Bully Pulpit? Obama Pushes for Action at Solyndra Solar Factory

In the past few days, there’s been an increasingly loud chorus of voices demanding that President Obama use the BP Oil Disaster as an opportunity to push for a real, clean energy legislation that can break our addiction to oil and other dirty energy. On May 18, Thomas Friedman weighed in with a harsh condemnation of Obama’s lack of leadership, writing, “Sadly, President Obama seems intent on squandering his environmental 9/11 with a Bush-level failure of imagination.”

It looks like Obama is getting the message. Today, he toured the Solyndra solar panel factory in Fremont, California and made a strong speech connecting the disaster in the Gulf and the need for strong clean energy legislation:

But even as we are dealing with this immediate crisis, we’ve got to remember that the risks our current dependence on oil holds for our environment and our coastal communities is not the only cost involved in our dependence on these fossil fuels.  Around the world, from China to Germany, our competitors are waging a historic effort to lead in developing new energy technologies.  There are factories like this being built in China, factories like this being built in Germany.  Nobody is playing for second place.  These countries recognize that the nation that leads the clean energy economy is likely to lead the global economy.  And if we fail to recognize that same imperative, we risk falling behind.  We risk falling behind … But we’ve still got more work to do, and that’s why I’m going to keep fighting to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation in Washington.  (Applause.)  We’re going to try to get it done this year, because what we want to do is create incentives that will fully unleash the potential for jobs and growth in this sector.

That’s a good start, (applause), but it’s not enough. First, we need Obama to be giving this speech not just in sunny California but in stormy Washington D.C., where Senators and industry lobbyists are working 24/7 to water down any action on climate change. Second, we need President Obama to explain how he’s going to improve the current energy and climate legislation drafted by Senator Kerry and, ahem, BP and other oil industry lobbyists. Third, we need some repetition. President Obama should be pushing hard right now, not just with a couple speeches, but through all the many communication channels available to the President.

Don’t doubt that there’s some real momentum right now. We may not be seeing all the protests or public action that advocates would like, but there’s real anger out there over the spill (the Don’t Drill Facebook group is growing by the day, for example). How do you think we can be transitioning that anger to building real grassroots power for this movement?

About Jamie

Jamie is the co-coordinator of 350.org, an international global warming campaign. A recent college graduate, he lives in San Francisco, CA. In 2007, he co-organized Step It Up, a campaign that pulled together over 2,000 climate rallies across the United States to push for strong climate action at the federal level. He's also an early member of the youth climate movement, leading one of Energy Action's first campaigns in 2005: Road to Detroit, a nationwide veggie-oil bus tour to promote sustainable transportation. He's traveled to Montreal and Bali to lobby the UN with youth, but he's a strong believer that change happens in the streets not in meetings. Jamie received the Morris K. Udall award in 2007 and has been recognized by the mighty state of Vermont for his work on climate change. You can also find him blogging at Campus Progress' "Pushback," Changents.com, and 350.org.

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