Walter/ Flickr

Trump EPA Takes First Step to Gut Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took its first formal step to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), former President Obama's signature climate change policy to clean up carbon pollution from fossil fuel-burning power plants—and a major target of President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's regulatory rollbacks.

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Screenshot of Energy.gov's Sunshot Initiative website.

Trump Energy Dept. Boasts About Reaching Obama's Solar Cost Reduction Goal

As the Trump administration tries to dismantle years of hard-won climate regulations in favor of fossil fuel development, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) boasted about reaching a renewable energy goal, enacted by President Obama, three years early.

The DOE announced Tuesday that the solar industry has achieved the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the SunShot Initiativea program that launched in 2011 to cut costs to six cents per kilowatt-hour in order to broadly deploy solar energy systems around the nation.

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Former President Barack Obama talks during the Seeds&Chips summit in Milan. @SEEDSandCHIPS

Obama: 'Changing Climate Already Making it More Difficult to Produce Food'

In one of his first public appearances since leaving office, President Barack Obama said he was "confident" the U.S. will move in the correct direction on climate change, even absent action from the Trump administration.

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Obama to Keynote Global Food Innovation Summit

The 44th United States President Barack Obama will be the guest of honor at the 2017 Seeds&Chips Global Food Innovation Summit. Obama will be a keynote speaker on May 9, and will also discuss food and agriculture on a panel with Sam Kass, senior food policy advisor to President Obama and promoter of the White House's health-conscious revolution.

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Obama: To Deny Climate Change 'Betrays Future Generations'

Appearing live on television and via a livestream, President Barack Obama offered his official farewell address Tuesday evening from Chicago. He touted the climate policies he's passed over the last eight years and stressed the need for "bolder" action.

He said:

[W]ithout some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we'll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible. …

Take the challenge of climate change. In just eight years, we've halved our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our renewable energy, and led the world to an agreement that has the promise to save this planet. But without bolder action, our children won't have time to debate the existence of climate change; they'll be busy dealing with its effects: environmental disasters, economic disruptions, and waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.

Now, we can and should argue about the best approach to the problem. But to simply deny the problem not only betrays future generations; it betrays the essential spirit of innovation and practical problem-solving that guided our founders.

President Obama stressed that it will take the strong will and innovative spirit of the American people to solve climate change and other major issues:

It's that spirit, born of the Enlightenment, that made us an economic powerhouse—the spirit that took flight at Kitty Hawk and Cape Canaveral; the spirit that that cures disease and put a computer in every pocket.

It's that spirit—a faith in reason, and enterprise, and the primacy of right over might, that allowed us to resist the lure of fascism and tyranny during the Great Depression, and build a post-World War II order with other democracies, an order based not just on military power or national affiliations but on principles—the rule of law, human rights, freedoms of religion, speech, assembly, and an independent press.

Watch the address in its entirety below, beginning at 5:41:

Here's the unedited transcript of Obama's remarks as provided by the White House:

It's good to be home. My fellow Americans, Michelle and I have been so touched by all the well-wishes we've received over the past few weeks. But tonight it's my turn to say thanks. Whether we've seen eye-to-eye or rarely agreed at all, my conversations with you, the American people – in living rooms and schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant outposts – are what have kept me honest, kept me inspired, and kept me going. Every day, I learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.

I first came to Chicago when I was in my early 20s, still trying to figure out who I was; still searching for a purpose to my life. It was in neighborhoods not far from here where I began working with church groups in the shadows of closed steel mills. It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss. This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.

After eight years as your president, I still believe that. And it's not just my belief. It's the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.

It's the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It's the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that we, the people, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.

This is the great gift our Founders gave us. The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.

For 240 years, our nation's call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It's what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It's what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize. It's why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.

So that's what we mean when we say America is exceptional. Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.

Yes, our progress has been uneven. The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody. For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.

If I had told you eight years ago that America would reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, and unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history…if I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran's nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, and take out the mastermind of 9/11…if I had told you that we would win marriage equality, and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens – you might have said our sights were set a little too high.


