Category Archives: environment

President’s Weekly Address: Taking Control of America’s Energy Future, 11/16/13

“Hi, everybody. On Thursday, I visited a steel plant in Cleveland, Ohio to talk about what we’re doing to rebuild our economy on a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.

One area where we’ve made great progress is American energy. After years of talk about reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we are actually poised to control our own energy future.

Shortly after I took office, we invested in new American technologies to reverse our dependence on foreign oil and double our wind and solar power. And today, we generate more renewable energy than ever – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than anyone – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And just this week, we learned that for the first time in nearly two decades, the United States of America now produces more of our own oil here at home than we buy from other countries.

That’s a big deal. That’s a tremendous step towards American energy independence.

But this is important, too: we reached this milestone in part not only because we’re producing more energy, but because we’re wasting less energy. We set new fuel standards for our cars and trucks so that they’ll go twice as far on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade. That’s going to save an average driver more than $8,000 at the pump over the life of a new car. We also launched initiatives to put people to work upgrading our homes, businesses, and factories so that they waste less energy. That’s going to save our businesses money on their energy bills – that’s money they can use to hire more workers.

Here’s another thing. Between more clean energy, and less wasted energy, our emissions of dangerous carbon pollution are actually falling. That’s good news for anyone who cares about the world we leave to our kids.

And while our carbon emissions have been dropping, our economy has been growing. Our businesses have created 7.8 million new jobs in the past 44 months. It proves that the old argument that we can’t strengthen the economy and be good stewards of our planet at the same time is a false choice. We can do both. And we have to do both.

More good jobs. Cheaper and cleaner sources of energy. A secure energy future. Thanks to the grit and resilience of American businesses and the American people, that’s where we’re heading. And as long as I’m President, that’s where we’re going to keep heading – to leave our children a stronger economy, and a safer planet.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.”

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President Obama Speaks on Manufacturing and the Economy in Cleveland, Ohio, 11/14/13

The President:

“But we rolled up our sleeves, we made some tough choices. We rescued and retooled the American auto industry; it saved more than a million jobs. We bet on American ingenuity and American workers. (Applause.) And assembly lines started humming again, and automakers started to make cars again. And just a few months after this plant shut down, your plant manager got the call: Fire those furnaces back up, get those workers back on the job. And over the last four years, you’ve made yourselves one of the most productive steel mills not just in America, but in the world. In the world. (Applause.) ….

So we invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil, double wind power, double solar power, produce more oil, produce more natural gas, and do it all in a way that is actually bringing down some of our pollution, making our entire economy more energy-efficient. Today, we generate more renewable energy than ever. We produce more natural gas than anybody in the world. Just yesterday, we learned that for the first time since 1995, the United States of America produces more of our own oil here at home than we buy from other countries. First time since 1995. (Applause.) And that’s a big deal. That’s what America has done these past five years.

And that is a huge competitive advantage for us. Part of the reason companies now want to move — we were just talking about it — this plant, if it’s located in Germany, energy costs are double, maybe triple; same in Japan. So this gives us a big edge. But this is also important: We reached the milestone not just because we’re producing more energy, but also we’re wasting less energy. And this plant is a good example of it. We set new fuel standards that double the distance our cars and trucks go on a gallon of gas by the middle of the next decade. That saves the average driver, everybody here, more than $8,000 at the pump over the life of a new car. You like that? (Applause.) We launched initiatives to put people to work upgrading our homes, and our businesses, and our factories so we’re wasting less energy. All that saves businesses money on their energy bills. Your plant is one of the hundreds to answer that call. And if you’re saving money on energy costs, that means you can invest in equipment, invest in workers, hire more people, produce more products.

And here’s another thing: Between more clean energy, less wasted energy, the carbon pollution that’s helping to warm the planet, that actually starts going down. And that’s good news for anybody who cares about leaving a planet to our kids that is as beautiful as the one we got from our parents and our grandparents. (Applause.) So it’s a win-win. Our economy keeps growing, creating new jobs, which means that strengthening our energy security and increasing energy efficiency doesn’t have to be a choice between the environment and the economy — we can do both.

….And we’ve tackled a broken health care system. Obviously, we’re not done yet. (Applause.) ….But just keep in mind that if businesses’ health care costs are growing at about one-third the rate that they were a decade ago, that makes America a more affordable place to do business, and it also means that the investors here, if they’re putting less money into health care costs, they can put more money in terms of hiring more workers and making sure that they’re getting good pay….

But I didn’t run for President to go back to where we were. I want us to go forward. I want us to go towards the future. (Applause.) I want us to get us to where we need to be. I want to solve problems, not just put them off. I want to solve problems. And we’ve got to do more to create more good, middle-class jobs like the ones folks have here.

