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Obama focuses on green economy in speech before Congress

Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian

Barack Obama raised the development of a green economy to the top of America’s agenda tonight, calling on Congress to pass a law cutting the carbon emissions that cause global warming.

The president, in a rousing speech to both houses of Congress, tried to put to rest fears that the economic recession would force him to scale back ambitious plans for energy reforms.

Instead, he made it clear that he sees a direct link between America’s long-term economic interests and the development of clean energy, budgeting additional funds for research into wind and solar power.

The president also pressed Congress to push ahead on a new law to cut greenhouse gas emissions, defying critics who say cap-and-trade measures could be a brake on economic recovery.
(25 February 2009)
Related from the Guardian:
Climate change timetable slips as Obama backtracks on 2008 deadline.

The Obama Code

George Lakoff, Huffington Post
As President Obama prepares to address a joint session of Congress, what can we expect to hear?

The pundits will stress the nuts-and-bolts policy issues: the banking system, education, energy, health care. But beyond policy, there will be a vision of America–a moral vision and a view of unity that the pundits often miss.

What they miss is the Obama Code. For the sake of unity, the President tends to express his moral vision indirectly. Like other self-aware and highly articulate speakers, he connects with his audience using what cognitive scientists call the “cognitive unconscious.” Speaking naturally, he lets his deepest ideas simply structure what he is saying. If you follow him, the deep ideas are communicated unconsciously and automatically. ” The Code is his most effective way to bring the country together around fundamental American values.

For supporters of the President, it is crucial to understand the Code in order to talk overtly about the old values our new president is communicating. It is necessary because tens of millions of Americans–both conservatives and progressives–don’t yet perceive the vital sea change that Obama is bringing about.

The word “code” can refer to a system of either communication or morality. President Obama has integrated the two. The Obama Code is both moral and linguistic at once. The President is using his enormous skills as a communicator to express a moral system.

George Lakoff is Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of The Political Mind and Don’t Think of an Elephant!.
(24 February 2009)
Insights about Obama’s communication strategy. Also at Common Dreams -BA

Economic Crisis Complicates California’s Goals on Climate

Felicity Barringer, New York Times
… California was one of the first states to enact legislation to tackle global warming, with legislators passing a 2006 measure to curb carbon dioxide emissions in all economic sectors, including manufacturing, transportation and real estate development. But the state is also providing a lesson in how contentious carrying out such a law can be, especially at a time of economic crisis.

What happens in California — and in other states that have taken steps to reduce emissions — is being closely watched in Washington, where lawmakers will soon debate federal climate legislation. The Obama administration has said it plans to push for a cap-and-trade bill this year.

California’s law, like federal proposals, has stirred intense fighting over whether its benefits outweigh its costs and what those costs will actually turn out to be.

“We’re talking about a transformation of the way of life,” said Greg Freeman, an economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Commission. “There’s going to be transitional costs. We can’t have the debate about whether the cost is worth paying unless we have a realistic idea of what the cost will be.”
(24 February 2009)

Oil’s not well in Canada

Frances Russell, Winnipeg Free Press
When a nation cannot safeguard its citizens against freezing in the dark, nor control how much energy it exports, nor set the price at which citizens can buy back their own energy from foreign transnational corporations, it is not an energy superpower, it is an energy satellite.

“A colony or satellite is a people who lose control of their resources to a foreign power,” according to Gordon Laxer, political economist and director of the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute. “Canada is prohibited from using its oil to supply half its citizens during international shortages. No other country is forbidden from using domestic resources to provide for its own citizens.”

As citizens of a democracy, Canadians naturally expect their own government to put them first in any and all emergencies. “What are governments for if they’re not going to do that?” Laxer wonders. “I think the Canadian government wants to focus on American energy security, not Canadian, because they see their interests not as protecting Canadians, (but) as being consonant with the corporate interest…”

Oil shortage emergencies are coming. The International Energy Agency’s 2008 report states the era of Peak Oil is imminent. Once the current economic crisis is over, the world will begin experiencing a unending and worsening series of oil supply shocks.

Canada, alone among major industrialized countries, has stripped itself of its energy sovereignty and now faces a succession of severe crises.

Canada has no Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). It exports 65 per cent of its oil and 59 per cent of its natural gas to the U.S. In 2007, it imported 50 per cent of its oil refinery needs, including a small amount of refined oil, from the U.S. Most of those imports come from unstable Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) nations such as Iraq and Algeria.
(26 February 2009)
Several of EB’s Canadian contributors have been making the same point.

UPDATE: EB contributor Rick Munroe writes:
Frances Russell has provided a concise summary of Canadian energy security concerns. Her article in the Winnipeg Free Press focuses on the work done by Prof. Gordon Laxer at the University of Alberta. Laxer continues to address the unique limitations on Canada’s ability to use its own oil to supply its own citizens during oil shortages. -BA

A Marxist view of Obama’s prospects

Joaquin Bustelo, MarxMail
… It’s all well and good to say Obama’s stimulus plan is too wasteful and not the right way to do a stimulus plan, but after a while you have to say what your own stimulus plan would look like. In THIS social, economic and political climate, “just say no” ain’t going to cut it, nor is saying just cut taxes. In THIS climate what most people are worried about isn’t higher taxes but losing their job (if they still have one), where they will get another job, and whether they will ever be able to retire should they be lucky enough to have/find and keep a job. Telling them you’re going to create more jobs and extend unemployment and food stamp benefits in case they do have to go without a job for a while (rather than use up whatever meager retirement savings they may have had) makes sense to people. That’s what Obama is selling — bottles of cold, cold water at some outdoor event on a scorching day. Jindal is selling salt-soaked peanuts covered with Texas hot sauce.

Of course, if the capitalist economy continues its downward spiral then the political situation in the U.S. is likely to be very, very different in four years. And Obama will be toast, if not the entire political class we have right now.

But unless the economy continues in a downward spiral for the next four years, Obama is going to re-run as the guy who pulled the country (at least somewhat) out of the mess the Republicans created under Bush.

… if it seems like Obama’s policies “worked”, in other words, the economy BEGINS to rebound by the end of this year or the middle of next, and perhaps even a little later than that, this crisis has so focused people’s attention and put a scare into them that they guy is going to be well-nigh unbeatable in 2012; and for the same reason if the economy just stays in the doldrums but doesn’t pick up, Obama is going to have a terrible time getting re-elected in 2012. If the economy continues to worsen for four more years, THAT likely will bring big changes in the US political situation far overshadowing what happens to Obama.
(26 February 2009)
Long, insightful post in a Marxist discussion forum which generally is not fond of Obama. Any criticisms of Obama from a peak oil perspective will face the same problems as the Republicans face – when economic survival is at stake, other issues pale in comparison. -BA