The steam engine is a remarkable thing. Just keep it topped up with glorious amounts of coal and watch the train chug down that track. Speaking of coal, it’s also great for keeping the lights on.
Now if Obama would just get out of the way, we could keep using this great technology, invented somewhere back in the 1800s…
Simplistic satire on how the smokestack lobby will fight President Barack Obama’s new climate initiative? Not really. The people that oppose Obama’s climate initiatives are great at singing from the same Hardy Boys book. They know how to drive home a message. And you can bet they will be backing coal to the hilt while claiming his new plan is a “job killer.”
Obama did deliver a much-needed speech on why we must tackle climate change. Coal will take it on the chin under the plan that involves cutting emissions from power plants and encouraging renewable energy sources.
Despite what some are saying, the Georgetown talk in the sweltering heat was important because the movement was seeking a follow up to Obama’s stirring words on climate at his second inauguration. Taken together, this could change the course of a global movement that has been crying out for strong U.S. leadership.
Or not. Because Obama and the Democrats need to follow up with action and, yes, more words. More stirring words and more emotion, all wrapped up in a tight, believable message. The coal-hugging opposition will be relentless battling against the plan, just as they have been in attacking all of Obama’s initiatives during his time in office.
Joseph Romm, the influential editor at Climate Progress, sharply criticized Obama in his new book “Language Intelligence” for his failure to use simple rhetoric to back his own policies, such as Obamacare.
“With no simple message, no natural narrative for his presidency, he has allowed others to define him and his policies, which contributed to the harsh rebuke by voters at the 2010 midterm elections,” Romm wrote.
Obama needs to hone and simplify his points as the administration works on details of the plan. It shouldn’t be that hard to do. He has a winning argument that could be centered around three core messages (with quotes from his speech in bold):
1. The moral argument: “I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing.”
2. The scientific argument: “We don’t have time for a meeting of the flat earth society.”
3. The economic argument: “See, the problem with all these tired excuses for inaction is that it suggests a fundamental lack of faith in American business and American ingenuity.”
With these main themes, Obama can drive home the point that battling global warming is the right thing to do. But as the midterm elections approach, the President is going to need public opinion on his side or the administration could get cold feet on pressing ahead with the plan.
As we saw in the last election that returned Obama to the White House, Democrats have demographics on their side. Support for Republicans dropped because of a lack of new initiatives that attract people beyond their shrinking base of older white males.
So as Republicans focus on the climate plan as economic suicide, Obama should spend a lot of time on the third message of seeking new energy sources through new technologies. It was good to see Obama embrace his Sputnik moment and frame the initiative as a way to create jobs, spur innovation and keep ahead of competitors such as Germany and China.
In short, Obama must convince the country to move beyond Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang contraptions to sustainable technologies that will be good for our kids and drive the economy.