Thursday :: Jun 17, 2010

The Opacity Of Tropes

by Turkana

There was some good in President Obama's energy speech, and there was much that was missing. Including the clarion call on climate change that this entire world so desperately needs to hear. Including evidence of the action that this entire world so desperately needs. At Climate Progress, Joe Romm summarized:

The President has either not tried to get senior Democrats to stop bad mouthing climate action in public — or he has tried and failed. Either way, that demonstrates an absence of serious leadership on this most important of issues.

The President should have spoken to Dorgan and Feinstein months ago, and said, “We need to do this. We’re going to do this. I need your help. What do you need from me?” Indeed, he should have made a couple dozen such calls after the House passed the bill a year ago.

So, sure, feel free to criticize him for not using a few beltway code-words in his big speech, but actions speak louder than words — and so far one sees very little sign of action.

The president spoke well about BP, and MMS, and the clean-up. The immediate crisis demanded his attention, and he gave it. He also needed to slap down the hyperbolic criticism from the right, and he did. Not by emoting, by explaining. He also said this:

The transition away from fossil fuels will take some time, but over the last year and a half, we have already taken unprecedented action to jumpstart the clean energy industry. As we speak, old factories are reopening to produce wind turbines, people are going back to work installing energy-efficient windows, and small businesses are making solar panels. Consumers are buying more efficient cars and trucks, and families are making their homes more energy-efficient. Scientists and researchers are discovering clean energy technologies that will someday lead to entire new industries.

Each of us has a part to play in a new future that will benefit all of us. As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of good, middle-class jobs - but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment. And only if we rally together and act as one nation - workers and entrepreneurs; scientists and citizens; the public and private sectors.

But as good as it was to hear those words, their vagueness was, in fact, a problem. It's still not clear what the president means by the word "clean." He used to talk about "clean" coal. He hasn't mentioned it, recently, and we can hope that means he's abandoned the idea. But it could mean he just doesn't want to talk about it. We don't know. At Carnegie-Mellon, not two weeks ago, he spoke of the need for a clean energy future, then only mentioned natural gas and nuclear. Which was astonishing. Last night, he dropped those and specifically mentioned solar and wind. Which was very good to hear. But the question remains: does that signal a shift in policy strategy, or was it but a shift in political strategy? A rhetorical device? We don't know.

Reactions have varied, but perhaps digby was most concisely cogent. Speeches don't impress her. It's politics. Romm is right: the actions will be the real story. And the bottom line is that we don't know what those actions will be. Opacity rules. As it so often does.

Turkana :: 11:20 AM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!