Greens push back on Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s oft-touted “all-of-the-above” energy policy has long been used to emphasize the administration’s commitment to oil and gas, even as the White House embraces cleaner alternatives.

But environmentalists are pushing back against that all-inclusive approach to domestic energy. It’s time to drop oil, gas and coal from the mix, 18 green groups told the president in a letter late Thursday.

“We understand that the U.S. cannot immediately end its use of fossil fuels and we also appreciate the advantages of being more energy independent,” said Environment America, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and other groups. “But an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach that places virtually no limits on whether, when, where or how fossil fuels are extracted ignores the impacts of carbon-intense fuels and is wrong for America’s future.”

The letter was delivered at the start of an election year, and just weeks before Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of congress and a nationwide television audience.

It also comes as the administration is weighing big decisions on energy issues, including whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian crude to the Gulf Coast and whether the Interior Department should allow Shell Oil  to resume drilling in Arctic waters north of Alaska.

So far, environmentalists aren’t thrilled with the administration’s record. Even as he has endorsed plans to limit carbon pollution and tackle climate change, “the president has in many places supported expansion of fossil fuel development and extraction,” said Trip Van Noppen, with Earthjustice.

“Under his ‘all of the above policy,’ after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf, the president approved a record number of offshore oil rigs — ‘more working oil and gas rigs than the rest of the world combined’–said the president.”

Van Noppen added. “He opened public lands to oil and gas drilling, approved offshore drilling in the fragile Arctic and approved a portion of a pipeline to transport the world’s dirtiest tar sands oil.”

The oil industry has at times been sharply critical of Obama administration policies, saying the White House has done more to limit oil and gas production than foster it. Specifically, industry leaders have criticized the administration’s decision not to sell oil and gas leases in Atlantic waters off the East Coast, and they say the government is slow to issue permits for drilling on public lands.

Some congressional Republicans have derided the administration’s energy policy, dubbing it an “all-of-the-above-the-ground” approach, since they say he has focused on wind, solar and renewable power at the expense of underground fossil fuels.