How Obama Can Back Up Strong Words About BP With Action

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Last week President Obama spoke strongly against BP CEO Tony Hayward. “He wouldn’t be working for me after any of those statements,” Obama said on NBC”s Today Show. The statements he referred to include Hayward’s much maligned remark Hayward that he wants his life back. Obama also said, “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick, right?”

Strong rhetoric in the face of a crisis the size of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is not enough. Obama is presented with an opportunity to capitalize on the public’s disdain for big oil and shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels. One way to accomplish that is to follow the suggestion in an article in The Guardian to create an Environment Corps. The “first few billion dollars could be provided by BP” at the government’s urging, “as a down payment on the epic liability costs the company knows it will have to incur over the coming years.” The next few billion “could be reaped from imposing increased profit taxes on oil companies.” The federal government could agree to a matching fund commitment.

The Guardian article also suggested that Obama needs to “put forth a real-deal plan for a clean-energy economy.” The first step, according to the article, should be doing away with the subsidies for oil companies and giving them to renewable energy projects.

During Obama’s Oval Office speech earlier this week, he mentioned that the U.S. needs to “transition away from fossil fuels.” He called for Americans to “rally together and act as one nation—workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.” One way the U.S. can transition away from fossil fuels is to “put forth a real-deal plan for a clean-energy economy,” as The Guardian article stated. The first step, according to the article, should be doing away with the subsidies for oil companies and giving them to renewable energy projects.

The American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), whose members include executives from top companies like Microsoft’s Bill Gates, met with Obama last week after releasing a report. The report called for the U.S. government to invest in energy innovation to the tune of $16 billion a year. Oil, natural gas, and coal received over twice the amount of subsidies that renewable energy sources received from the federal government in 2002 through 2008, according to a report released last fall by the Environmental Law Institute.

The AEIC report listed five recommendations for the federal government:

  1. Create an independent national Energy Strategy Board that would develop and monitor a national energy plan for congress and the executive branch.
  2. Invest $16 billion per year in clean energy innovation.
  3. Create Centers of Excellence like the Department of Energy’s newly created Energy Innovation Hubs, and support them with an annual budget of $150 to $250 million each.
  4. Fund the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) at $1 billion per year.
  5. Establish and fund a New Energy Challenge Program to build large-scale pilot projects that would report to the Energy Strategy Board.

What do you think Obama can do to shift the U.S. away from fossil fuels?

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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