Obama to Tackle Climate Change Soon, Advisor Says

Photographer: Art Wolfe

A waterfall, created by a melting iceberg in Svalbard, Norway. Close

A waterfall, created by a melting iceberg in Svalbard, Norway.

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Photographer: Art Wolfe

A waterfall, created by a melting iceberg in Svalbard, Norway.

Bloomberg BNA -- President Obama will announce in the upcoming weeks and months decisive actions the administration is planning to combat climate change, a senior White House adviser said Feb. 27.

Climate change is “one of the clearest and most urgent challenges of our time,” and Obama will soon discuss steps the administration will take to address it, said Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate change.

Zichal spoke at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on current issues in energy and environmental policy.

“We hope Congress will act soon on a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” Zichal said. She said the technologies are already available to transition to a low-carbon economy, but the challenge in addressing climate change is thinking long-term. She said Obama would keep his promise to take action if Congress does not.

Zichal also said efforts to address climate change must not come from the federal government alone. “I want to make clear that response to climate change can't be a Washington-centric solution,” she said, calling for state and local governments to act.

Obama is proposing to use $2 billion in revenue from oil and gas development to transition cars from fossil fuels.

The administration is interested in promoting safe and responsible development of natural gas, Zichal said. The Interior Department will soon finalize new rules requiring the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing on public land, she said.

The administration wants to protect public lands for future generations, Zichal said, but “we are not ignoring the opportunity natural gas presents for jobs and the climate.”

She reiterated that the administration is pursuing an “all of the above” energy strategy, which she said will be reflected in the president's budget for fiscal year 2014. “We can't do natural gas at the expense of renewables,” she said.

Obama set a goal in his State of the Union address to double the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal sources by 2020. “In order to meet the target, we need Congress to help,” Zichal said, calling for certainty in the tax code for renewable power producers. She said Obama supports making the renewable energy production tax credit permanent.

Fuel Economy Standards Touted

Zichal touted the success of fuel economy standards, saying the average fuel economy of vehicles in the United States reached a record high in 2012 but added that “we need to shift our cars and trucks off of oil.”

She said the Energy Security Trust proposed by Obama in his State of the Union address would help transition vehicles in the United States away from oil. Obama is proposing to use $2 billion in revenue from oil and gas development over 10 years for research on advanced batteries, alternative fuels, and natural gas, Zichal said.

The United States also will continue to advocate for global action on climate change through international negotiations, Zichal said. She said the biggest challenge on the international stage will be sustaining momentum for international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other climate-related actions.

Keystone Pipeline, LNG Exports

Zichal said the State Department is developing a supplemental environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline, which she expects to be released “in the not too distant future.”

The State Department will then make a decision on a permit application to build the pipeline based on that EIS, after accepting public comment, she said.

The Energy Department is reviewing comments received on whether to grant export licenses to build liquefied natural gas export terminals and ship U.S. natural gas to overseas markets, Zichal said.

“We are not opposed to the notion of [LNG] exports,” she said. The administration wants to ensure that it is “not doing it in a manner that will undermine consumers,” she said.

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