Obama: Renewable Energy Revolution Is 'Irreversible', Will Outlast Trump

By Tim Radford

Barack Obama, outgoing president of the U.S., has stepped directly into the climate debate. He believes that the U.S. is on the way to a "clean energy" world and he delivers four reasons why he thinks the shift is now irreversible.

In an article for the journal Science, President Obama said that although the understanding of the impact of climate change is increasingly and disturbingly clear, "There is still debate about the proper course for U.S. policy—a debate that is very much on display during the current presidential transition."

That is almost his only acknowledgment of President-elect Donald Trump's declared belief that climate change is a hoax, invented by the Chinese.

Clean Energy Economy

"But putting near-term politics aside," he wrote, "the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow."

First of these is that between 2008 and 2015, the U.S. economy grew by 10 percent while carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector fell by 9.5 percent, an outcome that "should put to rest the argument that combating climate change requires accepting lower growth or a lower standard of living."

Renewable energy costs fell dramatically during his years in office: 41 percent for wind, 54 percent for rooftop solar photovoltaics and 64 percent for big solar-power installations. Clean energy now attracts twice as much global capital as fossil fuels.

President Obama also believes that businesses now understand that reducing emissions works for the benefit of business—it cuts costs for consumers and delivers returns to shareholders.

It also matters to the workforce: 2.2 million Americans are now employed in the design, installation and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services, while 1.1 million Americans are employed in producing fossil fuels and generating electric power with those fuels.

The power sector of the economy has changed too. It has shifted from coal to natural gas, largely because of market forces, and the drop in renewable electricity costs has prompted big businesses such as Google to promise that 100 percent of their energy will be from renewable sources in 2017.

Global Momentum

And, he argues, there is already global momentum. Nations in Paris in 2015 agreed on "smart" climate policies for all. It would undermine U.S. economic interests to walk away from the agreement.

"This should not be a partisan issue. It is good business and good economics to lead a technological revolution and define market trends," wrote President Obama.

"Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States, and that continued participation in the Paris process will yield great benefit for the American people, as well as the international community."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.


25 Notorious Bloopers in the Last 8 Years

As the curtain comes down on President Barack Obama's eight years in the White House, most Americans seemed convinced of one of two things: We're either about to Make America Great Again®, or we're about to hurtle into an uncertain epoch that I like to call the Idiocene.

But before we turn the page on this administration let's take a look back at the tall tales, regrettable pronouncements, farces and scams on climate and the environment during the Obama years. Anti-regulatory zealots led the pack, but President Obama contributed a few of his own—starting on his first full day in office:

After promising transparency, President Obama's Administration was called "one of the most secretive."

1. January 2009: The most transparent administration? Not quite.

A day after his inauguration, President Obama signed a memorandum promising: "the most transparent administration in history."

By May 2016, a different verdict came in. Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan called it "one of the most secretive." In August 2015, 52 journalism organizations, including the Society of Environmental Journalists, sent an appeal to the White House, asking for an end to restrictions on government employees' contact with reporters.

2. October 2009: Global warming stops (except it totally doesn't)

Scientists begin asking questions about why the pace of rising temperatures seems to be defying projections and slowing. Despite the emergence of serious, credible reasons for this – notably that the oceans are working overtime to absorb excess heat – climate deniers have a field day with cherry-picked data.

Even as daily, monthly, and annual warmth records continue to be broken, there's been "no global warming at all" for nearly two decades in Deniertown.

In a November 2009 press release, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce declares the "War On Coal" is underway.

3. November 2009: War is declared, a slogan is born

In a press release, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce declares the "War On Coal" is underway.

4. November 2009: Russian hack (no, the other one)

Hackers, believed to be Russian-based, steal thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit. Climate deniers spin a few poorly worded correspondences between scientists into a vast conspiracy to fake climate research.

The faux scandal upends coverage of the Copenhagen climate summit, the scientists are cleared of any wrongdoing by multiple investigations, and the hackers are never caught. But their work foreshadows the 2016 election hack.

