Newsweek's Adler: Obama 'Chickens Out,' Fails to Push for Taxes to Make 'SUVs... Prohibitively Expensive'

"Obama Chickens Out on Energy," a disgusted Ben Adler argued to Newsweek's The Gaggle blog readers this morning.

Adler's chief complaint with last night's Oval Office address: Obama didn't call for massive tax hikes to push Americans to make more politically correct spending choices.

The Newsweek writer -- formerly a self-styled "propagandist" for the liberal Center for American Progress -- avoided the T-word until his last paragraph, but he made abundantly clear that he felt that a) American stupidity and short-sightedness was threatening to literally drown Manhattan in rising sea levels and b) Obama was not doing enough to make government force people to make better choices with their own money (emphases mine):

In his address from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, President Obama eloquently laid out the case that we have failed to confront our dependence on fossil fuels, and that now is the time for us to do so. Obama acknowledged that our failure to do this so far has been caused not just by obeisance to entrenched interests, but also by "a lack of political courage and candor."

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.


The idea that we can solve this problem of our massive, inefficient energy use through investing more in R&D is ridiculous. We need to start bringing down our emissions immediately, before Manhattan finds itself under water. Spending more money on research into technologies that may or may not be more efficient, and may or may not be economically viable 10 years from now, is insufficient.

There are plenty of technologies, such as driving smaller cars, or hybrids, or taking buses, or living in smaller houses, that do not need to be researched and developed; they just need to be chosen. And they will be chosen if we make indulging in SUVs and McMansions prohibitively expensive, to reflect the social cost of global warming, and the cost of disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion that forced Obama to make this address in the first place.

Obama should know all this, and his decision to pretend otherwise reeks of the same lack of courage and candor he had just lambasted unnamed predecessors for. Tossing out the pain-free idea that we can invest our way out of this problem is politically convenient, but it is not realistic.

Obama swiftly pivoted to sounding like he was filled with steely resolve, saying, "But the one approach I will not accept is inaction." But merely investing in energy research is little better than inaction. What Obama needed to say, if he was willing to stake his presidency on combating catastrophic climate change, as he had previously staked his presidency—and won—on the proposition that Americans are all entitled to affordable health insurance, was that he would not tolerate anything short of a bill that caps or taxes carbon emissions. He did not, and we will all suffer the consequences.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.