Barack Obama on Energy and the Environment

Last Updated : Oct 24, 2012


President Obama is an extremely strong believer in man-made global warming.  He has often cited it as the cause of rising sea levels, stronger hurricanes, and famine.  He believes that we must act quickly to stem a possible catastrophe.  To help end the threat, President Obama supports a very aggressive cap-and-trade system in the US, and to committing the US to international agreements to reduce emissions. He also supports increasing CAFE standards to 40 to 45 miles per gallon both to help the environment and to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. He also strongly supports biofuels, wind, solar, nuclear, and other alternative fuels. As a candidate, Senator Obama strongly opposed coal, stating on multiple occasions that his policies would likely bankrupt anyone attempting to build a new coal factory and that the technology simple didn't exist to burn coal cleanly.

Climate Change

In 2005, Senator Obama argued that the evidence of climate change is all around us, that the science is overwhelming that it is occurring, and that the only question is what are we going to do about it. During the 2008 election, Senator Obama stated that climate change was the most serious environmental issue that we face because, once you hit a tipping point and you've got the entire global system shifted, you can't reverse. He asserted that we're on a trajectory to get to that tipping point with just a 10-20 year window to act. We don't have a lot of time still. And we have to start now, this year, next year, if we're gonna get serious

After the 2008 election, President-Elect Obama sent a video to a UN climate conference asserting that few challenges facing America - and the world - are more urgent than combating global climate change. He stated that the science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Among these facts, he noted rising sea levels, shrinking coast lines, drought spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing hurricane season.

In 2009, President Obama spoke at the UN and stated that no nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change. He again noted that the time we have to reverse this tide is running out, and added that man kind has been slow to respond to, or even recognize the magnitude of the climate threat. However, he asserted that a new era had begun.


To address climate change, President Obama has long supported a cap-and-trade style system. In 2005, he supported the Lieberman-Warner legislation to create a cap-and-trade system calling it good environmental policy and good economic policy. In discussing the effects of other countries ignoring climate change, Senator Obama stated that while this was a legitimate concern, it is impossible for us to encourage countries such as China and India to do the right thing if we, with a much higher standard of living and having already developed ourselves so we are the energy glutton of the world, are unwilling to make the modest steps to decrease the amount of emissions that affects the atmosphere overall.

During the 2008 campaign, Senator Obama stated that if elected, he would pursue a cap-and-trade system that was more agressive than any other candidate and would include a 100% offset in which every bit of greenhouse gas that was output was charged to the polluter.

In 2009, President Obama used a weekly address to note his support for the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which was another cap-and-trade system. He stated that the program would spark a clean energy revolution in America. He stated that the cap-and-trade program was really a jobs program that would create thousands of jobs in the clean energy sector.

While in the Senate, Barack Obama co-sponsored two pieces of legislation designed to enter the US into international agreements relating to cap-and-trade agreements. This included entering the US into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


In 2005, Senator Obama supported an amendment to cap-and-trade legislation to fund clean coal technology and allow extra allowances for coal companies that use carbon sequestration methods. Specifically, the legislation would have provided $200 million for clean coal technology, $500 million for coal pollution technologies, and $2.5 billion for clean coal based power generation technologies. He asserted that the United States should be leading the world in investing in existing technologies that harness coal's power while reducing its pollutants. He added that coal plants all over the world will get built no matter what, but if we do not make sure each one is equipped with the right technology, future generations will be forced to live with the consequences--dirtier air and dangerous climate change.

At a 2007 campaign event in Virginia, Senator Obama stated that the technology to fully clean coal was not yet available and that his cap-and-trade system would force either a reduction in the use of coal or a technological revolution to clean it. 

In a 2008 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Senator Obama flatly asserts that under the cap-and-trade system that he is proposing, coal will not be used. He specifically states that if someone wants to build a coal factory that it will not be illegal, but that under his plan the amount they would have to pay to offset the emissions would bankrupt any attempt to open a new factory.