5. January 2010: Moderate Republicans join Endangered Species List

The Citizens United decision breaches the dam on corporate cash. The high court votes 5-4 to fundamentally reshape the already-cockeyed way election campaigns are financed, offering cover to corporations and super-PACs to target undesirable candidates for defeat.

"Moderate" Republicans are virtually driven into extinction, and the few who acknowledge climate change have a change of heart.

6. March 2010: Fake fishing news sends real readers reeling

An ESPN.com outdoors columnist launches a viral hoax, suggesting that Obama is planning to outlaw all recreational fishing. Within days, chronic Obama critics—from Fox News and the Daily Caller to columnist Michelle Malkin, RedState.com and GatewayPundit.com—dutifully spread the word about "Obama's latest assault on freedom." Except not a word of it is remotely true.

7. April 2010: Obama's oil comment gaffe

18 days before the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Obama says "Oil rigs today don't generally cause spills."

8. May 2010: Limbaugh gets to the bottom of Deepwater Horizon

Rush Limbaugh says "environmental wackos" staged Deepwater Horizon as a fundraising scheme.

9. May 2010: Anti-vax doctor defrocked

The UK's General Medical Council strips Dr. Andrew Wakefield of his license to practice. He authored the 1998 paper linking vaccines to autism. The paper was later retracted by The Lancet and declared "utterly false."

10. February 2011: The Maine governor doesn't understand BPA

Maine Gov. Paul LePage, possibly the only politician too dumb for the Trump Administration, declares that BPA's worst-case scenario would be women with beards.

11. September 2011: Solyndra slips, solar scandal soars

Solyndra fails. The solar company stranded investors and bailed on a half-billion dollar Energy Department loan amid evidence that Obama Administration cronies stood to benefit. But solar energy critics vault a relatively minor scandal into a renewables Benghazi – overlooking the generally successful record of DOE's startup loans as well as the much larger handouts given to fossil fuel companies.

12. September 2011: The Donald picks a wind fight. Fore!

Donald Trump sends the first of 16 angry, obsessive letters or emails to Scotland's First Minister about the proposed windfarm near his golf resort. Sad!!

13 and 14. May 2012: Heartless Heartland campaign

An electronic billboard on a Chicago freeway heralds the start of a campaign by the Heartland Institute to brand climate-change advocates as cold-blooded serial killers. The first features the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. It draws such a backlash that the billboards featuring climate advocates Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden (really) never get a full airing. Heartland is further tarnished by revelations that it solicited fossil fuel money to pursue its climate denial agenda.

Lamar Smith becomes Chair of House Science Committee, and eventually the Torquemada-in-Chief of government climate scientists. Rep. Smith's committee room becomes an inquisition chamber for government climate scientists and their agency bosses.

Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Photo credit: Patagonia

Obama Designates Two New National Monuments, Protecting 1.65 Million Acres

President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect two large areas in the western U.S. The new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah preserves 1.35 million acres containing 100,000 significant Native American sites, while the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada sets aside 300,000 acres, also home to Indigenous archeological sites.

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Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace

Eyeing Trump, Obama Bans Arctic Drilling

By Steve Horn

President Obama announced Tuesday what amounts to a ban of offshore drilling in huge swaths of continental shelf in both the Alaskan Arctic Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, a decision which came after years of pushing by environmental groups.

Using authority derived from Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the White House banned drilling in a 115 acre area making up 98 percent of federally owned lands in the Alaskan Arctic and a 3.8 million acre stretch of the Atlantic extending from Norfolk, Virginia, to the Canadian border. By taking this route, rather than issuing an Executive Order, Obama made it legally difficult for Republican President-elect Donald Trump's administration to reverse this action.

Environmental groups and Democratic senators have praised the decision, while Republican congressional members and industry groups have denounced it.

"Today … the United States is taking historic steps to build a strong Arctic economy, preserve a healthy Arctic ecosystem and protect our fragile Arctic waters, including designating the bulk of our Arctic water and certain areas in the Atlantic Ocean as indefinitely off limits to future oil and gas leasing," the White House said in a statement, which also pointed to the "need to continue to move decisively away from fossil fuels," as guided by climate science.

