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June 23, 2013 11:01 AM Get Ready For a Warm Front On Tuesday

By Ed Kilgore

If the current disputes over immigration and surveillance policies aren’t hot enough for you, get ready for a warm front to hit Washington on Tuesday afternoon, per this story from Grist’s Lisa Hymas:

First we heard it from unnamed sources. Then we heard it from White House climate advisor Heather Zichal. And now we’ve heard it from Obama himself: The president is gearing up for a big speech in which he’ll unveil his long-awaited second-term climate plan.
Obama announced the news in his weekly video address on Saturday. “This Tuesday at Georgetown University, I’ll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go: a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it,” he said in the video, which was set to overwrought music and peppered with gauzy scenes of American landscapes.

The Big Speech itself will lay out four major areas of administration action on climate change, says Hymas:

1) Crack down on carbon emissions from power plants. Regulations on new plants are already in the works. The next step would be regs on existing power plants, which would gradually force coal-fired plants to start shutting down. As electric power plants produce about a third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, this is a big deal.
2) Promote renewable energy development on public lands.
3) Increase the energy efficiency of appliances, industrial equipment, and public and private buildings.
4) Prepare for the climate impacts we’re already seeing.

The existing power plant regulation will be the biggie, spurring claims that Obama’s going to destroy the fragile economic recovery through higher utility costs, and/or by curtailing the burgeoning oil and gas boom. In a WaPo preview of Obama’s speech from Juliet Eilperin, we hear loud and clear the counter-attack message from the fossil fuel industry:

Stephen Brown, vice president for government affairs for Tesoro Corp., said if Obama delivers on his promise to regulate power plants, “the administration’s war on fossil fuels is now fully joined. Apparently, this White House is willing to sacrifice the American manufacturing renaissance brought on by booming domestic energy development on the altar of climate change.”

Because everything Obama is proposing (so far as we know) involves executive initiatives, what we’ll hear from opponents on Tuesday will be a combination of fiery rhetoric and threats of congressional action to block his measures—particularly the implementation of any new EPA regs on power plants. But for once, gridlock and divided government will work in Obama’s favor, insofar as Senate Democrats (who will probably pick up the odd Maine or Illinois Republican to offset the loss of the odd Louisiana or Arkansas Democrat) can block any effort to thwart EPA.

It will be interesting to see how much hysteria breaks out on Tuesday, particularly since Obama’s climate speech will be probably be nestled between days (Monday and Thursday) when landmark decisions are announced by the U.S. Supreme Court. For those of us bored by too many slow news days of late, it could be a wake-up week.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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