At another campaign event in Ohio, VP candidate Biden was asked why the Obama administration was supporting clean coal instead of wind and solar. Senator Biden stated that the campaign was not supporting clean coal and that there would be no more coal factories in the US and any in China should be opened with clean technoligies because coal was killing people in the US.

CAFE Standards

In 2007, Senator Obama supported legislation with the goal of raising the CAFE standards by 4% each year. He stated that the higher fuel efficiency standards could be achieved in a cost-effective manner without sacrificing safety. Senator Obama also noted that in 2006 he supported the Fuel Economy Reform Act which targeted a 4-percent annual increase but preserved some flexibility for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine how to meet those targets.

Senator Obama also introduced the Health Care for Hybrids Act. This legislation would establish a voluntary program in which automakers could choose to receive Federal financial assistance toward their retiree health care costs in return for investing the savings into developing fuel-efficient vehicles. He stated that this proposal could jump-start the industry's efforts to develop new technology, improve the competitiveness of U.S. automakers in the growing market for hybrid vehicles, and help auto workers to get the health care they have been promised.

In a 2008 campaign ad, Senator Obama supported increasing fuel efficiency standards to 40, 45 miles per gallon to save the equivalent of all the oil that we import from the persian gulf. He stated that the technology exists to do it, but what's been lacking is the sense of political will.

Nuclear Energy

Numeorus times throughout the 2008 election cycle, Senator Obama supported nuclear energy. He stated that we needed to invest in smaller and safer nuclear plants, and in better methods of addressing the waste.


In 2007, Senator Obama opposed efforts to remove the 54 cent tariff on imported ethanol. He stated that doing so would merely replace our dependence on foreign oil with a new dependence on foreign ethanol. During the campaign, Senator Obama supported biofuels including corn based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and using wood chips to create energy.


As part of Senator Obama's energy plan, asserted that the government needed to tell oil companies to use existing oil leases or lose them, that we could use appropriate offshore drilling, but that the US has 3-4% of oil reserves and uses 25% so we can't drill our way out.

On March 31, 2010, the New York Times and other sources reported that the President was announcing a plan to end an offshore drilling moratorium for oil and gas along the eastern coast south of New Jersey, and in the gulf of Mexico. The ban remained in place along the Pacific Coast but was removed for portions of Alaska.

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded and sank. The well that it had dug began to leak oil into the Gulf of Mexico and did so for several months before it was capped. The leaking oil had a large affect on the economy of the Gulf Coast as fishing, shrimping, and tourism industries were hard hit.

On May 27, 2010, President Obama announced a six month moratorium on deepwater drilling in response to the spill. He ordered all current rigs to be inspected. Drilling companies filed litigation claiming that the moratorium was not legal. The Obama administration lost it's case both in court and on appeal.


The Domenici Amendment

On June 15, 2005 Senator Obama spone on the Sente floor in support of an amendment to promote ethanol as a fuel. He stated that the US economy was being run on a 20th century fuel and that ethanol was part of the future solution.


The Cantwell Amendment

On June 16, 2005 Senator Obama spoke on the Democratic floor in support of an amendment proposed by Senator Cantwell. The amendment would reduce US dependence on foreign oil by 40%.


The Bingaman Amendment - Renewable Energy Portfolio

On June 16, 2005 Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor in support of an amendment to create a renewable energy portfolio within the US.


Climate Change and Cap-and-Trade

On June 22, 2005 Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor about the overall topic of climate change. He asserted that the science behind it was sound and that the US needed to move swiftly to combat the dangers is poses. He urged the Senate to pass the McCain-Lieberman amendment to establish a cap-and-trade system.


Failure of the Energy Policy Act of 2005

On June 28, 2005 Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor about the contents of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the fact that the bill only reduced foreign oil consumption by 3%.


Gulf of Mexico Security Act

On August 1, 2006 Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the Gulf of Mexico Security Act.