That means we’ve got to do everything we can to prepare our children and our workers for the competition that they’re going to face. We should be doing everything we can to help put some sort of advanced education within reach for more young people….

Another thing we should be working on: Fixing a broken immigration system. (Applause.) When you think about this whole region, a lot of folks forget, but almost everybody who worked in that plant 100 years ago came from someplace else. And so we’ve got now a new generation of hopeful, striving immigrants; we’ve got to make sure that they come legally and that we do what we need to secure our borders, but we’ve also got to make sure that we’re providing them opportunity just like your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents received when they arrived at this plant. And that’s important. (Applause.) And, by the way, it will help our economy grow because then they’re paying taxes and helping to invest and build here in America.

We should do everything we can to revitalize American manufacturing. Manufacturing is — that’s the hub of our economy. When our manufacturing base is strong, the entire economy is strong. A lot of service jobs depend on servicing manufacturing jobs. And, typically, manufacturing jobs pay a little bit better. So that’s been a path, a ticket to the middle class. So when we make steel and cars, make them here in America, that helps. Like I said, the work may be hard but it gives you enough money to buy a home and raise a kid, retire and send your kids to school.

And those kinds of jobs also tell us something else. It’s not just how much you get in your paycheck, it’s also a sense of, “I’m making something and I’m helping to build this country.” It helps establish a sense of — that we’re invested in this country. (Applause.) It tells us what we’re worth as a community…

And let me make one last point. We have to do everything we can to make sure every American has access to quality, affordable health care, period. (Applause.) … But we’re not going to go back to the old system, because the old system was broken. And every year, thousands of Americans would get dropped from coverage or denied their medical history or exposed to financial ruin. You guys are lucky that you work at a company with a strong union that gives you good health benefits.

(Applause.) But you know friends and family members who don’t have it, and you know what it’s like when they get sick. You know how scary it is for them when they get sick. Or some of them have health insurance — they think they do — and they get sick, and suddenly the insurance company says, oh, I’m sorry, you owe $50,000. That’s not covered. Or they jack up your premium so you can’t afford it because you had some sort of preexisting condition. That happens every day.

So we’re not going to let that happen. We’re not going to let folks who pay their premiums on time get jerked around. And we’re not going to walk away from the 40 million Americans without health insurance. (Applause.) We are not going to gut this law. We will fix what needs to be fixed, but we’re going to make the Affordable Care Act work. And those who say they’re opposed to it and can’t offer a solution, we’ll push back. (Applause.)

I got to give your Governor a little bit of credit. John Kasich, along with a lot of state legislators who are here today, they expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. And think about that. Just that one step means as many as 275,000 Ohioans are going to have health insurance. And it doesn’t depend on a website. That’s already happening because of the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.)

And I think it’s fair to say that the Governor didn’t do it because he just loves me so much. (Laughter.) We don’t agree on much, but he saw, well, this makes sense — why wouldn’t we do this? Why wouldn’t we make sure that hundreds of thousands of people right here in Ohio have some security? It was the right thing to do. And, by the way, if every Republican governor did what Kasich did here rather than play politics about it, you’d have another 5.4 million Americans who could get access to health care next year, regardless of what happens with the website. That’s their decision not to do it. And it’s the wrong decision. They’ve got to go ahead and sign folks up.

So the bottom line is sometimes we just have to set aside the politics and focus on what’s good for people…”

Complete text: http://1.usa.gov/HTDgNz

President Obama Speaks at the 2013 Tribal Nations Conference, 11/13/13

The President:

“Now, most of all, I want to thank all of you, especially the tribal leaders who are here today. And I understand, actually, we’ve got more tribal leaders here than we ever have at any of these conferences. So it just keeps on growing each year, which is wonderful news. (Applause.) You represent more than 300 tribal nations, each of you with your own extraordinary heritage, each a vital part of a shared American family. And as a proud adopted member of the Crow Nation, let me say kaheé — welcome — to all of you.

Now, after I became President, I said that given the painful chapters and broken promises in our shared history, I’d make sure this country kept its promises to you. I promised that tribal nations would have a stronger voice in Washington –- that as long as I was in the White House, it would be your house, too. And for the past five years, my administration has worked hard to keep that promise –- to build a new relationship with you based on trust and respect.

And this new relationship wasn’t just about learning from the past. It was also about the here and now –- recognizing the contributions that your communities make to enrich the United States every single day. Native Americans are doctors and teachers and businessmen and women, and veterans and service members. And they get up every morning and help make America stronger and more prosperous and more just.