President-elect Donald Trump is a climate change denier who repeatedly promised on the campaign trail and during his post-election "Victory Tour" that he would "unleash" more hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") of oil and gas, and push for more "clean coal" production. Trump also supports increased offshore drilling.

Industry, Republicans React

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, came out strongly against the Obama administration's move.

"The only thing more shocking than this reckless, short-sighted, last-minute gift to the extreme environmental agenda is that President Obama had the nerve to claim he is doing Alaska a favor," she said in a press release, which featured the state's congressional delegation slamming Obama for making the decision.

"President Obama has once again treated the Arctic like a snow globe, ignoring the desires of the people who live, work and raise a family there. I cannot wait to work with the next administration to reverse this decision."

Murkowski, a climate change denier who said she did not vote for Trump and called for him to drop out of the race on Oct. 8, is a major recipient of oil and gas industry campaign money. She has taken $1,353,794 from the industry throughout her congressional career.

Murkowski and the Alaska delegation were not alone in their denouncement of the Obama maneuver, with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also bemoaning it on Twitter. Ryan has taken $1,223,182 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during his congressional career.

Industry groups such as the Consumer Energy Alliance, American Petroleum Institute (API), and Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) all scoffed at the Obama decision in press statements.

"We disagree with this last-minute political rhetoric coming from the Obama administration and contest this decision by the outgoing administration as disingenuous," said IPAA in a press release. "With exactly one month left in office, President Obama chose to succumb to environmental extremists demands to keep our nation's affordable and abundant energy supplies away from those who need it the most by keeping them in the ground."

Cautious Optimism

However, Democratic Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have shown support for the current administration's move.

Meanwhile, environmental groups praised the decision, but noted the likelihood that the incoming Trump administration will attempt to challenge it. In addition, groups pointed to the action's limits, as oil and gas drilling will continue in the Gulf of Mexico and exploration could proceed in large swaths of the Atlantic.

"This is an important move, but we're still looking forward to the day when all communities are protected from fossil fuel development," May Boeve, 350.org's executive director, said in a press release. "Everyone deserves the right to safe environment and the benefits of a clean energy economy. That includes those in the Gulf and other areas facing dangerous oil, gas, and coal expansion."

Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana's senior vice president for the U.S., also called for the Obama administration to lock in a ban of seismic airgun blasting in the southern portion of the U.S. Atlantic Ocean offshore continental shelf.

"As we celebrate this important step forward, we must not forget that a vast stretch of water from Delaware to Florida is still at risk from unnecessary seismic airgun blasting, an extremely loud and dangerous process used to search for oil and gas deposits deep below the ocean's surface," Savitz said in a press release. "Seismic airguns create one of the loudest manmade sounds in the ocean, firing intense blasts of compressed air every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for weeks to months on end."

"The government's own estimates state that seismic airgun blasting in the Atlantic could injure as many as 138,000 marine mammals like dolphins and whales, while disturbing the vital activities of millions more," Savitz continued. "With offshore drilling off the table for the near future, permits for seismic airgun blasting should be denied."

Uncharted Waters

One key question, of course, is what will take place next in U.S. federal courts after the almost certain challenge from the oil and gas industry. It is "unchartered waters," both literally and figuratively, according to one expert.

"It's never been done before," Patrick Parenteau, professor of environmental law at the University of Vermont, told The New York Times. "There is no case law on this. It's uncharted waters."

The industry, though, has pointed to a precedent of 12(a) protections being reversed. The New York Times reported that after President Bill Clinton used this legal action to "withdraw 300 million acres from oil and gas drilling from an area that had already been designated as a marine sanctuary, President George W. Bush reinstated about 50 million acres to fossil fuel leases."

Andrew Radford, API's senior policy advisor for offshore operations, told The Times that he sees the Bush precedent will be the one pursued by API, its industry allies, and the Trump administration to reverse Obama's move.

"Similar to how President Bush issued a memo in 2008 to add areas back in, we're hopeful that the Trump administration will take a look at this to reverse that decision and we look forward to working with them to make that happen," Radford said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.



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