President Barack Obama’s effort to channel outrage over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico into political momentum for climate change legislation appears to have failed, according to news agency reports.
Obama made his first nationally televised speech from the Oval Office Tuesday on the subject of the oil spill, saying the environmental catastrophe makes it clear the U.S. must transition to a future less dependent on fossil fuels.
“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,” he said. “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.”
But on Wednesday, lawmakers showed little stomach for tackling another major legislative effort after passing healthcare reform earlier this year and rushing to complete financial regulatory reform by July 4 – especially with midterm elections looming in November.
Republicans, who have threatened to filibuster energy legislation in the Senate, said the administration should focus on fixing the oil leak before tackling a comprehensive energy bill.
Democrats complained that Obama’s lack of specifics in his speech, especially his failure to endorse a cap-and-trade regime as called for in a House bill passed last year, doomed any effort to pass actual legislation before the elections.
“The president's speech tacitly sounded the death-knell for the inclusion of serious climate change provisions in any energy bill that Congress might enact this year,” Bill Galston, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton now at the Brookings Institution, told Reuters.
Even those supportive of climate legislation saw little connection between the oil spill crisis and emission controls.
“It’s unrelated,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska, in remarks reported by Bloomberg. “Obviously the emissions that we are talking about are primarily coal-fired electricity generation from Nebraska. That doesn’t have much to do with the Gulf.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would be unable to bring the legislation to the Senate floor without some Republican support, which so far has been completely lacking.
By. Darrell Delamaide for OilPrice.com