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Climate and Energy Policies: The President and the Public (VIDEO)

Climate change and environmental issues in general were not a 2012 campaign concern, and in yesterday’s press conference, Obama made it clear that it wasn’t going to be at the top of his second term “to do” list. But a new study released by Yale reveals there is actually significant support that such issues be addressed.

Sandy brought a last campaign minute notice, but mostly related to government response to the disaster. That isn’t to say environmentalists weren’t active all along, but efforts to call attention to the dangers of fracking, deep sea drilling, “clean coal,” and projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline, and the Obama expedited construction of the southern section of that pipeline — leading to the Tar Sands Blockade — all those efforts and more have only sporadically reached public, media and Elected’s attention.

At the press conference, Obama was asked by NY Time’s Mark Landler about his plans regarding climate change. From Common Dreams:

Though Obama used several key phrases that may keep climate change activists happy, he still made it clear that climate change was not his first priority. …

The president emphasized he is, as Common Dreams puts it, “a firm believer that climate change is real.” Naturally he focused on his accomplishments in his first term, such as doubling fuel efficiency standards and clean energy production. He acknowledged

… we haven’t done as much as we need to. So what I’m going to be doing over the next several weeks, the next several months is having a conversation … with scientists, engineers, and elected officials to find out what more we can do to make short-term progress in reducing carbon and then working through an education process that I think is necessary … .

No doubt continued education is needed, but in fact, a great deal has already been done, as the recently released report from Yale reveals. Some highlights:

A large majority of Americans (77%) say global warming should be a ‘very high’ (18%), ‘high’ (25%), or ‘medium’ priority (34%) for the president and Congress. …

Nearly all Americans (92%) say the president and the Congress should make developing sources of clean energy a ‘very high’ (31%), ‘high’ (38%), or ‘medium’ priority (23%). …

A large majority of Americans (88%) say the U.S. should make an effort to reduce global warming, even if it has economic costs. …

Majorities also support funding more research into renewable energy sources (73%), providing tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (73%), regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant (66%), eliminating all subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry (59%), and expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast (58%). …

Asked who has influence on elected officials’ decisions about global warming, Americans think the big players are large campaign contributors (50% say they have ‘a lot’ of influence) or fossil- fuel companies (42%). Fewer think renewable energy companies (23%), environmentalists (22%), or climate scientists (20%) have a lot of influence on elected officials.

Environmental advocates continue to act on their conclusions. The Keystone XL Pipeline is an example. At Credo, the emphasis is on the choice re-elected Obama now has:

He must reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. …

President Obama did his best to remain silent on climate change throughout the campaign – and instead extolled the virtues of expanded drilling, expanded fracking, mythical pollution-free coal, and his administration’s approval of the southern portion of Keystone XL.

A major action related to Keystone / Tar Sands is scheduled for November 18. Via 350.org:

… environmentalists … called for a demonstration outside the White House on Nov. 18 to show the president that he has their support if he denies the permit for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. …

The next day, November 19, Tar Sands Blockade holds an action:

TransCanada’s construction crews are quickly clear-cutting through our homes and forests in East Texas and we must continue to rapidly escalate if we are going to stop this toxic pipeline. We invite you to join us in Nacogdoches, Texas on Monday, November 19th for our next mass action to stop Keystone XL.

The Tar Sands Blockaders are in day 53. For some of what they’re doing, see, for example, TransCanada Bulldozes Texas Farmer’s Renewable Biofuels Business

The video below is a part of a post by Bryan Parras of T.E.J.A.S. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Service), Tar Sands Affects on the Houston ‘Refinery Communities’:

This video contains startling aerial footage of the refinery communities in Houston that are meant to bear the disproportionate pollution of toxic tar sands refining from Keystone XL southern segment.

The Manchester neighborhood in Houston is completely surrounded by Valero, Texas Recycling, a car crushing facility, the Port of Houston, Highway 610, a rail yard and a waste water treatment plant.

Tar Sands Blockade has been in the Manchester neighborhood. Children Playing Near the Valero Refinery In Houston provides more information. (emphasis added)

Manchester is located on the Houston Ship Channel, nicknamed the ‘Petro-Metro’ for its location at the epicenter of the country’s oil refining and petrochemical industries. This neighborhood, comprising mostly low-income immigrant families, has been under siege by refining giant Valero and its ilk for decades.

Valero also happens to be one of the biggest investors in Keystone XL.

Certainly ongoing education will be needed regarding climate and energy needs, both for the public and for the DC Electeds. But it’s very clear that we’re way beyond the point when having “conversations” (as Obama states) is sufficient, particularly while those will apparently coincide with federal government approval of projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline. By all means, do some educating, but as Tar Sands Blockaders, and residents of Houston’s Manchester neighborhood well know, the crisis is immediate.

(Tar Sands Blockade Nov. 19 Mass Action photo via Tar Sands Blockade)

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