A Letter to President Obama

This letter, which will be published as a blog post, is a followup to my earlier post entitled ‘A Conversation With S. David Freeman’. In that post I stated:
“….. despite the obvious resistance that Obama faces from Republicans on anything he proposes, and the need to keep a Democratic Senate if at all possible (so that his last two years in office will not be even more difficult than his first six years), should the President think big and propose what he knows the country needs as opposed to what is politically feasible? My heart says yes, and the side of me that claims to be practical, after many years in Washington, DC, tries hard to understand Obama’s strategy and support it. But Dave may be right – we may have an intellectual President whose nature just won’t allow him to stick his neck out. As I said to Dave, the test for me will be after the November elections, when Obama will have no Democratic candidates to protect and nothing to lose by proposing farseeing energy and environmental legislation. He will not succeed in getting it passed by the most dysfunctional Congress I’ve seen in forty years, but as Dave says, we have to start somewhere.”

I’m also aware that a number of my liberal/progressive friends and colleagues, in addition to Dave Freeman, have expressed disappointment with the President for not doing more on energy and environmental issues as they assumed he would when he was elected. I have resisted joining this group and continue to support the President’s analytic and pragmatic approach to dealing with these issues. It has led to some difficult discussions, and despite my long and transparent political history led one long-standing friend to write: “…it is interesting, for sure, to see you moving toward the real Democrats.”

Needless to say, I disagree with this friend’s characterization of what a true Democrat believes, as if there is only one way to address these issues, and we will have to agree to disagree. Nevertheless, these interactions with friends and my own impatience about seeing more done quickly to achieve a clean energy society, leads to this appeal to you as you approach the final two years of your presidency.

Once we are past the elections in the first week of November you will have little reason, in my opinion, to hold back on your vision for this country’s energy future. I believe you have a clear understanding of what that future must be, but that vision has to be translated into a national energy policy that is codified by the U.S. Congress. As a nation we need to set long-term goals for moving away from dependence on fossil fuels and toward an energy system increasingly dependent on increased energy efficiency and renewable energy generating sources, as the European Union has done and even China is doing in its multiple five-year plans. You need to level with the American public about the policy choices we have to make now to ensure we are well on our way to that energy future that other nations have identified more clearly than we. Republicans and some Democrats may not agree but your leadership is needed to point the way forward and put pressure on the Congress to protect our long-term interests.

You have recently taken important steps to do what you feel you can reasonably do within your executive powers to reduce energy-related carbon emissions. You are taking some political heat for that. but that comes with the job and as best I can tell from media reports the majority of Americans agree with your approach. What is less clear is your vision for a long-term clean energy policy and how we can move rapidly to that end, which is part-and-parcel of addressing global warming/climate change and improving national security. Your all-of-the-above energy strategy leaves many of us wanting more clarity from you on the hard choices we have to make to ensure our energy future. This letter is a request for such clarity while you still have a chance to make a significant difference as President. It will undoubtedly lead to further political attacks, but so what? You were overly patient with Republican intransigence in your first Administration, a serious mistake that took you too long to learn from, and you must not repeat that again in setting out your goals for the future. They will huff and puff and perhaps slow down national progress, as they threaten to do on health care, but you must lead in pointing the way. We will get there eventually but the sooner the better. You can make a difference and I await your post-November 4th leadership.


There is a very important point to be made on energy and the economy. Much of the analysis is not intended to inform, but to convince or otherwise support arguments being made by well paid lobbyists.

Paul Krugman just gave us a short piece that explains the false spray painting type analytic work. In terms of the early days of DOE, when things were actually better analyzed, he mentions one of his former teachers. Some of us got to know him during those Carter years and we are glad we did.

PK’s piece: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/07/slow-steaming-and-the-supposed-limits-to-growth/?_php=true&_type=blogs&module=BlogPost-ReadMore&version=Blog%20Main&action=Click&contentCollection=Opinion&pgtype=Blogs&region=Body&_r=0#more-37599