The Obama climate change speech that could doom Keystone—or not -

The Obama climate change speech that could doom Keystone—or not

A guide to the key hints we’ll likely get from the president


President Barack Obama is expected to lay out his second term agenda on climate change in a major speech on Tuesday at Georgetown University. North of the border, Ottawa and Alberta will be X-ray every sentence for signs that might indicate whether the White House is leaning toward an approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — or not.

Are the new climate policy initiatives the president is expect to announce meant to sugar coat the bitter pill of a presidential go-ahead on the Keystone later this year? Or will the White House embrace a “target everything” approach to global warming that won’t make any exceptions for Canada’s beleaguered pipeline?

There are reasons to speculate one way and the other.

Most of the media reports that have anticipated a major presidential announcement on climate policy have leaned toward the bargaining chip hypothesis. As Luiza Savage, here at Maclean’s, pointed out last week, the theory that the White House would have to throw a meaty bone to environmentalists in order to make a Keystone approval politically feasible has been circulating in Washington—and Ottawa—for quite some time. Tomorrow’s announcement could be precisely the meaty bone everyone’s been anticipating.

Also, a number of sources in and near the White House have been telling journalists that the focus of the the new measures will be power plants. Keystone opponents at a Democratic fundraiser, for example, reportedly told Bloomberg in mid June that “the package [of climate change policies] will include final rules from the Environmental Protection Agency to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from new power plants.” Likewise, a front-page New York Times article published last week announced that, “President Obama is preparing regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.”

That would seem to indicate coal-fired plants, by far the largest electricity producers in the U.S., are the White House’s main target. Electricity generation accounts for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions south of the border, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and coal plants have long been one of the chief boogeymen of U.S. climate policy. The oil industry, accounts for the lion’s share of carbon dioxide emissions tied to the transportation sector, but when it comes to electricity production it is a minnow:

A third reason to suspect tomorrow’s announcement has much to do with Canada’s pipeline is its timing: Just a few months before the White House is expected to issue its final verdict on Keystone in late September or early October.

Yet, other details suggest Canadians should perhaps curb their enthusiasm.

First, the president could well announce that the stricter emission standards for power plants will hit oil refineries too, a signal, perhaps, that he has embraced a sweeping approach to climate policy and will make no exceptions for Keystone.

In an official White House YouTube video previewing Obama’s upcoming speech, it’s the picture of an oil refinery—not a coal-fired plant—that appears in the background as the president’s voice-over announces an upcoming “national plan to reduce carbon pollution.” The choice of imagery has Ottawa insiders concerned. (The crucial bit is about 16 second into the 1.15 minute video.)

Also, the timing of the speech might have actually nothing to do with the Keystone approval process. As the Bloomberg article noted, the EPA had meant to issue emission standards for the existing fleet of electric-power plants in April, but delayed its plans after the draft rules met with strong opposition from industry. The agency has been tweaking those regulations every since. It could be that it has now reached finally a workable arrangement—one fit for a grand presidential pitch to the public.

Tomorrow should give us some good cues. Stay tuned.

Correction: A previous version of this post stated that Organizing for Action, a grassroots political group close to President Obama, has “finally embraced environmentalists’ pleas to take a stance against Keystone.” That was incorrect. The group has recently stepped up its climate change advocacy efforts, but has not openly opposed Keystone.


The Obama climate change speech that could doom Keystone—or not

  1. Can’t wait for this.
    Obama has been making many important speeches lately, ever since his approval rating hit the floor due his endless string of lurid scandals. He’s getting lots of media coverage and drawing huge crowds. Like the 200,000 people who showed up for Obama’s historic Brandenburg Gate speech last week.
    Oh sorry, it wasn’t 200,000 people that showed up (that was only what the CBC claimed), it was about 5000 attending the most historic speech in Obamas Presidency.
    Tackling climate change is so 2009, its old news, he might as well be sporting a mullet and a tattoo.
    Like I said, I can’t wait for this. Lol!

    • You must be watching Fox to get that confused.

    • did you watch Obama behind the safety glass shield giving his speech he looked incompetent at best and outside of applause at taking his coat off the audience was stunned because he was so boring : the honeymoon is over the yanks got their first black president – because let’s be honest folks that is the only reason he won – he won because everyone hated bush junior and even more people just want to be part of history and have the first black president – it must suck to be him right now – a lame duck and a historical footnote at best –

      • Racism on here is unreal. Jeebus.

        • But Obama is half white, we’re critisizing that half too.

    • In his mind, I am sure that he saw over a million people there, all waving and cheering O is Great, O is the King.

      Lefties can help but insert a little (well, a lot of) fantasy into their daily lives. Something has to cover up all the nasty reality that keeps coming in.

      O was never going to approve keystone, he won’t openly kill it though either. He will put it into permanent limbo, much like a royal commission where it will be studied and studied and never acted on. Truly a wonderful leader!

  2. what the yanks should to get rid of coal is we could pipe down bitumen – it would 5 times cleaner and we would all be richer :)

    • Fantasyland

    • As the price of oil rises, coal will more and more become a viable alternative to contribute to the feedstocks for liquid fuels.

      • Why yes, everyone wants to go back to coal.

        • Of course. We have lots and lots of it, even more than oil and gas. It’s just a question of the economics, which at present are not quite at the right place.

          • We aren’t going back to coal, anymore than we’re going back to campfires. Sorry.

          • Heh heh heh… we shall, Emily, we shall.

            There is no readily available substitute for our carbon energy once oil declines.

