President Barack Obama vowed today to find middle ground on energy issues with Republicans in the newly transformed Congress.
Although sweeping proposals to tackle global warming are too controversial to pass on Capitol Hill, Obama held out hope that Democrats and Republicans could forge consensus on some smaller plans to advance cleaner-burning natural gas, electric cars and nuclear power.
“When it comes to something like energy, what we’re probably going to have to do is say ‘here are some areas where there’s just too much disagreement . . . but let’s not wait; let’s go ahead and make progress on those things where we do agree.”
A prime candidate, Obama said, could be initiatives designed to promote the use and development of natural gas, which produces fewer carbon dioxide emissions when burned than coal.
“We’ve got, I think, broad agreement that we’ve got terrific natural gas resources in this country,” Obama said. “Are we doing everything we can to develop those?”
Similarly, he noted, Congress can do more to encourage the use and development of electric cars that aren’t reliant on liquid transportation fuels.
Nuclear power could be another area for consensus, Obama said. “There’s been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases,” he said. “Is that an area where we can move forward?”
Republicans in control of the House next year are sure to butt heads with the Obama administration over the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationery sources. But Obama insisted that lawmakers can find a way to help move the country toward cleaner energy sources.
“Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat,” he said. “It’s not the only way. It was a means, not an end. I will be looking for other ways to solve this problem.”
Obama suggested that locking like-minded Republicans and Democrats in a conference room would do the trick.
“I think the smartest thing for us to do is to see if we can get Democrats and Republicans in a room who are serious about energy independence and are serious about keeping our air clean and our water clean and dealing with the area of greenhouse gases,” Obama said.
Policymakers can “find ways that we can solve these problems that don’t hurt the economy, that encourage the development of clean energy in this country, that in fact may give us opportunities to create entire new industries and new jobs that put us in a competitive posture around the world.”