John Holdren

Obama aide confirms energy plan delay

National strategy could wait until after 2012 election, says science chief

The US will have to wait until at least 2012 before President Obama can get agreement on a centralised US energy strategy, in spite of the billions of dollars directed towards R&D in the area as part of his recently proposed budget, according to a senior administration official.

The Republican’s success in winning control of the House of Representatives in last year’s election had already left this looking likely, but last week it was confirmed when John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the White House, addressed the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“We may have to wait until post-2012 to get a comprehensive national energy plan,” he said.

Many in the audience assumed he was referring to next year’s November elections, which would effectively push the plan out to 2013 when new members of the House and Senate take their seats alongside the beginning of the next presidential term.

Holdren is one of two direct advisors to Obama on science and technology issues, alongside White House CTO Aneesh Chopra.

The budget nevertheless includes programmes worth $8 for various forms of ‘clean’ energy, ranging from renewables to investments in nuclear power.

This latest delay is a further set-back to attempts to get global agreement on climate change policy. Without a much clearer sense of what the US plans to do on carbon emissions and power consumption in the medium term, few other countries are likely to make binding commitments themselves. The next major meeting on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is due to take place in South Africa, this November.

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