Tonight is Barack Obama’s penultimate State of the Union, and be assured, he will talk about the environment and climate change. But what will he say, what will he mean, and — most importantly — how will his words translate into action in 2015? Here are some tips on deciphering the political speak and the key things to keep a look out for:
1) “Clean” or “Cleaner Burning” Fuel
It’s seems like a small thing, which is exactly why politicians do it, but the difference is actually massive. If the President calls for investment in “clean” energy, he’s talking about zero-emitting fuels like solar and wind. If he says “cleaner burning,” that just means it’s not as dirty as coal — a pretty low bar. Cleaner burning includes natural gas, which if you factor in the extraction process (fracking), may be even more harmful than coal. So let’s hope he says “clean.”
2) Keystone XL
The twists and turns of the Keystone XL Pipeline (literal and figurative) make it the soap opera of environmental politics, at varying times seeming like everything from a done deal to, more recently, a sure-fire veto. Now that gas prices have dropped to a point where Keystone oil would actually be more expensive than what we’re buying now, look for the President to reaffirm his opposition to this Canadian handout. Eh?
3) Solar Subsidies
Solar prices have been cut in half since 2010, and the industry added more than 30,000 jobs last year alone. This incredible progress was made possible in part by tax subsidies that are set to expire in 2016. Renewing these subsidies and continuing this momentum are crucial to America’s clean energy future. What say you, President Obama?
4. Methane Cuts
The President seems poised to announce a plan to cut methane emissions by 45%. This could be huge. The last round of emissions regulations pushed many coal burning energy companies to go even further than called for, switching from fossil fuel to clean wind energy. Let’s do this.
And if at any point, you hear the President say he isn’t qualified to talk about climate change because he’s not a scientist, run for cover, we’re all doomed.*