Powerful Words from the President on Auto, Energy and Climate Policy

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In a powerful 10-minute speech this morning, President Obama clearly outlined where his administration stands on energy policy, auto efficiency and global warming. The directness of his words and his dedication to actions based on science were a 180-degree turn from what we’ve heard out of the White House for the past eight years.

Here’s an excerpt from the speech. Just one section doesn’t do it justice, though. The full transcript is attached, and here’s a link to the video. It’s worth every minute to watch decisive action in Washington.

Year after year, decade after decade, we’ve chosen delay over decisive action. Rigid ideology has overruled sound science. Special interests have overshadowed common sense. Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results and our leaders raise their voices each time there’s a spike on gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump.

Now America has arrived at a crossroads. Embedded in American soil, in the wind and the sun, we have the resources to change. Our scientists, businesses and workers have the capacity to move us forward.

It falls on us to choose whether to risk the peril that comes with our current course or to seize the promise of energy independence. And for the sake of our security, our economy and our planet, we must have the courage and commitment to change.

It will be the policy of my administration to reverse our dependence on foreign oil while building a new energy economy that will create millions of jobs.

And we hold no illusion about the task that lies ahead. I cannot promise a quick fix. No single technology or set of regulations will get the job done. But we will commit ourselves to steady, focused, pragmatic pursuit of an America that is freed from our energy dependence and empowered by a new energy economy that puts millions of our citizens to work.

Obama signed two orders after his speech that were designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

One order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider the Bush administration’s refusal to grant California a waiver that would allow it to set higher emissions standards than the federal government’s. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to move swiftly on approving the waiver.

The president’s second order directs the Department of Transportation to write new fuel-economy standards by March that would go into effect with the 2011 model year. He also ordered the department to implement the 2020 goal of 35 mpg that Congress approved two years ago but that the Bush administration never created regulations to enforce.

“These are extraordinary times, and it calls for swift and extraordinary action,” Obama said. "The days of Washington dragging its heels are over. My administration will not deny facts, we will be guided by them."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also announced a new special envoy for climate change: Todd Stern, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who coordinated former President Bill Clinton’s Initiative on Global Climate Change and served as a White House negotiator at Kyoto and Buenos Aires. Stern will serve as a principal advisor on international climate policy and strategy and as the administration’s chief climate negotiator, both with the United Nations and in bilateral talks.