The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Obama in Alaska: PR to 'Greenwash his Climate Legacy'?


President Obama is scheduled to talk about climate in Alaska on Monday. See for upcoming events.

The New York Times writes: "Before Obama's Alaska Trip, Climate Group Charges Hypocrisy" while Mark Hertsgaard (author of Hot) just wrote the piece: "Three Weeks After Obama Announced His Clean-Power Plan, He Greenlit New Oil Drilling in the Arctic" for the Nation.

STEVE HORN, steve at, @Desmogblog
Horn is research fellow for Desmogblog, which seeks to "clear the PR pollution that clouds climate science." He said today: "President Obama will go to the Arctic in Alaska and feign being a deep green ecologist. Meanwhile, his policies across the board -- free trade agreements agreed to, domestic fracking and its promotion worldwide, offshore drilling and offshore fracking, coal mining and exports, approval of several major tar sands pipelines, among other things -- show that the real purpose of the trip is to greenwash his 'climate legacy.' Any scientist, as opposed to PR practitioner, will tell you that legacy will be written with the impacts of climate change his administration helped propel forward."

ZACH ROBERTS, zdroberts at
Roberts is a writer for the Alaska-based He said today: "Alaskans are environmentalists. Weird to think that citizens of a state that gave us Sarah Palin, and funds itself with oil money could possibly be considered it -- but they are. They fought like hell against the trillion dollar mineral find in Bristol Bay called Pebble Mine -- polling 62% against it. One of the spots that President Obama will be going to would be directly effected by Pebble -- I hope that's one of the reasons he's stopping there -- to announce an end to discussion on a project that would with certainty end in disaster.

"And right now they're going up against some of the worlds largest coal companies with the Chuitna Mine. Alaskans have decided that salmon -- a renewable resource is more important to them and their economy. They've learned from past corporate debacles like the Valdez Spill and looking at other parts of the country like West Virginia that have lost their water supplies and mountain ranges to dirty fuel sources.

"In fact, when President Obama flies into Anchorage he might be able to see a 17.6 megawatt wind turbine project on Fire Island that powers thousands of homes in the area. Many villages have long had no choice but to look to renewables as they are cut off for weeks at a time for outside fuel sources. Kodiak Island in fact has gone 100% renewable.

"They're doing this not just because they want clean water and air but because it's the only way to survive in a place that can be difficult for even the toughest Americans to live in."

RICHARD STEINER, richard.g.steiner at
A marine biologist and former University of Alaska fisheries extension agent, Steiner said today: "On climate change, President Obama has been good, but not good enough. The U.S. commitment to reduce carbon emissions by about 30 percent in the next 15 years is about half of what is urgently needed. It is like we are on a sinking boat, taking on two gallons of water a minute, and we are bailing one gallon a minute. We are still sinking. We urgently need a U.S. and global commitment at the Paris climate summit of at least 60 percent carbon reduction by 2030. Otherwise, we're sunk.

"Obama has claimed a lot of credit for extending three pre-existing OCS [Outer Continental Shelf] leasing withdrawals in Alaska -- Bristol Bay, an area in the Chukchi Sea, and a thin strip in the Beaufort Sea. Even the national environmental community has raved about these.

"However, none of these withdrawals are permanent, and all were pre-existing, except one small area in the Chukchi. The new area in the Chukchi he withdrew -- Hanna Shoal -- is the primary walrus feeding habitat, and it's good to not have offshore drilling there. But not far from there, he allowed Shell to drill its wells, which it is doing as we speak.

"The president's executive withdrawal of these OCS areas can be undone by a future president, just as Pres. Bush eliminated the former Clinton withdrawal of Bristol Bay. So, Obama has accomplished nothing as yet for permanent marine protections in Alaska. We are pushing him to use his executive authority to designate marine national monuments in the Aleutians, Bering Strait, and the Arctic Ocean, but we'll see if he is so bold."

A petition Steiner initiated has nearly 100,000 signers: "Tell President Obama to designate Marine National Monuments in Alaska."

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