And I want to build on our true government-to-government relationship as well. So I’m proud to have Native Americans serving with dedication in my administration, including Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn of the Chickasaw Nation; my Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs, Jodi Gillette of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — (applause) — our [inter]governmental affairs office, we’ve got Charlie Galbraith of the Navajo Nation….

And while we should be proud of what we’ve achieved together in recent years, we also should be focused on all the work that we still have to do.

I know we’ve got members of the Iroquois nation here today. And I think we could learn from the Iroquois Confederacy, just as our Founding Fathers did when they laid the groundwork for our democracy. The Iroquois called their network of alliances with other tribes and European nations a “covenant chain.” Each link represented a bond of peace and friendship. But that covenant chain didn’t sustain itself. It needed constant care, so that it would stay strong. And that’s what we’re called to do, to keep the covenant between us for this generation and for future generations. And there are four areas in particular where I think we need to focus.

First, let’s keep our covenant strong by strengthening justice and tribal sovereignty. We’ve worked with you in good faith to resolve longstanding disputes like establishing the Land Buy Back Program to consolidate Indian lands and restore them to tribal trust lands. We’ve reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, so tribes can prosecute those who commit domestic violence in Indian Country, whether they’re Native American or not. (Applause.) I signed changes to the Stafford Act, to let tribes directly request disaster assistance, because when disasters like floods or fires strike, you shouldn’t have to wait for a middleman to get the help you need. (Applause.)

But there’s more we can do to return more control to your communities. And that’s why I’m urging Congress to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act — because your communities know your affordable housing needs better than Washington does. (Applause.) It’s why we’ll keep pushing Congress to pass the Carcieri fix, so that more tribal nations can put their land into federal trust. (Applause.) And we’ve heard loud and clear your frustrations when it comes to the problem of being fully reimbursed by the federal government for the contracted services you provide, so we’re going to keep working with you and Congress to find a solution. (Applause.) That’s all going to be part of making sure that we’re respecting the nation-to-nation relationship.

Now, second, we’ve got to keep our covenant strong by expanding opportunity for Native Americans. We’ve created jobs building new roads and high-speed Internet to connect more of your communities to the broader economy. We’ve made major investments in job training and tribal colleges and universities. But the fact remains Native Americans face poverty rates that are higher by far than the national average. And that’s more than a statistic, that’s a moral call to action. We’ve got to do better.

So I said to some of you that I met with yesterday, growing our economy, creating new jobs is my top priority. We’ve got to stop the self-inflicted wounds in Washington. Because for many tribal nations, this year’s harmful sequester cuts and last month’s government shutdown made a tough situation worse. Your schools, your police departments, child welfare offices are all feeling the squeeze. That’s why I’m fighting for a responsible budget that invests in the things that we need in order to grow -– things like education, and job training, and affordable housing and transportation, including for Native American communities. And we’re going to work to make sure Native American-owned businesses have greater access to capital and to selling their goods overseas. So we’ve got to build the economy, create more opportunity.

Number three, we’ve got to keep our covenant strong by making sure Native Americans have access to quality, affordable health care just like everybody else. That’s one of the reasons we fought hard to pass the Affordable Care Act, and we’re working overtime to make sure the law works the way it’s supposed to. For Native Americans, this means more access to comprehensive, affordable coverage. It permanently reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which provides care to so many in your communities.

And let me just give you one example of how this law is already working for tribal nations. Thanks to the ACA, the Puyallup Tribal Health Authority in Washington State created the country’s first tribal family medicine residency program. Patients are cared for in a culturally sensitive way, often by Native American staff. And we’re seeing results -– a young physician caring for a revered Tribal Elder; a doctor who has delivered babies in the community for years, and now his son is also doing the same. And that’s creating more quality health care, but also sustaining bonds between generations. That’s progress that we need to build on.

And then the fourth area that we’ve got to work on is, let’s keep our covenant strong by being good stewards of native homelands, which are sacred to you and your families. I saw the beauty of Crow Agency, Montana, when I was a candidate for this office. Next year, I’ll make my first trip to Indian Country as President. (Applause.)

The health of tribal nations depends on the health of tribal lands. So it falls on all of us to protect the extraordinary beauty of those lands for future generations. And already, many of your lands have felt the impacts of a changing climate, including more extreme flooding and droughts. That’s why, as part of the Climate Action Plan I announced this year, my administration is partnering with you to identify where your lands are vulnerable to climate change, how we can make them more resilient.