          • No….we already left coal once….and yes we have substitutes.

            That’s how capitalism works ya know

          • We are plumb out of whale oil, but there are no other viable substitutes for our carbon, for our liquid fuels.

          • So….you’ve been on Mars for the last few years?

            Yes, there are substitutes……but it seems your first reaction is to throw up your hands and quit

          • None is at present viable.

            Nor is it likely that any will magically become viable.

            The closest to viability is to cut back on food production in order to grow sugar rich plants to be fermented for ethanol, but even a small percentage of such fuel in the system demands an inordinate amount of land to be taken from food growing.

            Some biodiesel can be made from certain kinds of waste, but there’s nowhere near enough of that available.

            And that’s about it. Nothing else comes close, despite your enthusiasm for Tinkerbelle.

          • Yes, alternatives are viable. Your brand of ignorance isn’t though.

            PS…I’m not the one in the tutu, hon

          • You do not seem to be able to come up with any, I note.

          • Gosh no…..years of science telling you about alternatives, and you’re still rubbing two sticks together, so what chance would I have? LOL

          • You’ve got nothing, then?

          • Well, I’m talking to you….and you’re certainly nothing. LOL

            PS….these posting gimmicks are years old Glynn

          • You refer, no doubt, to wild and unsubstantiable claims that cannot be backed up?

          • I refer to the Ignoranti. Ignorant people who think they’re clever.


          • You’ve got it all wrong, the enviros have this magical substance called Fairy dust that can power the entire industrialised western world.

            They use it in all their fairy-tales and whenever they discuss its by-product called renewables. Apparently, Wind, Solar, and Biogas can all be created for FREE with Fairy dust and can be used to generate even MORE FREE energy.

            Seriously, while they may not actually call it Fairy dust it may as well be fairy dust. The enviros simply have no concept of what it takes to power a civilisation, they cannot comprehend that a world exists beyond their ipad, phone, prius and rechargeable sex-toys.

            Good ole Em here is a classic example, she cannot back up anything she says with real facts. Oh, she’ll attack you alright – but only with hate as you threaten her world.

    • “..we could pipe down bitumen..”

      The greenies call that bitumin trafficking. I kid you not. Lol!

  3. How pathetic is it when the readers are more up to date than Maclean’s lazy copy and paste news editors:
    *Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
    *Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).
    *Julian Assange is of course a climate change denier.
    *Obama had not mentioned the crisis in two State of the Unions addresses.
    And not one single IPCC warning ever said any crisis WILL happen, only might and could and possibly and………………’s been 28 years of a catastrophic “maybe” crisis.
    Thanks for nothing!

    • You have posted this stuff all over the web, and it’s as nonsensical now as it was the first time you did it.

      • I makes sense to me, what wrong with you EmilyOne?

        • I managed to comprehend it as well.

          Don’t worry about Em, she is in her own little palace.

  4. The models, and by extension the assumptions going into them, are demonstrably wrong.

    In science (actual science of the Scientific Method variety) hypotheses whose predictions fail to match the observations are discarded, or at least heavily revised.

    Model predictions call for continued rapid temperature increases as CO2 continues to increase:

    Actual observations, in marked contrast, show stagnation over more than a decade now:

    AGW does not have science behind it, but gets its momentum from politics.

    • ACTUAL science, as practiced by actual scientists….not rightwing nutbars….is in agreement on GW. Sorry.

      Like it or not….the squabbling by deniers was always a waste of time….you’re going to have to bite the bullet, and deal with climate change.

      • It has been clear for some time, Emily, that you are incapable of distinguishing between actual science and charlatanry.

        Meanwhile, the globe has stopped warming, and is persistently failing to warm, in the teeth of ever higher CO2 concentrations.

        That’s a reality you and the alarmists are going to have to face.

        • Actually one of my degrees is in science. But, you keep drinking that snake oil boyo. Or maybe you can click your heels and clap your hands, and Tinkerbelle won’t die. LOL

          • Over a third of my class at university did not come up to basic understanding of what they were studying, so claiming you have a science degree neither increases nor decreases your credibility.

          • LOL you never saw a university.

          • Heh heh heh… those who try to start flame wars find me incombustible.

          • Sorry, I don’t do flame wars.

            I don’t bother with the Ignoranti, either.

          • This comment was deleted.

          • This is her DAY JOB, she does nothing else.

            Wonder what it pays nowadays??

            I think I’d make a great left wing troll, just down a bottle O’scotch, tighten up the belt a few notches, shut the ventilation down in my office, let all logic go…and……type.

            Yup, I could do it too, if it wasn’t for that little thing called self-respect.

          • Yea, but having to eat tofu and wear a hair shirt would be more than I could bear.

  5. Remaining climate blame believers:
    Now the big question to validate the reality (or not) of a real live climate change crisis from Human CO2 circa 1985;
    What has to happen now for science to stop saying “*maybe” a crisis (they have never said it was as eventual as they like to say comet hits are) and start saying “inevitable” and or “unavoidable” or just WILL be a crisis? When it’s too late? Don’t scientists have doomed children as well or is it just ours that are condemned to the greenhouse gas ovens? How hard is it to say a crisis WILL happen not just might happen if it’s a REAL crisis?
    *They agree that “climate change is real and is happening and could cause… (they have never said anything close to being certain it is a crisis prove me wrong) a catastrophic climate crisis”.
    Science can END this costly debate instantly just by giving the planet a real warning for a real crisis!
    Deny that.