Coal to Liquid Fuel

On January 10, 2007 Senator Obama spoke on the floor of the Senate in support of legislation to promote coal to liquid fuels.


National Low Carbon Fuel Standard

In May of 2007, Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor in support of a bill he was introducing the National Low Carbon Fuel Standards Act of 2007. In that speech, he discusses the need to address carbon emissions and global climate change. He was the prime sponsor of that legislation, but it was not voted on in the Senate or House.


Ethanol Tariffs

On June 20, 2007 Senator Obama spoke on the Senate floor in opposition of legislation to eliminate the tariff on ethanol coming into the US. He stated that doing this would simply move the US energy dependence from foreign oil to foreign corn.


CAFE Standards

On June 21, 2007 Senator Obama spoke on the floor in support of legislation to increase CAFE standards for vehicles.


CNN / Youtube Debate

In July of 2007, Senator Obama was asked about climate change and energy at the CNN / Youtube debate. He stated that he supported nuclear energy, capping emissions, and an aggressive tax.


A 10-20 Year Window

During the Presidential Debates in 2008, Senator Obama stated that he believes in man-made global warming. He also stated during the campaign that there was a 10-20 year window to address the problem.


Coal Power Facilities and Cap-and-Trade

In January of 2008, Senator Obama was speaking at a press event for the San-Francisco Chronicle and stated that he favored a cap-and-trade system and that such a system would necessarily increase the cost of electricity. He also stated that his cap-and-trade system would bankrupt any coal factory being built.


Campaign Event - Lebanon, Virginia

At a rally on September 9, 2008 in Lebanon, Virginia, Senator Obama states that he believes that we can burn coal in a method that meets with his environmental beliefs. A union representative states that the President supports the coal industry. The video was produced by Organizing for America - the President's campaign website during the 2008 election.


Campaign Event - Waverly, Virginia

At a rally in Waverly, Virginia in August of 2007 Senator Obama states that coal is not a viable option and that he will implement a cap and trade system to raise the cost of electricity generated by the burning of fossil fuels.


San Francisco Chronicle - Coal

In an interview with the San Francisco chronicle, he notes that the idea of no coal is not realistic and then states that while he would not outlaw coal, his plans to implement a cap and trade system will bankrupt anyone who attempts to open a coal plant.


No Factories Without Proof

At another campaign rally, Senator Obama states that he will not license or encourage coal without the industry proving it can generate the electricity without generating the carbons that are (in his opinion) contributing to global warming.


Biden and Coal

At a campaign event in Ohio, Senator Biden was asked why he was supporting clean coal technologies when wind and solar were flourishing. Senator Biden responds that China is opening up a new factory every week and that it was killing people, but that he was the first person to support a gobal warming bill.


Internet Ad

In an internet based ad for the 2008 Presidential campaign, Senator Obama stated his belief in global warming and it's consequences, his desire for a windfall profit tax on oil companies, his opinion of fuel standards, and his position on alternative types of fuels.


Blueprint for energy

Senator Obama made a series of videos for the 2008 presidential campaign which highlighted his views and plans for a number of items, including energy.  That plan is outlined below, along with the video.

  • Reduce dependance on foreign oilrn
    • Need to expand responsible domestic production
    • Tell oil companies to use existing oil leases or lose them
    • Appropriate offshore drilling
    • US has 3-4% of oil reserves, uses 25%, can't drill our way out
    • Invest $150 B over 10 years
    • $15 B each year
    • Fast track investments in green energy business sector
    • Create 5M US jobs
  • Create a green energy economyrn
    • Invest in R&D of every alternative energyrn
      • Solar, wind, biofuel
      • Safer nuclear power and waste storage
      • Clean coal technology
      • 5 demo plants with carbon capture and sequestration
      • Help fuel efficient car production
      • 1M 150 plug-in hybrids on US roads by 2014
      • Increase fuel mileage standards 4% each year
      • Invest in R&D of plug in hybrids, focusing on battery technology
      • Give consumers $7000 tax credit to buy efficient vehicles
      • Encourage energy efficiency and conservation
      • Reduce electricity demand 15% by 2020
      • Fastest, cheapest way to reduce energy consumption
      • US to save $130B on energy bills



Organizing for America

On President Obama's official website - Organizing for America - the following remarks are made about energy and the environment. Statements

On - the official campaign website of Barack Obama, the following statements are made about energy and the environment.


