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President Obama, flanked by Vice President Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gestures during his State of the Union Address before Congress on Feb. 12 in Washington, D.C. / Pool photo by Charles Dharapak

President Obama said Tuesday that extreme weather shows the need to fight climate change, calling for oil-funded technology research to "shift our cars and trucks off oil" and for a doubling of energy efficiency in 20 years.

"For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change," Obama said in his fifth State of the Union Address before Congress. "No single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires and floods ?? all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science - and act before it's too late."

Obama said that if Congress doesn't take action, his administration will. He said it will take executive actions to "reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."

Perhaps most notably, he called for an Energy Security Trust, funded by oil and gas revenues derived from exploration on federal lands and waters, to "drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good." He said If a "non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we." He challenged Americans to halve their energy use, saying states that find a way to do so will get federal funding to achieve that goal.

Some but not all environmentalists, who have been stepping up pressure on Obama to fight climate change and plan a "Forward on Climate" rally this Sunday in Washington, D.C., welcomed his comments.

"I'm glad to see the president, after the long, odd silence of the campaign, ratcheting up the rhetoric about climate change," said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, an environmental advocacy group. "The test of that rhetoric will be what he does about the purest, simplest test: the Keystone XL pipeline, with its freight of nearly a million barrels a day of the dirtiest oil on Earth."

Obama, who rejected an earlier version of the Canada-to-Texas pipeline last year, is expected in coming months to make a final decision on the private project by Calgary-based TransCanada.

"Tonight, President Obama set the lowest possible bar for action - he did not pledge to stop the carbon-spewing Keystone XL Pipeline nor promise carbon regulations on existing power plants. In fact, he pledged no specific actions at all," said Daniel Souweine, director of Forecast the Facts, an environmental group.

The president faces challenges on Capitol Hill if he attempts to pass any climate-related legislation that goes beyond energy efficiency, which has long enjoyed bipartisan support.

The GOP-led House has many lawmakers who are skeptical of climate change as is Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising political star from Florida who gave the GOP response to Obama's address. Earlier this month at a BuzzFeed event, Rubio said the "climate is always changing" and he's not convinced its change is due to man-made activity: "I know people said there's a significant scientific consensus on that issue," he said, "but I've actually seen reasonable debate on that principle."

On Tuesday, Rubio said the United States should open up more federal lands to oil and gas exploration rather than waste more taxpayer dollars on renewable energy that's not cost-competitive.

Early In his first term, Obama sought congressional passage of a "cap-and-trade" bill that would have set a national limit on heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions but allow companies to buy pollution credits from those below the cap. The House passed it, but the Senate did not.

After that failure, the president turned to the Environmental Protection Agency to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to crack down on carbon pollution. The EPA required new cars and light trucks to nearly double their fuel efficiency by 2025 and proposed emission limits on new power plants.

The Obama administration also sought to boost energy efficiency and develop clean energy such as wind and solar. It devoted hundreds of billions of dollars in Recovery Act funds to such technology but several companies, including California solar panel manufacturer Solyndra went bankrupt after accepting federal loan guarantees.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Obama seeks oil-funded research to tackle climate change

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