And working together, we want to develop the energy potential of tribal lands in a responsible way and in accordance with tribal wishes. Over the last four years, we’ve more than doubled oil and gas revenues on tribal lands –- a big reason why the United States is now more energy independent. So we’re working with tribes to get more renewable energy projects, like solar and wind, up and running. Your lands and your economies can be a source of renewable energy and the good local jobs that come with it….

And we don’t have to look far for inspiration. Some of you know, Monday obviously was Veterans’ Day, a time to honor all who have worn America’s uniform. (Applause.) I know everyone here is proud that Native Americans have such a high enlistment rate in our military. And we’ve seen generations of patriotic Native Americans who have served with honor and courage, and we draw strength from them all.

We draw strength from the Navajo Code Talkers whose skill helped win the Second World War. (Applause.) We draw strength from Woodrow Wilson Keeble, who many years after his death was finally awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in the Korean War. (Applause.) We draw strength from — and I want to make sure I get this right — Lori Piestewa, who during the Iraq war was the first known Native American woman to give her life in combat for the United States. (Applause.) And we draw strength from all our men and women in uniform today, including two pilots I rely on when I step onto Marine One -– Major Paul Bisulca, from the Penobscot Nation, and Major Eli Jones, of the Shoshone Bannock. And those guys are carrying me around, keeping me safe. (Applause.)

So on this Veterans Day week, even though it’s technically not Veterans Day, I want to ask all the veterans in the audience –- including several legendary Navajo Code Talkers who are here
-– if you can, please stand, accept our gratitude. (Applause.)

For generations, these men and women have helped keep our covenant strong. So now we’ve got to keep strong what they’ve built, for this and generations to come. It falls to us to keep America the place where no matter where you come from, what you look like, you can always make it as long as you try, as long as you work hard. And I know that that’s what — all of you are working hard. That’s what you represent as leaders of the communities that are represented here from coast to coast. I want you to know that’s what I’m working for. That’s the partnership that I cherish, and I will cherish as long as I have the honor of serving as your President.

So thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)”

Supporting the People of Moore, Oklahoma

President Obama tours the tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma and promises that, as with the Tuscaloosa, Joplin and Hurricane Sandy disasters before them, America will stand with Moore as they recover and rebuild.

More information: http://www.whitehouse.gov/oklahoma

President Obama Speaks on the Tornadoes and Severe Weather in Oklahoma, 5/21/13

“Our gratitude is with the teachers who gave their all to shield their children; with the neighbors, first responders, and emergency personnel who raced to help as soon as the tornado passed; and with all of those who, as darkness fell, searched for survivors through the night.

As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue, and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead.

Yesterday, I spoke with Governor Fallin to make it clear to Oklahomans that they would have all the resources that they need at their disposal. Last night, I issued a disaster declaration to expedite those resources, to support the Governor’s team in the immediate response, and to offer direct assistance to folks who have suffered loss. I also just spoke with Mayor Lewis of Moore, Oklahoma, to ensure that he’s getting everything that he needs.

I’ve met with Secretary Napolitano this morning and my Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor, Lisa Monaco, to underscore that point that Oklahoma needs to get everything that it needs right away. The FEMA Administrator, Craig Fugate, is on his way to Oklahoma as we speak. FEMA staff was first deployed to Oklahoma’s Emergency Operations Center on Sunday, as the state already was facing down the first wave of deadly tornadoes. Yesterday, FEMA activated Urban Search and Rescue Teams from Texas, Nebraska, and Tennessee to assist in the ongoing search and rescue efforts, and a mobile response unit to boost communications and logistical support.

So the people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them as long as it takes. For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention….

Because we’re a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes…. In some cases, there will be enormous grief that has to be absorbed, but you will not travel that path alone. Your country will travel it with you, fueled by our faith in the Almighty and our faith in one another.

So our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today. And we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/17YPcYu

Weekly Address: The President Talks About How to Build a Rising, Thriving Middle Class, 5/18/13

President Obama talks about his belief that a rising, thriving middle class is the true engine of economic growth, and that to reignite that engine and continue to build on the progress we’ve made over the last four years, we need to invest in three areas: jobs, skills and opportunity.

“More than anything, the American people make me optimistic about where we’re headed as a nation. Especially after all we’ve been through the past several years. And that should encourage us to work even harder on the issues that matter to you.

In a little over three years, our businesses have created more than 6.5 million new jobs. And while our unemployment rate is still too high, it’s the lowest it’s been since 2008. But now we need to create even more good, middle-class jobs, and we need to do it faster.

Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs. But now we need to get middle-class wages and incomes rising too.

Our housing market is healing. But we still need to help a lot more families stay in their homes, or refinance to take advantage of historically low rates.

