Published: March 16, 2015
President Barack Obama is confident that Republicans will be forced to see things his way when it comes to policies aimed at tackling global warming.
The president told VICE News he can “guarantee you that the Republican Party will have to change its approach to climate change because voters will insist upon it.” It’s just not the case right now, Obama said.
“If you poll folks, they’re concerned about climate change, but they’re even more concerned about gas prices,” he told VICE, an HBO documentary series, adding that Republican lawmakers are putting up stiff resistance to his climate agenda.
“In some cases, though, you have elected officials who are shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry and there’s a lot of money involved,” Obama said. “Typically in Congress, the committees jurisdiction, like the energy committees, are populated by folks from places that pump a lot of oil, pump a lot of gas.”
Obama made fighting global warming a top priority during his second term in office, quickly launching his “Climate Action Plan” to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and build support for an international climate treaty.
“If I can change how the country thinks about this as a serious and immediate threat — not some distant vague thing,” Obama said. “We will have made enough progress that the next president and the next generations can start building on it and it can start to get some momentum.”
But Obama’s arguments that regulating greenhouse gases is necessary has fallen short. A January CNN poll found that 57 percent of Americans did not see global warming as a threat to their lives.
And the president is right to say that people care more about gasoline prices, but forgets to mention that his policies will cause energy prices to increase. EPA regulations are expected to cause electricity and natural gas prices to rise as coal-fired power plants are closed. Obama administration regulations on hydraulic fracturing on federal lands and methane emissions from oil and gas wells could also impact energy prices.
With most Americans caring little about global warming when gas prices are low, the prospects for people caring more about the climate as gas and other energy prices rise is even less likely. But Obama himself admits that pushing his climate agenda will not be easy.
“Climate change is an example of the hardest problems to solve,” he told VICE. “The hardest things to do in politics and in government is to make sacrifices now for a long-term payoff… The challenge on something like climate change is there comes a point of no return, and you do have to make sure that we get at this thing quick enough and with enough force to be able to make a difference.”
Obama’s VICE News appearance comes on the heels of an interview given by Vice President Joe Biden. In that interview, oddly enough, Biden told VICE that a lot of people would be hurt by the administration’s regulations targeting coal-fired energy.
“Us moving away from coal because it’s such a polluter, there’s a lot of people going to get hurt, good people who worked their whole life,” Biden said.
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