Last week, President Obama unveiled his plan to impose new regulations on power plants, establish conditions for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline and include climate change impacts in all important government decisions. We look at how effective his initiatives will be in limiting carbon pollution and what they will mean for the future of coal, natural gas and renewables. Does his plan go too far or not far enough?

Paul Rogers, environment reporter for San Jose Mercury News, and managing editor of KQED's science and environment unit
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club
Michael Shellenberger, breakthrough institute, an energy and innovation think-tank
Robin Millican, director of federal affairs at the Institute for Energy Research, a not-for-profit organization which promotes free-market energy policies

  • Frank Reich

    The recent pipeline spill in Arkansas shows pretty clearly what kind of terrible mess our quasi-Republican president Obama is going to get us into with Keystone XL. As usual, the corporations will reap the profits and the common people will pick up the tab for any disasters. Indeed, TransCanada is even stealing some of the land on which to put the pipeline by getting local governments to groundlessly condemn land that owners won’t sell, whereupon they use eminent domain to just take it. Last time I checked, stealing is a crime, even if corrupt politicians facilitate it. Funny how Obama talks about the importance of the rule of law when it comes to patriotic whistle-blowers embarrassing him, but when it comes to crony capitalists Obama is 98% hands-off. What does XL stand for by the way? eXtreme Lobbying? eXtreme Lapdog president?

    Arkansas spill:

    Daryl Hannah arrested protesting XL:

    Police Trained by TransCanada to Treat Keystone XL Protesters as ‘Terrorists’:

  • Kurt thialfad

    Should a national climate plan include stabilizing national population growth?

  • Chris OConnell

    I support efforts to limit greenhouse gases and will do my part. But stepping back and looking at it from outer space, it seems unlikely this ape, homo sapiens, can be stopped in its relentless and voracious march of consumption. If you combine the growth of the BRIC and related countries, along with the growing inequality of wealth in the US for example, I just can’t imagine one drop of oil or ounce of coal being left in the ground by the time we are done. If we are not done in before that time, that is.

  • Leo_Baldwin

    Comparing US coal consumption with GLOBAL emissions? Way to make a big number look small.

  • Leo_Baldwin

    Funny how the “war on coal” for environmental reasons is bad and evil, but the war on coal from cheap natural gas from fracking is just perfectly fine….

  • Leo_Baldwin

    Re: nuclear energy. All the “good” uranium ore is gone. Making reactor fuel has become increasingly (conventional) energy intensive. This energy to mine and make the fuel is usually left out of the nuclear energy equation. Nuclear energy is becoming less attractive as the increasing cost for mining and refining fuel is factored in.

  • Cal M

    Can we stop the charade that people such as Ms Millican are doing anything other than flacking for a massive entrenched industry that wants to protect its profits? All the “studies” she cites were paid for — directly or indirectly — by companies & individuals whose direct personal interest lies solely in protecting their own wallets.

  • Kristilinamarie

    I’m so tired of people complaining about subsidies for clean energy. Fossil fuels have been subsidized heavily by the government for decades!

    • Karim

      I’m so tired of people complaining about people dying of cancer from smoking. People have been dying from cancer for decades!

  • Wesley Chandler

    I don’t get it if we want to go green and clean we can make this process a lot less volatile and adoption much easier if President Obama used his executive power to order that all federal buildings in the U.S. to switch to solar and wind as their primary power source on top of being weatherized. This creates jobs and provides energy savings but it also sets off a chain reaction of events. The large influx of money from the gov’t to support the undertaking drives down the cost of clean energy materials thus making it more economical. State gov’ts will be able to use the project as a case study and will follow suit for all state owned facilities. Again this drives down the cost overall thus enabling the regular consumer to afford investing in clean energy……this is something we can do now!

  • Ben

    We would all like to keep the status quo. Change is hard and there will be impacts. But we don’t get to choose the status quo, as comforting as that would be. Climate is changing and the change is accelerating. Adapt or perish.

  • MonaLS

    Climate change is affecting us now. The weather extremes are only going to get worse. Record temperatures in areas not used to them, cooling centers being opened in greater numbers than before, drought in some places, massive floods in others. We have got to get this under control.

  • Morna

    Re decreasing reliance on coal: the costs of job losses, etc is well documented but what are the health costs of related lung disease? Anyone know?

  • Carrie

    How is saying that we’re the least bad with our use of gas and coal so that means we should just keep it up? If my son was hitting kids but less than another kid we wouldn’t tell him to go ahead because he’s not as bad. We should be trying to get better for ourselves which can show other places that it’s possible.

  • Chris OConnell

    It didn’t sound like the connection went wrong but she misplaced her talkiing point answer. But anyway, in “answering” the question on funding, she did not answer the question but deflected it. She talked about Sierra Club funding and nothing on Institute for Energy Research (ironic name no doubt) funding. In contrast, the Sierra Club addressed the question directly when asked. Obviously Millican has a lot to hide and has no interest in transparency and that is troubling.

  • Barb F

    I’m sure it is hard to do two shows a day, five days a week, but I hope in the future Forum will make a special effort to research the background of the organizations that guests represent and provide this background to the listeners, so that listeners can better evaluate their comments. Just accepting the organizations’ descriptions of themselves is not sufficient in these days of agenda-driven “think tanks.”

    Everyone knows the Sierra Club has an agenda and what that agenda is. However, the description above of an “energy and innovation think tank” sounds like just an impartial research group and does not reveal the pro-nuclear, pro-fracking/natural gas, anti-decisive-action-to-prevent-climate change agenda of the Breakthrough Institute. Similarly that the IER “promotes free-market energy policies” does indicate an agenda, but does not indicate that that agenda, rather than “free market” is actually pro-fossil fuel. (If it were really free market, wouldn’t it oppose fossil fuel subsidies that dwarf those given to clean energy? If it were really free market, wouldn’t it seek to include the external costs of burning fossil fuel–climate change, damaged health, environmental degradation in the market price?)

    Today’s was actually a tag-team match–two against Michael Brune.

    • Robert Thomas

      This is a long-time gripe of mine, too. I wish CPB affiliates would “spin the Rolodexes” a little more vigorously. At least very questionable “entities” such as the faintly ridiculous Pacific Reseach Institute (I, for one miss Lance Izumi’s impersonation of an autistic parrot) appear less often on KQED. Ms. Millican’s organization is described here as being a “[promoter] of free market energy policy”. I don’t see that that’s particularly cryptic.

      • Barb F

        I agree that the organization’s description made it clear that the Institute for Energy Research is in fact

        an advocacy organization. And what wasn’t made clear from their self-description was what the organization advocates. I’d argue that rather than a free market group, it is actually more of a pro-fossil fuel, anti-climate action group as this quote from Source Watch indicates:

        “The Institute for Energy Research (IER), founded in 1989 from a predecessor non-profit organization, advocates positions on environmental issues
        including deregulation of utilities, climate change denial, and claims that conventional energy sources are virtually limitless.”


        • Robert Thomas

          Barb F, I see that you’re right. But note the relative difference between this (what seems to clearly be an) industry advocacy group and say, the Chambers of Commerce in the U.S. The latter are loosely affiliated groups with varying sorts of charters and so on. But whether they explicitly define themselves as non-partisan lobbying groups or not, few persons capable of reflection would doubt the significant proportion of their time they spend in the pocket of the Republican Party.

  • Laurie

    Animal agriculture has been shown to contribute to climate change in significant ways. Let us not forget this empowering piece of the puzzle. Reducing meat consumption is good for the animals, for our health and for the environment.



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