President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address continued to advocate for the progressive vision laid out in his second inaugural address. The reserved, run-to-the-middle character of the first term is gone. The State of the Union addressed some important climate-change issues that were largely ignored in the debates prior to the election. Climate change, much like the catastrophic events that have made gun violence legislation even remotely salient, must be viewed in light of the trends the nation has faced in the past decade.
Although the president adequately conveyed the consequences of inaction, the proposals set out are simply more about political points than real efforts to address the problem. A cap and trade system should not be the center of the debate: The cap itself should be the debate. The international Kyoto standard is significantly higher than what would be necessary to prevent catastrophic temperature changes, and even compliance with Kyoto would require expending huge political capital.
Increased energy efficiency standards sound like a great idea as well, but the economics of energy consumption indicate that the more efficient transportation is, the more energy is consumed. A tax on energy consumption would be politically unpopular but is the best way to economically incentivize using less energy. Behind the useless, politically motivated climate-change agenda, the president stated he would continue to speed up oil and gas permits.
The one proposal that could be useful was the Energy Security Trust, which would direct oil and gas profits into energy research but wouldn’t be necessary if real steps to put economic disincentives on fossil fuels were taken.