And our deficits are shrinking at the fastest rate in decades. But now we need to budget in a smarter way that doesn’t hurt middle-class families or harm critical investments in our future.

So in a lot of sectors, things are looking up. The American auto industry is thriving. American energy is booming. And American ingenuity in our tech sector has the potential to change the way we do almost everything.”

Full text: http://1.usa.gov/19JA79I

President Obama Speaks at The Ohio State University Commencement Ceremony, May 5, 2013

“So briefly, I’ll ask for two things from the Class of 2013: to participate, and to persevere. After all, your democracy does not function without your active participation. At a bare minimum, that means voting, eagerly and often — not having somebody drag you to it at 11:30 a.m. when you’re having breakfast. (Laughter.) It means knowing who’s been elected to make decisions on your behalf, and what they believe in, and whether or not they delivered on what they said they would. And if they don’t represent you the way you want, or conduct themselves the way you expect, if they put special interests above your own, you’ve got to let them know that’s not okay. And if they let you down often enough, there’s a built-in day in November where you can really let them know it’s not okay. (Applause.)….

And that’s precisely what the Founders left us — the power, each of us, to adapt to changing times. They left us the keys to a system of self-government, the tools to do big things and important things together that we could not possibly do alone — to stretch railroads and electricity and a highway system across a sprawling continent. To educate our people with a system of public schools and land-grant colleges, including The Ohio State University. To care for the sick and the vulnerable, and provide a basic level of protection from falling into abject poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth. (Applause.) To conquer fascism and disease; to visit the Moon and Mars; to gradually secure our God-given rights for all of our citizens, regardless of who they are, or what they look like, or who they love. (Applause.)

We, the people, chose to do these things together — because we know this country cannot accomplish great things if we pursue nothing greater than our own individual ambitiom.

Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.

The founders trusted us with this awesome authority. We should trust ourselves with it, too. Because when we don’t, when we turn away and get discouraged and cynical, and abdicate that authority, we grant our silent consent to someone who will gladly claim it. That’s how we end up with lobbyists who set the agenda; and policies detached from what middle-class families face every day; the well-connected who publicly demand that Washington stay out of their business — and then whisper in government’s ear for special treatment that you don’t get.

That’s how a small minority of lawmakers get cover to defeat something the vast majority of their constituents want. That’s how our political system gets consumed by small things when we are a people called to do great things — like rebuild a middle class, and reverse the rise of inequality, and repair the deteriorating climate that threatens everything we plan to leave for our kids and our grandkids.

…. Only you can make sure the democracy you inherit is as good as we know it can be. But it requires your dedicated, and informed, and engaged citizenship. And that citizenship is a harder, higher road to take, but it leads to a better place. It’s how we built this country — together….

Which brings me to the second thing I ask of all of you — I ask that you persevere. Whether you start a business, or run for office, or devote yourself to alleviating poverty or hunger, please remember that nothing worth doing happens overnight. A British inventor named Dyson went through more than 5,000 prototypes before getting that first really fancy vacuum cleaner just right. We remember Michael Jordan’s six championships; we don’t remember his nearly 15,000 missed shots. As for me, I lost my first race for Congress, and look at me now — I’m an honorary graduate of The Ohio State University. (Applause.)

The point is, if you are living your life to the fullest, you will fail, you will stumble, you will screw up, you will fall down. But it will make you stronger, and you’ll get it right the next time, or the time after that, or the time after that….

…. You can’t lose heart, or grow cynical if there are twists and turns on your journey. The cynics may be the loudest voices — but I promise you, they will accomplish the least. It’s those folks who stay at it, those who do the long, hard, committed work of change that gradually push this country in the right direction, and make the most lasting difference….

…. the trajectory of this great nation should give you hope. What generations have done before you should give you hope…. Where we’re going should give you hope. Because while things are still hard for a lot of people, you have every reason to believe that your future is bright. You’re graduating into an economy and a job market that is steadily healing….

…. To repair the middle class, to give more families a fair shake, to reject a country in which only a lucky few prosper because that’s antithetical to our ideals and our democracy — all of this is going to happen if you are involved, because it takes dogged determination — the dogged determination of our citizens….

To protect more of our kids from the horrors of gun violence — that requires the unwavering passion, the untiring resolve of citizens….

…But we can always be greater. We can always aspire to something more. That doesn’t depend on who you elect to office. It depends on you, as citizens, how big you want us to be, how badly you want to see these changes for the better.

And look at all that America has already accomplished. Look at how big we’ve been. I dare you, Class of 2013, to do better. I dare you to dream bigger.

Transcript: http://bit.ly/12GvBoA