The pundits have been positively purring over President Obama’s first address to Congress, where he warned of the “day of reckoning.” “We will rebuild, we will recover,” Mr Obama said, adding: “Now is the time to act boldly and wisely.”
The speech was Obama’s most upbeat assessment of recovery yet, after months of warning how America was caught up in the worst recession since the 1930s. Democrats applauded it, whilst Republicans sat seated.
The media pundits though were impressed. Robert Kaiser, from the Washington Post for example wrote: “This was an extraordinary speech. We certainly do have a new president. My own reaction was that Obama looked stronger and more confident tonight than I have ever seen him before – and he has never lacked for confidence in the past.”
For those looking for more indications of the greening of the President there were certainly signs of encouragement. The President made a clear link between America’s long-term economic interests and the development of clean energy, and also pressed Congress to push ahead on a new law to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“To truly transform our economy, protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy,” the president said. “So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America.”
The President also outlined more money beyond the $100 billion for green investment outlined in the $787bn economic rescue plan last week. Obama said that is budget, to be announced tomorrow, would also allocate $15bn a year to develop wind and solar power and more fuel-efficient cars. “We are committed to the goal of a re-tooled, re-imagined auto industry,” he said. “The nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.”
But despite Obama’s fine words, and pledges of cash it has emerged that Congress is unlikely to pass legislation tacking climate change by the end of 2009, a delay that will seriously undermine efforts to reach a global treaty at the climate change conference in Copenhagen this December.
On Monday, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, indicated that Obama was easing up on his timetable for climate legislation. He told reporters the president would support moves by Congress to act on global warming “whether that’s this year or next year”.
Obama needs to push legislation through this year, next year will be too late.