Three things Biden should say about climate change in State of the Union
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Given the state of the war in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, surging oil prices above $100 a barrel, and the blast of new dire warnings from the United Nations about climate change this week, President Joe Biden is going to have a hard time convincing anyone that his climate agenda is succeeding in his State of the Union Tuesday night.
You can only go to the well of last year’s infrastructure bill so many times before people stop paying attention, if they ever were. But there are a couple of things the president should say in his closely watched speech to retain the world’s confidence America is still in the global climate fight.
First, he should confirm he will break out the climate portion of his stalled Build Back Better legislation into a new bill with a new name. Given the U.S. oil lobby’s use of Europe’s energy crisis to make new demands this week to restart drilling, Biden must respond with a detailed and vigorous argument that only accelerated investment in renewable energy will avert the worst disasters forecast by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday. He should cite Germany, which in the face of massive price spikes this week instead doubled down on its conversion to renewables by pushing the time up several years to 2035.
Second, Biden should applaud European oil companies for breaking ties with Russia in the past 48 hours after decades of controversy doing business in that country. He should call out the fact that when Big Oil wants to move fast on something important, it can. The list of petrol companies divesting from Russia continues to expand this week, with several countries such as Canada now closing their ports to Russian oil and gas. Give credit where it is due, and draw a distinct line between what’s happening there and the pathetic calls for more drilling in the U.S.
Finally, he should exalt the heroic resistance in Ukraine this week and drive home the fact that Russia’s leverage over Europe comes from the same addiction to oil that imperils the rest of the planet through global warming and ask them to rise to the battle together as they always have in dangerous times.
Not sure he will say any of these things, nor have the rhetoric to capture the spirit of and urgency of the moment. But there is an opportunity here, however small, for him to turn the tide on his climate agenda and indeed, his presidency, with this speech.
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