- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2015

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — President Obama accused conservative opponents of his climate change agenda Monday night of carrying out an un-American campaign to protect their fossil fuel interests at the expense of the country.

“They’re trying to undermine competition in the marketplace and choke off consumer choice and threaten an industry that’s turning out new jobs at a fast pace,” Mr. Obama said at a clean energy summit here.

The president took aim particularly at the Koch brothers, saying they represent a faction in the U.S. opposed to investment in alternative energies such as solar power.

“When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests or conservative thinks tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that’s a problem,” Mr. Obama said.

“That’s not the American way. That’s not progress. That’s not innovation. That’s rent-seeking, and trying to protect old ways of doing business and standing in the way of the future,” he said.



But a top House Republican said Mr. Obama is trying to fool the public with an agenda that will actually raise energy prices.

“Raising utility prices by as much as $1,000 per family, which will reduce GDP by as much half a percentage point a year, is not powering progress, but instead [is] a recipe for America’s decline and continued energy dependency,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and chairman of the Committee on Natural Resources.

“Instead of spending another $1 billion of taxpayer money to prop up noncompetitive sources of energy, the president should cut barriers to energy development on federal land and offshore,” Mr. Bishop said.

The president chided congressional Republicans for fighting higher spending on his clean energy agenda and instead “chasing mindless austerity.” He also said his push for clean energy has created “strange bedfellows” in political circles.

“In some states we’ve got the Green Party and the tea party teaming up to protect our freedom to choose clean energy,” Mr. Obama said. “It is rare that the tea party leaders and I are on the same side of an issue. I agree with them here. This is not, and should not be, a Republican-versus-Democratic issue.”

The president said solar and wind energy are now more cost-effective than traditional ways of generating electricity, such as coal-burning power plants.

“Solar has helped a lot of construction workers find work, while Congress was dragging its feet on funding infrastructure projects,” he said. “Now is not the time to pull back on those investments.”

Mr. Obama said big companies such as Google and Costco are purchasing solar power because it makes sense for their bottom lines.

“They’re not doing this out of altruism,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re doing this because it means big cost savings. The private sector is increasingly all in. I’m all for consumers saving money. Solar isn’t just for the green crowd anymore. It’s for the green eye-shade crowd, too.”

Mr. Obama’s speech comes amid the administration’s continued push for more renewable energy, which the president hopes will fully replace fossil fuels before the end of the century.

The White House on Monday also rolled out a host of new executive actions designed to spur more clean power projects across the country.

The administration is guaranteeing an additional $1 billion in loans for distributed energy projects, launching a new federal program to educate homeowners on how to increase energy efficiency, handing out $24 million in taxpayer money for 11 solar projects across seven states and taking other steps.

Phasing out fossil fuels — especially coal — and replacing them with renewable power is a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s broader plan to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.

The president has pledged to the international community that the U.S. will cut its emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025 — a goal that’s only achievable with a significant increase in the amount of power generated by renewable sources.

Specific pieces of the president’s climate agenda, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to dramatically cut carbon emissions from power plants, are only possible through major new investments in renewable energy.

Critics say that proposal, along with other steps in the president’s climate agenda, will kill jobs and slow economic growth. Federal data also show that the EPA power plant rules in particular will raise electric bills for most American families, at least temporarily.

Beyond domestic steps, Mr. Obama also is eyeing an unprecedented international deal on global warming.

In December he’ll travel to Paris for a key United Nations summit on climate change in the hopes of emerging with a landmark agreement reining in the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters, including China.

Dave Boyer reported from Washington.

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