Global Climate Summit

In the time between the 2008 election and President Obama's inauguration, a global climate summit was held in California. It was widely attended by numerous governors and congressmen. President-elect Obama did not attend the event to avoid any ideas that he was acting with the authority of the President prior to assuming office. He did record and send a message that shows his beliefs on global warming, cap and trade, alternative fuels, and a few other items.


UN Speech on Cap-and-Trade

Once in office, President Obama has continued to state his beliefs that global warming is real and man-made. He continues to assert the dangers of global and push for urgent measures to address the issue. He spoke about these beliefs at the UN in September of 2009, where has also noted once again that the purpose of the cap-and-trade system in the House was to increase the cost of electricity to make clean energy affordable.


American Clean Energy and Security Act

In June of 2009, President Obama used his weekly address to not his support for the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which had recently passed the House. In that address, he stated that the cap-and-trade system would create jobs and punish the people who emit carbon.



White Statements


Voting Record

Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008

In September of 2008, The US Senate passed the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008. The Act created tax incentives for energy production and conservation. The bill was largely supported by the Democrats and largely opposed by the Republicans. The bill passed the House'); echo(' in May of 2008, and passed the Senate with widespread support in a 93-2 vote. Barack Obama cast a "No Vote"

Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007

Among other things, the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007 removed oil & gas exploration subsidies. The bill passed the House in January and passed the Senate in June. In the House, the bill was supported by almost all Democrats and opposed by a majority of Republicans. After passing the House, the bill got the support of most Democrats and roughly half of the Republicans, passing in a 65-27 vote. Barack Obama voted in favor of the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007.

Barack Obama voted in favor of the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007.

Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 was an attempt to open up more areas of the Gulf of Mexico for oil drilling. It passed the Senate with broad support in a 72-25 vote. However, it was not raised in the House. Barack Obama voted against the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006.

Barack Obama voted against the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006.

Amendment - Reduction of Oil Dependence

In June of 2005, the Senate voted on an amendment to reduce oil importation in the US by 40% by 2025. The would have raised the original goals set in the bill form a 1 million barrel per day reduction to a 7.6 million barrel per day reduction. This would most likely be achieved through increased CAFE standards of 78 miles per gallon in cars and a 185-percent increase in light trucks. The voted failed 47-53. Barack Obama voted in favor of the amendment.

Barack Obama voted in favor of the amendment.


Sponsored and Cosponsored Legislation

Session-110; Bill Number-S Res 30; Climate Change and International Commitments - Cosponsor

A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the need for the United States to address global climate change through the negotiation of fair and effective international commitments.

Session-110; Bill Number-S 2555; Reducing Global Warming Pollution from Vehicles Act of 2008 - Cosponsor

Amends the Clean Air Act to approve the application of the state of California for a waiver of federal preemption of its motor vehicle emission standards.

Session-110; Bill Number-S 309; Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act - Cosponsor

A bill to amend the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, and for other purposes.

Session-109; Bill Number-S 2025; Vehicle and Fuel Choices for American Security Act - Cosponsor

A bill to promote the national security and stability of the United States economy by reducing the dependence of the United States on oil through the use of alternative fuels and new technology, and for other purposes.

Session-109; Bill Number-S 737; Security and Freedom Enhancement Act of 2005 or the SAFE Act - Cosponsor

A bill to amend the USA PATRIOT ACT to place reasonable limitations on the use of surveillance and the issuance of search warrants, and for other purposes.

Session-109; Bill Number-S 3694; Fuel Economy Reform Act - Prime Sponsor

A bill to increase fuel economy standards for automobiles, and for other purposes.

