BOSTON — President Barack Obama touted the economic benefits of green technologies in a speech Friday at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, challenging Congress to pass comprehensive energy legislation and describing some critics of the effort as cynical or self-interested.
Speaking after a tour of several high-tech laboratories dedicated to the creation of new and cheaper sources of energy, Obama said the work in Congress "must culminate" in passage of a climate change bill.
At the beginning of the year, administration officials signaled their desire to pass energy legislation — including a cap on carbon emissions — by the end of the year and before a global climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, next month.
But the legislation has stalled in the Senate, where critics say curbing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change could lead to higher energy prices. Administration officials say the debate over the legislation could be delayed into 2010.
In his remarks Friday, Obama acknowledged the difficulty of passing legislation that will have a profound effect on the U.S. energy industries and other powerful interests, and he said that "the closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we'll hear from those whose interest or ideology runs counter to action."
Although some members of the environmental community lauded Obama's speech — Joshua Freed of the advocacy group Third Way said the president managed to "reject the can't-do pessimism of opponents of energy reform" — others questioned why the administration hasn't done more to push action on climate change at home and abroad.