Ed Markey

Climate hawk Ed Markey defends Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy. (Photo by Martha Coakley.)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is more passionate about climate action than almost anyone else in Congress. He cosponsored the Democrats’ embattled cap-and-trade legislation in 2009, the so-called Waxman-Markey bill. He was the first and only chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming up until Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 election. And he hasn’t let up since losing his chairmanship; he’s continued his tenacious fight for clean energy and against fossil fuels.

So it was disorienting to hear him wax enthusiastic about Obama’s pro-drilling policies on Wednesday:

Let me say this because I think it’s important: When George Bush left office in January 2009, we as a country were 57 percent dependent on imported oil. Today we are 45 percent dependent on imported oil. That’s Obama drill, baby, drill! Why do I say that? We are at an 18-year high for oil production in the U.S.! Let me say that again: We are at an 18-year high for oil production in the U.S. right now! And we are at an 18-year low with greenhouse gas emissions [thanks to Obama’s push for] natural gas, wind, solar, and new vehicle standards.

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Markey, with his signature jazz-hands gesticulations, went on to extol Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy, contrasting it to Romney’s “oil-above-all” approach.

In 2008, Democrats shuddered at the “drill, baby, drill” chants that resonated through the Republican convention. Now, one of the biggest climate hawks in Congress is repeating the mantra, and he means it in a good way.

Markey’s comments came during a Politico-sponsored panel on “Energy and the Presidency,” a side event at the Democratic convention. I approached him after the panel to dig deeper. Is an “all-of-the-above” energy policy really the right strategy? I asked. Shouldn’t the party be moving more aggressively away from fossil fuels?

“No!” he answered. “President Obama is following the promise he made in 2008 that he is an all-of-the-above president. He delivered on that promise. Oil is included, and natural gas, but also wind, solar, efficiency, plus fuel-economy standards and appliance standards — he’s put it all out there, working in tandem, and as a result we’re seeing a dramatic reduction in imported oil.”

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Markey stressed that he believes Obama’s everything-goes approach will be an advantage to him in the voting booth. “We’re down from 6 billion to 5.4 billion tons of carbon going up into the atmosphere [from the U.S. each year]. By the end of this year, it’s going down to 5.2 billion. All of this occurred in the last five years with Obama’s approach. So something is happening out there. I think more and more suburban swing voters accept [Obama’s all-inclusive strategy], which is why the president is ahead of Romney 9 to 12 points in the polls on energy.”

So Markey, a longtime environmental firebrand, is now pouring his vim and vigor into promoting a totally uninvigorating energy vision: just do everything. What a difference four years makes.

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