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President Obama delivering his climate change address at Georgetown University.

President Obama’s climate change speech at Georgetown University is being widely characterized as historic. And that is certainly so, looking backward from the moment the address was delivered. But will its historic quality stand the test of time? There is likely a rocky road ahead.

  • As the president’s address made clear, and the stories cited below indicate, there is little role for Congress in his climate strategy. Instead, the plan is heavy on executive actions and agency rule making. It is unlikely the House majority will sit quietly for this Obama end run, or the apparent attack on the coal industry and the possible threat to the Keystone XL Pipeline. Expect House hearings when new rules and regulations are promulgated and when or, more accurately, if, the president teeters toward opposing XL. Administration officials do not always appear at their best under a congressional grilling.
  • Second term presidents have a brief window to affect a meaningful agenda. Most political experts time that at 18 months. Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake wrote in the Washington Post on the day of Obama’s inauguration, “The reality is that a clock started counting down the minute Obama took the oath of office on Sunday, a clock that will likely run out of time in, roughly, July 2014.” Perhaps the president will defy the odds, but his climate plan will not be his only priority during the next twelve months.  The effectiveness of his limited reserve of political capital in the face of House and industry objections will likely be determined by political realities that have little to do with the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Environmentalists, who have largely praised the new climate plan, may have some misgivings when the historic honeymoon is over. They still must grapple with the reality of a president who is both pro-nuclear and pro-fracking. These are not incidental to the president’s approach to energy and climate, they are central. If he goes along with the XL Pipeline as well, the “historic” nature of the speech may assume new meaning — a president who takes on climate change by himself while thumbing his nose at the most enduring energy controversies on the American environmental agenda.

In yesterday’s post, we linked you to the advance White House documents that preceded President Obama’s climate address. The full text of the Georgetown University speech is here.  Links to stories and analyses about the speech follow after the jump:

The New York Times
Clean Air Act, Reinterpreted, Would Focus on Flexibility and State-Level Efforts

With no chance of Congressional support, President Obama is staking part of his legacy on a big risk: that he can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions by stretching the intent of a law decades old and not written with climate change in mind. . .


Coal Industry Concerned By Obama’s Climate Change Plans

President Obama on Tuesday announced a wide-ranging plan to address climate change. Rather than taking it to Congress, Obama is implementing the plan on his own. The president wants the Environmental Protection Agency to restrict carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The biggest source of those emissions is coal-fired facilities. . .


San Francisco Chronicle
The word you didn’t hear in Obama’s climate speech.

His proposals for fighting global warming without congressional help didn’t go as far as many of his supporters might have liked. Frankly, they didn’t go as far as programs California already has in place. But at this point, environmentalists will take whatever federal climate change action they can get. . . But the speech was also notable for something Obama didn’t say. He never uttered the word “fracking.” . . .


Wall Street Journal
Obama’s Pipeline Comments Send Mixed Messages

President Barack Obama’s unexpected mention of the Keystone XL pipeline in his climate-change speech Tuesday gave the appearance of pledging a tough line on the project’s environmental impact. But his comments were embraced by Keystone supporters, who said the pipeline has already met the president’s standards. . .


The Guardian
Barack Obama pledges to bypass Congress to tackle climate change

Obama went further than any previous US president in outlining a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change. He also said he would continue to press the issue as a priority of his second term even in the face of implacable opposition from Republicans in Congress. . .


Huffington Post
Al Gore: Obama Climate Change Speech Best ‘By Any President Ever’

Former Vice President Al Gore hailed President Barack Obama’s climate change speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday as “historic” and “the best address on climate by any president ever.” . .


Republicans face limited options on Obama climate plan

Republican lawmakers may be irate over President Barack Obama’s climate change plans, but there may be little that Congress can do to stop the push for new landmark Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut emissions from power plants. . .


Natural Resources Defense Council
Obama’s Climate Action Plan will Protect our Health and our Communities

President Obama has announced a robust plan for tackling climate change and reducing dangerous carbon pollution. This marks an historic turning point. No longer will power plants be allowed to dump unlimited amounts of carbon into our atmosphere, threatening our health and environment. Instead, we can clean up our skies and leave future generations with a more stable climate. . .


Environmental Defense Fund
The President takes the lead on climate change

In a Climate Action Plan announced at Georgetown University, the President laid out his vision for putting in place common sense policies that will cut carbon pollution while driving innovation, cutting energy waste and energy bills, creating jobs, and protecting public health. . .