Obama’s ‘all of the above’ energy policy offends everyone
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest US & Canadian companies news every morning.
President Barack Obama found himself assailed from all sides after sticking to an “all of the above” energy strategy – including fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear power – in his State of the Union speech.
Industry groups criticised his continuing commitment to tackling the threat of climate change, while environmental campaigners said his statements were made meaningless by his support for increased US oil and gas production.
The most significant concrete policy proposal in the speech was a plan for tax breaks for medium and heavy trucks running on natural gas, and the infrastructure needed to fuel them.
The proposal would need support from Congress, but a similar initiative won some support from Republicans in 2011-12, before finally failing.
Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry group, attacked Mr Obama’s call for higher taxes on oil and gas companies, a proposal he has put forward for many years without winning broad support from Congress.
Mr Gerard said: “Punishing energy companies by raising taxes is not sound energy policy and could lead to less energy, less government revenue, and fewer jobs.”
Mr Obama’s statement that “we have to act with more urgency” on climate change and his references to steps being taken by the Environmental Protection Agency to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants were attacked by the coal and electricity industries.
Mike Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said: “In a puzzling paradox, President Obama decried income inequality, while touting progress on his climate change initiative – bypassing the fact that increased energy costs place an outsized burden on lower and fixed income families and make it more difficult for businesses to succeed.”
At the same time Greenpeace, the environmental group, welcomed Mr Obama’s commitment to a plan for climate change, but added: “Unfortunately, his administration continues to undermine this plan by encouraging the extraction of coal, oil, and gas from our public lands and waters, unlocking huge quantities of carbon pollution.”
The president’s efforts to encourage greater use of natural gas to fuel trucks could achieve some bipartisan support in Congress. The proposals reflect the aspirations of many customers to harness the newly-abundant, cheap commodity for commercial fleets, according to many automotive executives.
However, the industry has struggled to devise strategies to meet the niche demand for compressed natural gas-powered vehicles, and the shortage of filling stations remains a significant problem for the technology.
An alternative technology – supercooled liquefied natural gas – is increasingly popular, and although it is suitable only for long-distance trucks has attracted interest from companies including Clean Energy Fuels and Royal Dutch Shell.
T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire oil and gas tycoon who has been campaigning for increased use of gas as a substitute for oil, said: “A plan without action isn’t a plan, it’s a speech. I look forward to seeing how the president and Congress follow through.”
Mr Obama was also criticised for his omissions; he made no mention of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, intended to carry oil from Alberta to Nebraska, which has become a totemic issue for the industry and environmental campaigners alike.
The state department, which has formal jurisdiction over the decision on the pipeline because it would cross the border, is scheduled to deliver its final statement on the environmental impact of the project in the next few weeks.
Get alerts on US & Canadian companies when a new story is published