Obama at the GulfThis Tuesday, President Obama gave a speech addressing the response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  While the president spent some time discussing energy and a clean energy environment, the reaction from pundits has been critical.  On the left, many criticized the president’s silence on cap-and-trade as the right has continued to criticize Obama’s response to the spill.  Americans for Energy Leadership responded with “Obama Signals Need for New Energy Agenda.”  Below is a roundup of other reactions to the speech.

Politico, “Deadly silence on carbon caps,” Jun. 15, 2010

Obama never even uttered the words “carbon,” “greenhouse gases,” “global warming” or “cap and trade.” He used the word “climate” only once — and then only to acknowledge that the House last year passed a “a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill.”

Dot Earth, The New York Times, “Energy Comes to the Oval Office,” Jun. 16, 2010

President Obama has long asserted that the nation’s energy challenges are a priority. But — like most presidents before him with that same stated concern — he has not been inclined to make the sustained push for an expanded and sustainable energy menu a top priority in the face of competing issues and events.

Now that Obama has made the Gulf of Mexico disaster and energy policy the subject of his first Oval Office address, this may be the start of such a push

Grist, “A mildly contrarian take on Obama’s Oval Office speech”” Jun. 16, 2010

There is one bit of the speech the significance of which is being overlooked. It comes in the part on clean energy policy, which many commenters dismissed as palaver… Normally Obama’s energy pitch includes ritual nods to “clean coal,” nuclear power, and domestic drilling. None of those made an appearance last night; it was only energy efficiency and renewable energy. That strikes me as a deliberate (and welcome) message to the Senate about what Obama wants on the energy side of a bill.

That’s hardly enough to salvage the speech, of course. But it’s not nothing.

Al Gore, Huffington Post, “The President’s Oval Office Address and What’s Next,” Jun. 16, 2010

The president is right to focus on stopping the spill and working to limit, to the degree possible, its impact on the Gulf ecosystem. But ultimately the only way to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again is to fundamentally change how we power our economy. Placing a limit on global warming pollution and accelerating the deployment of clean energy technologies is the only truly effective long-term solution to this crisis.

Wall Street Journal, “Obama Vows Spill Fix,” Jun. 16, 2010

Mr. Obama’s speech was an effort to rebut detractors who say the administration’s response to the oil gusher has been ad hoc and ineffective. He chose a setting almost always reserved by presidents to discuss war or crisis

Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic, “Will Obama’s Actions Match His Words?,” Jun. 15, 2010

A White House official says the goal of the speech is simple: to convince people that Obama gets it, and that he’s doing everything in his power to fix it. On the small-medium-big scale, Obama went medium. Leaving out an explicit call for cap-and-trade was a deliberate choice, obviously. But Obama wants action on climate change, and the only way to wean our dependence off fossil fuels is to put a price on carbon. He did not make that explicit, as he has done before, to smaller audiences. He did not call upon Congress to make the political sacrifices necessary, and it may be difficult to reconcile his words, laced with an urgent tone, with the actions he is willing to put his weight behind. Whether he’s taken command of the response is immaterial now; it is now his spill to fix.

Newsweek, “Obama Chickens Out on Energy,” Jun. 16, 2010

But he failed to use this opportunity to marshal public support for a logical, tangible goal that would reduce our destructive consumption of oil and coal. As Obama noted, he campaigned on, and the House of Representatives passed, a bill that would finally put a cap on U.S. carbon emissions. So you would think that Obama must surely have gone on to note that the bill is now stuck in the Senate, where it has not gained the supermajority needed by the extraconstitutional requirement that is enforced in this Congress by Republicans and conservative Democrats. You would be wrong.

Brookings, “President Obama’s Oil Spill Address a Missed Opportunity,” Jun. 15, 2010

Nowhere was the absence of specificity more notable than in the portion of the speech about which the president was most passionate—the need to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels toward a clean energy future.

Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, “Obama’s Speech,” Jun. 15, 2010

Basically, he’s saying he just wants some kind of bill. His standards are very low. I can’t necessarily blame him — the votes aren’t there in the Senate and he can’t conjure them up. He needs something that at least begins the process of transitioning to a clean energy economy. But with the public uninterested in climate change, interest groups mostly advocating for the status quo, and moderate Democrats unwilling to take another tough vote, he’s not going to get much.

Christian Science Monitor, “Obama speech on BP oil spill a call to action for clean energy,” Jun. 16, 2010

Some pundits commented ruefully that if BP was happy with Obama’s speech, then the president had failed. But presidential scholars counsel perspective.

“What everybody wants from him may be more than is realistic to expect,” says Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas, Austin. “People want a chapter-and-verse battle plan, right down to the crossed t’s and dotted i’s, with deadlines, and that is just unrealistic. It’s the classic presidential dilemma, exaggerated by emotions.”

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