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Obama’s Speech Softens Tone On Climate Change

Alicia Mundy, The Wall Street Journal

Is the president going a little soft on climate change? It’s an interesting State of the Union address when oil and natural gas producers and their lobbyists sound happier with the president’s speech than environmental groups that have been Mr. Obama’s staunchest allies.

After upbeat comments about America’s energy boom,  President Barack Obama gave a big shout out to natural gas Tuesday,  citing its impact on lowering carbon emission pollution and on businesses’s willingness to invest $100 million.  “I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built,” Mr. Obama said.

“The president is continuing to evolve,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, in an interview after the speech ended.

“This year he gave a full-throated endorsement to natural gas” and said it is bringing down carbon pollution,  Mr. Gerard  said.

“Next year, he’ll be giving a full-throated endorsement to U.S. oil production.”

Mr. Gerard added that the “broader message” of this year’s SOTU is that oil and natural play a key role in U.S. energy future.  “His words are going in the right direction for us,” Mr. Gerard said.

Tuesday night’s speech seemed a far cry from from 2013, when Mr. Obama raised a call to arms against climate change deniers and fossil fuels–  or as he once called them,  “yesterday’s energy.”  Remember his threat?  “ If Congress won’t act on climate change, I will.”

This year he was more restrained in talking about the need for more carbon emission controls, saying, “The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.”

Environmental groups didn’t criticize the speech,  but they were also more restrained. Natural Resources Defense Council said, “His Climate Action Plan points the way to using the Clean Air Act to allow even our most coal-dependent states to cut their emissions without economic impact.”

Tom Steyer, the San Francisco philanthropist, environmentalist and Democratic donor, said in a statement from his group NextGen Climate Action,    the “Administration has already made great strides with the establishment of the Climate Action Plan, and tonight’s address reaffirmed his commitment to moving America toward a more sustainable energy future.”

Just 10 days ago,  18 groups including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters slammed the White House’s current  energy strategy “all of the above” that draws on fossil fuels-oil, natural gas and coal, as well as clean energy.

But Tuesday night, Mr. Obama reiterated his commitment to  “all of the above,” which he linked to jobs and energy independence.

The League of Conservation voters avoided the “all of the above” controversy  in their reaction, and instead focused on climate change.

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