In his State of the Union address yesterday Obama sent a strong message on the urgent need for action on climate change.
“Climate change is a fact,” Obama said.
“And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”
In his speech Obama said he wanted a smarter tax policy that stopped “giving $US4 billion to our fossil fuel companies that don’t need it so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do”
According to the Sierra Club though, Obama is trying to have it both ways.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said American could not “frac our way out of the climate hole we’re in”
“The President is right to be proud of America’s progress on solar energy and the historic steps he’s taking to crack down on dangerous carbon pollution,” Brune said.
“When he unveiled his climate plant last summer I said it gave me hope that he would continue to lead on climate and energy solutions.”
It is that carbon policy that has led to the pain the US coal sector is feeling at the moment.
“We know how to build a 100% clean energy economy and it doesn’t include tearing up more of our national treasures to pull more dirty fuels out of the ground,” Brune said, pointing to a 2009 report A Plan for a Sustainable Future: How to get all energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030 published in the Scientific American.
In his address Obama pointed to the success of the US natural gas industry, which has allowed him to take his hard anti-coal line.
The Sierra Club does not want that.
It wants the natural gas industry stopped too.
While Brune happily points to a report that gives some ways of how the US could get all of its energy from wind, water and solar power by 2030, that data is still a long way away.
What does the US – or any other country going down this path – use in the meantime?
Natural gas has long been touted by the environmental movement as a cleaner option in the interim until renewable energy technologies can be developed to the point where they can pick up more of the load.
As was demonstrated during a heatwave in Australia’s eastern states recently, some of those hot temperatures occurred on cloudy, windless days. Solar and wind generation proved to be pretty ineffective then.
It was natural gas and coal that came to the rescue then.
It is also fair to say that the natural gas industry has not done a very good job of selling itself as a green bridging fuel.
That has been brought to the fore in New South Wales where green groups have been able to bully governments from both sides of the political fence into making it very difficult to even explore for CSG.
In Victoria they have been even more successful. The government there has placed a moratorium on fraccing altogether.
While the Sierra Club is renowned for its “out there” environmental statements it does have a fair bit of political clout.
Its message is starting to resonate and in Australia groups such as Lock the Gate are getting louder.
Actually, it is interesting to note the language groups such as Lock the Gate use in reference to the extraction of CSG.
They call it “mining”, trying to conjure up images of giant open cut operations destroying people’s homes and farms. In reality a CSG well’s footprint is measured in metres, not kilometres.
The solution from the gas industry’s point of view is simple.
It just needs to sell its message to the public better.