Tales from the Trail

Team Obama’s Environmental Irony Tour

OBAMA/Okay, so it’s August in Washington. It’s hot. Congress has gone home. Even the summer interns are packing up and getting out of town. So it’s not surprising that top members of the Obama administration might be ready for a road trip.

That’s basically what the White House announced in a statement headlined: “Obama Administration Officials Travel America, Talk Clean Energy Economy.” President Obama went to Indiana to announce $2.4 billion in funding for advanced battery and electric drive projects; Energy Secretary Steven Chu headed for Minnesota to look at renewable energy projects and North Carolina to announce a big grant to a lithium battery firm, finishing up the week in Massachusetts to talk about clean energy jobs at Harvard; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar went to a solar panel company in Colorado; EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was in Florida and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke traveled to Missouri.

ENVIRONMENT-USA/WINDProbably only a crank would wonder just how much greenhouse gas all this official travel spewed into the atmosphere. There’s no hybrid Air Force One, after all. But it does seem like an exquisite irony that, with the best of environmental intentions, the Obama team may have stomped all over the United States with a heavy-duty carbon footprint.

Is it fair to ask that when they talk the talk, they walk the walk — or offset emissions by funding windmills or other projects that supply renewable energy? Let us know what you think.

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Photo credits: REUTERS/Jason Reed (President Obama speaks in Wakarusa, Indiana, August 5, 2009); REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (Windmill turbines on Backbone Mountain in West Virginia, August 28, 2006)

The First Draft: Sovereignty Day

IRAQWashington is a town of euphemisms, where “mistakes were made” but nobody takes responsibility, where lawmakers routinely refer to each other as “my good friend” before questioning their buddies’ sanity or moral character.

The Washingtonian art of the euphemism apparently has been learned in Baghdad, where to mark today’s departure of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared National Sovereignty Day and celebrated with a military parade.

As U.S. combat units get out of Iraq’s urban areas and move into rural bases, Pentagon leaders will be speaking, though not in Washington. Defense Secretary Robert Gates addresses a NATO change-of-command ceremony in Stuttgart while Army General Ray Odierno, the U.S. commander in Iraq, briefs reporters via video link.

The First Draft: A bumpy Mideast landing

OBAMA/SAUDI ARABIAWithin minutes of President Barack Obama’s arrival in Saudi Arabia today, a recording by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was played on Al Jazeera television. U.S. television networks showed Air Force One landing in Riyadh and the first images of Obama greeting Saudi King Abdullah, the audio recording from bin Laden took aim. The militant leader accused the Obama administration of “planting seeds for hatred and revenge.”

It was a rough beginning to what could be a challenging visit to the Middle East and Europe by Obama. He spends tonight at the Saudi monarch’s farm, then flies to Cairo tomorrow for a much-previewed address to the Muslim world. He then travels to Germany and finally to France to commemorate D-Day, returning to Washington on Saturday.

There’s a full cast of characters testifying today on Capitol Hill. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke appears before the House Budget Committee on challenges facing the economy. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu talks to a panel of the House Appropriations Committee. And executives from GM and Chrysler testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on protecting auto dealers and consumers after the closure of hundreds of car dealerships at both companies.

First Draft: It’s Earth Day — The Green and the Red

President Barack Obama  heads to Iowa later today for an Earth Day tour of a former Maytag plant which has been reconfigured to produce wind energy equipment, lining up the “green jobs” that the Obama administration is pushing as part of the future for the American heartland.

 

OBAMA/Green is on the menu back in Washington, too, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will talk about “Greening Diplomacy” at an Earth Day event, but only after she testifies at the House Foreign Affairs Committee about more down-to-earth aspects of U.S. policy around the globe.

Another key player on Obama’s environment team — Energy Secretary Stephen Chu — will also be on the Hill talking green at a hearing on energy and climate change legislation.