“Climate change is a fact. 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.”
This was the message Barack Obama sent to the nation, and indeed the world, during his State of the Union address last week in Washington, D.C. The President took time in his speech to emphasize that his administration will act decisively over the next three years on both climate change and energy issues, with or without the help of Congress. Obama painted a picture of strong cooperation between his administration and businesses around the country on these two key issues, pledging that the federal government would work to make it easier for businesses to become more environmentally sustainable. For example, he stated that he would cut red tape in order to help businesses build new factories powered by American natural gas, which he described as the “bridge fuel” America needs to help the transition to more sustainable energy sources.
Obama’s discussion of climate change, energy, and the environment, largely centered on the assistance that businesses that embraced sustainability would receive. What was missing from the address were clues as to the legislative sticks that would be used on those that did not gravitate towards his administration’s policy goals. The only hint in this regard came as the president stated that although the economy must grow, it must not do so at the expense of air, water, communities, or federally protected lands.
The next four years will likely see a sharp uptick in action on environmental issues from the White House, as Obama makes more use of executive orders to bypass the gridlocked House of Representatives. While this speech made it clear that more incentives will be offered for sustainable behavior, the full magnitude of upcoming legislation is yet to be revealed.