President Obama

Keep up with news on BP's oil spill at The Daily Glob, courtesy SEJ

One of the cool fringe benefits of doing a lot of free labor for the Society of Environmental Journalists is that I get to hang out with folks who are doing some really cool stuff. Example: If you want to keep up with the latest on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, check out SEJ's new newsfeed, The Daily Glob.




Keep Up With Gulf Spill News on SEJ's New Daily Glob The story of the tragic Gulf oil spill is getting bigger every day. Keeping up with hourly breaking news, and the spill's causes and consequences, can be overwhelming both to journalists and the general public. The Society of Environmental Journalists has launched a new tracking blog to help you follow the Gulf spill story: The Daily Glob — online at . The site links to an array of the best information sources about the spill and related topics — ranging from the Coast Guard's spill news page, to lists of university spill experts, to the Times-Picayune's spill news portal. It also collects on an hour-by-hour basis, links to the hottest breaking spill news stories from all kinds of media — offering one-stop shopping for all the top stories. The array of news tools will help reporters find and enrich stories. They include mapping tools, infographics, photo and video resources, background information, experts' phone numbers, Congressional hearings, and more. Take a look. — — Tell your colleagues. And check back often for more.

Obama finally admits what's been obvious for years: We can't clean up oil spills

Cold comfort for a nation that stands mouth agape at the mind-boggling catastrophe off our southern shore, but today President Obama finally admitted what we and others had been saying for years: America is wholly unprepared for a major oil spill. (And Puget Sound is particularly at risk. More on that in a moment.)

It's just a five-paragraph blurb on The New York Times' website, but in it our nation's highest-ranking civil servant says he made a mistake believing ''the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst case scenarios.'' He went on:

''I was wrong.''

D'ya think? But let's not go too hard on the commander-in-chief, given that every other level of government that's handled the so-called preparations for this massive spill got it wrong as well.

This incredibly dispiriting oil spill continues to leave me a little too slack-jawed to take it on in earnest as a blog topic. But it bears repeating that:

* Skimming oil is largely ineffective, capturing maybe 10 percent of the spilled oil -- if we're lucky.

* Boom is great and useful -- but you can't boom off the whole coast.

* There's a very basic assumption made across the country in planning for the worst-case oil spill: that equipment and workers can be "cascaded in" from other regions of the nation over a period of days to deal with the disaster. 

Post-Deepwater Horizon, it doesn't seem necessary to lay bare the fallacies in this last point.

Obama's offshore-drilling OK may not be a flip-flop but it's sure Bush-like -- except the Alaska part

Did President Obama do a flip-flop when he opened up vast swaths of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil drilling? It depends on how far back you want to go in the President's record. In the Senate he supported efforts to limit offshore drilling. But as a presidential candidate he came around to accepting at least some offshore drilling as a way to build consensus on the energy issue.

Catharine Richert brings us this analysis for the worthwhile website run by the St. Pete Times. Her post is worth a read.

Flip-flop or no, though, it's one of what seem like increasingly more common Obama decisions on the environment that could easily have been made by the George W. Bush administration (but probably not  by the George H.W. Bush team.) Example: On Monday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it was going with a Bush-era interpretation of the Clean Air Act that delays a crackdown on regulation of greenhouse gases from stationary sources such as power plants. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, this will allow construction of another 50 coal-fired plants.

Other thoughts in the aftermath of Obama's drilling decision:

+ I couldn't resist retweeting David Roberts of

"Imagine Obama banning offshore drilling in the vague hope that environmental groups might some day support his bill."


Rita Hibbard's picture

Putting together health care reform with holdouts and back benchers

It’s a dizzying, high wire act that’s now on display in Washington, D.C. It’s called putting a health care reform bill together. And just watching it happen is crazy-making. The vote could come as soon as this weekend.

President Obama is trying to rope them in – bringing together holdouts like abortion opponents who fear the bill expands access to abortion, and liberals arguing the bill does not go far enough to expand access to health care, in support of historic reform that could overhaul the nation’s health care system. And keeping track of the moving parts is a full-time job.

 But the parts are moving. A key Democratic holdout, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, became the first liberal opponent of the House bill to announce support for the more restrictive Senate legislation, the Los Angeles Times reported. At the same time, a key anti-abortion Democrat, Rep. Dale E. Kildee of Michigan, said he also would support the bill.

"If I can vote for this bill, there are not many others that shouldn't be able to," said Kucinich, a leader of the movement to provide universal healthcare by offering the Medicare program to all Americans. Among social conservatives, the legislation won an important new endorsement from dozens of leaders of Catholic nuns, including a group that says it represents more than 90% of the 59,000 nuns in the United States. That contrasted with the staunch opposition of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which issued a statement Monday arguing that the bill would not adequately guard against using federal funds for abortion. The nuns disagreed, and so did a retired bishop.

Obama's State of the Union punts on climate change... but what did you expect?

rm iwest mugWell, President Obama certainly did go on at some length tonight in his just-concluded State of the Union address. But he once again failed to elevate the climate issue to urgency. I have to agree with David Roberts over at "Pretty weak tea." (Hat tip to Roberts for posting the transcript of that part of the speech before Obama was even done talking.)

Now, some of our faithful correspondents and even some friends thought it curious that Dateline Earth faulted Obama for falling short on the climate and energy issue in his inaugural address a year ago, after which we held forth thusly:

 That is not the speech of a man who intends to launch a World War II-style domestic campaign -- think Rosie the Riveter and the Manahattan Project. And that's what scientists are saying we'll need.

He did it again tonight. The president -- wisely -- started out talking about jobs or, as we've put it before, "Fighting climate change = ending the recession." He was clearly aware that Americans are saying in polls now that climate is pretty low on their list of concerns. And just a day before the talk, Republican Lindsey Graham caved on Cap'n Trade, provoking Roberts, for one, to accept that we probably won't be going down that road this year, if ever in Obama's presidency.

But the sheer brevity of what Obama had to say tonight portrays a president so pummeled by problems that on climate, he punted.

Obama administration's climate regs have two key and timely audiences

The United Nations' refusal to accredit InvestigateWest journalsts to cover the global climate-change negotiations today in Copenhagen took up way too much of my day. How ridiculous! The UN, which can't even figure out how to open up to independent journalists the corridors outside where actual decisions are made* ... is going to be running an international treaty? One that likely will engender massive worldwide economic and energy-use changes?

rm iwest mugAnyway, to recap the most important development in the climate story on this side of the Atlantic today, the Obama administration announced it would be treating greenhouse gases as pollutants. I first saw it on the front page of The Wall Street Journal this morning, and further checking suggests the Journal got the jump on others on this story (with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers' positions both mentioned before the jump).

Now, this is anything but unexpected. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced  months ago the agency would be taking the step it did today, which puts EPA on the path to regulating carbon dioxide and methane and the whole shootin' match as if they were, oh, say, benzene. The EPA was more or less obligated to do this by a 2007 court decision.

Jackson said nothing about today's announcement when she was in Seattle Friday.

Will U.S. mount Olympic effort on climate change?

[caption id="attachment_4715" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Seems the folks at Greenpeace were also focused on December. Photo courtesy Greenpeace."]Seems the folks at Greenpeace were also focused on December. Photo courtesy Greenpeace.[/caption]

Well, President Obama should be landing in Copenhagen right around now. His mission: bring the Olympics to Chicago.

There's another job he has that even the president would admit is a lot more important. Sure would be good to see him arriving in Copenhagen in December.

Congress: Are you listening?

-- Robert McClure