In his first address to Americans from the Oval Office, last night Barack Obama discussed the BP catastrophe in the Gulf, promising that BP would pay for their “recklessness”, and then he went on to say that the time to embrace clean energy is now:
So one of the lessons we’ve learned from this spill is that we need better regulations, better safety standards, and better enforcement when it comes to offshore drilling. But a larger lesson is that, no matter how much we improve our regulation of the industry, drilling for oil these days entails greater risk.
After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean: because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water.
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.
Time and again, the path forward has been blocked, not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.
The consequences of our inaction are now in plain sight. Countries like China are investing in clean-energy jobs and industries that should be right here in America. Each day, we send nearly $1 billion of our wealth to foreign countries for their oil. And today, as we look to the Gulf, we see an entire way of life being threatened by a menacing cloud of black crude.
We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean-energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America’s innovation and seize control of our own destiny.
This is not some distant vision for America. The transition away from fossil fuels is going to take some time. But over the last year- and-a-half, we’ve already taken unprecedented action to jump-start the clean-energy industry.
It’s a hopeful sign, and could signal stronger leadership from the White House on clean energy. Obama, after all, is a father to two young daughters who are going to have to live with the consequences of his leadership, or lack of it, on this issue. What is certain, though, is that Obama can’t do it without the support of the majority of Americans – and Republicans are already massing on the side of Big Oil – so hopefully there will be a groundswell of support for the President that can’t be ignored. I, for one, will be watching with great interest from north of the border, as this unfolds over the next months. Could the Gulf disaster be the tipping point that finally gets North Americans to kick our fossil fuel habit? And does this mean that Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is going to start talking about weaning Canadians off our addiction, including shutting down the tar sands? After all, for months, he and his Environment Minister Jim Prentice have been repeating that they can’t formulate their own policy, they have to wait and take the lead from the Americans. It looks like President Obama is leading, Mr. Harper. The question is, are you going to follow?
For the full text of President Obama’s speech, click here. For video, click here.
For analysis, go to “A Clean Energy Future is Now: But Mr. President, How Do We Get There?” on The Huffington Post.
Disappointingly, from my perspective as a Canadian, the coverage of the speech on the CBC website focuses almost exclusively on his remarks on BP and the Gulf, which was the first half of the speech, without mentioning the last half of his speech, which was all about transitioning to clean energy (click here to check for yourself).
The Globe and Mail does cover the speech in more depth, although you wouldn’t know it from the headline. Click here to read “Obama Lashes Out At BP in Oval Office Address”. And the headline in the Toronto Star read “Barack Obama Calls Gulf Clean-up a ‘National Mission’ ” (click here to read article).
And, via the FB group 1,000,000 Strong Against Offshore Drilling, a request to add your votes to their clean energy questions for the White House’s Press Secretary tonight. “Its a long-shot, but please add your quick votes if you haven’t yet (it’s as easy as clicking the green thumbs). We’re close to the top of the list.“ Click here to do just that.