tuesday night.

Topping the list: the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed regulations for coal-fired power plants, a key component of the Climate Action Plan.

"It's the most comprehensive plan he's put out there for attacking carbon pollution, the impact of climate change and climate change mitigation," says Jason Smerdon, a professor studying environmental policy at Columbia University. "It's maybe the most topical given what he's done this past year."

Climate change resiliency and oil imports also likely will get mentions, but not the Keystone XL pipeline. Experts and news reports predict that the controversial project – which would build a pipeline between Canada's tar sands and oil refineries in the United States and is awaiting the president's approval – won't be on the agenda.

[READ: State of the Union: Has Obama Kept His Promises on Energy and the Environment?]

"I wouldn't think so," says Jason Bordoff, a former senior energy adviser to Obama and a public affairs professor at Columbia. "It's a complex issue that's generated a lot of controversy and in some ways taken the air out of the discussion of some of the other significant issues our country faces. Keystone is just one piece of a much larger conversation."

In all, will there be as much talk on energy and the environment as last year? Doubtful, experts say.

"A debate over national security and privacy, the economy – a lot of things are at the top of the agenda now," Bordoff says. "But I think we'll definitely hear about it. I think the administration and the president are genuinely committed to making progress on climate change."

Grab your scorecards and read on for the details. Think we missed anything? Share your thoughts in the comments below, then be sure to check out all our coverage – including our U.S. News live blog – as soon as Obama takes the podium.

The "Climate Action Plan": Roots Reaching to 2013

It all starts here. In last year's State of the Union address, Obama urged Congress to "pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change," and warned that "if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will."

Congress never did manage to pass a comprehensive climate change bill, so in late June, four months after the State of the Union, Obama released his "Climate Action Plan."

Rather than go through legislators, the plan aims to harness the powers of the executive branch, most notably by getting the EPA to establish new carbon pollution standards for power plants.

[ALSO: Fertilizer, Gas Production Soon May Be Cleaner, Nanotech Researchers Say]

"My anticipation will be that he resorts back to his June speech last summer, where he introduced his Climate Action Plan, and he would talk about progress made so far in fulfilling that plan," says David Konisky, an associate professor at Georgetown University who studies environmental policy. "I would think that he would talk about carbon pollution, and ways to regulate new and existing fossil fuel power plants."

Which brings us to our next item:

Getting Tough on Coal

On Jan. 8, barely six months after Obama's rollout of the Climate Action Plan, the EPA published a draft of its proposed regulations for new coal-fired power plants.

"By far, the biggest tool the administration has in its toolkit is the existing authority of the EPA to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants," Bordoff, the former White House adviser, says.

The measures, which earned a swift rebuke from the coal industry and congressional Republicans, notably would limit all new coal plants to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour – a sharp drop from the 1,700 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour that existing coal plants push out today.