Session-110; Bill Number-S 133; American Fuels Act of 2007 - Prime Sponsor

Establishes in the Executive Office of the President the Office of Energy Security to oversee all federal energy security programs, including coordination of all federal agency efforts to assist the United States in achieving full energy independence. Amends the Internal Revenue Code to provide: (1) a tax credit, against both ordinary and alternative minimum tax, for production of qualified flexible fuel motor vehicles; and (2) an alternative fuel retail sales credit. Amends the Clayton Act and the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act to prohibit restrictions on the installation of alternative fuel pumps within fuel franchise documents. Amends the Clean Air Act to direct the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate regulations to ensure that diesel sold or introduced into commerce in the United States, on an annual average basis, contains specified percentages of alternative diesel fuel. Sets forth a credit program for the generation of diesel fuel. Amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow an excise tax credit for: (1) production of cellulosic biomass ethanol; and (2) qualifying ethanol blending and processing equipment. Amends the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPA) to treat a medium or heavy duty hybrid vehicle as an alternative fueled vehicle. Sets a deadline by which: (1) any federal property with at least one fuel refueling station must include at least one alternative fuel refueling station; and (2) any alternative fuel refueling station on federally-owned property must permit full public access for the purpose of refueling using alternative fuel. Amends federal transportation law to require that any bus purchased with funds from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund to be a clean fuel bus. Amends armed forces law governing energy-related procurement to direct the Secretary of Defense to develop a strategy to use fuel produced from domestically produced fuel using starch, sugar, cellulosic biomass, plant or animal oils, or thermal chemical conversion, thermal depolymerization, or thermal conversion processes (covered fuel). Authorizes the Secretary to enter into contracts to: (1) develop and operate covered fuel production facilities; and (2) provide for construction or capital modification of such facilities. Amends the EPA to include among alternative fueled vehicles any vehicle propelled by electric drive transportation, engine dominant hybrid electric, or plug-in hybrid technology.

Session-109; Bill Number-S Res 312; A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate regarding the need for the United States to address global climate change through the negotiation of fair and effective international commitments. - Cosponsor

xpresses the sense of the Senate that the United States should act to reduce risks posed by global climate change and to foster economic growth by: (1) participating in negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and leading efforts in other international fora with the objective of securing U.S. participation in agreements that advance and protect U.S. interests, that establish mitigation commitments by all countries that are major emitters of greenhouse gases, that establish flexible international mechanisms to minimize the cost of efforts by participating countries, and that achieve a significant long-term reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions; and (2) establishing a bipartisan Senate observer group to monitor international negotiations on climate change and to ensure that the advice and consent function of the Senate is exercised to facilitate timely consideration of any applicable treaty.

Session-110; Bill Number-S 1324; National Low-Carbon Fuel Standard Act of 2007 - Prime Sponsor

Amends the Clean Air Act to revise the renewable fuel standard for FY2009-FY2012. Directs the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to: (1) establish a fuel emission baseline; (2) identify qualifying low-carbon transportation fuels; (3) establish a low-carbon fuel certification and marketing process; and (4) require each obligated party to reduce the average lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit of energy of the aggregate quantity of fuels introduced into commerce to specified levels by not later than January 1, 2010, through the use of low-carbon fuels and improvements in the production of conventional fuels. Requires the average lifecycle GHG emissions of the aggregate quantity for 2012 to be at least 3% below the 2007 average should emission limitation regulations not be promulgated.Authorizes an obligated party to apply to the Administrator to receive a temporary suspension of the requirement to comply with such regulations if events outside of the control of the party could lead or have led to disruptions in the transportation fuel supply.Permits obligated parties to receive credits for achieving greater reductions in lifecycle GHG emission of the fuel produced, distributed, or imported than are required.


[1] Website: The New York Times Article: Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time Author: JOHN M. BRODER Accessed on: 09/26/2010

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