Obama On Local weather Change Faces High Expectations, And Excessive Hurdles, In Second Term
The laws of each physics and politics counsel he’ll have his work minimize out for him, and his second-term success will surely be measured on far more concrete phrases. The president, in any case, faces several lingering and highly divisive choices, including whether or not and the way to wash up the nation’s aging fleet of coal-fired energy plants, which pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the ambiance. He also must resolve whether or not to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline mission, which might transport heavy, carbon-intensive oil from the scarred panorama of Alberta, Canada, to ports on the American Gulf Coast.
If past is prologue, Obama is unlikely to make anybody fully happy.
Whereas many conservatives spent a lot of the final four years condemning the president as an environmental zealot bent on sacrificing jobs and economic growth to the altar of inexperienced, Obama also took substantial heat from his environmental base. A broad assortment of conservation groups and local weather activists have argued that the president was walking an equivocal line at best, championing emissions reductions, for instance, while also embracing expanded oil and gasoline drilling, including in the delicate Arctic, and persevering with his support for therefore-referred to as clean coal technology, which many environmentalists consider an oxymoron.
To make sure, the Obama administration launched a number of inarguably historic emissions-reduction measures over the course of its first term, including powerful new gas-effectivity standards for vehicles and emissions limits on new power plants — each promulgated by the regulatory authority of the Environmental Safety Agency, moderately than by act of Congress.
But even after a year of record-breaking heat, Obama embarks on his second term towards the backdrop of a Congress that remains stubbornly divided on questions of local weather and conservation, leaving little hope these issues will likely be addressed via broad-based laws, which the administration has long mentioned was the preferred route for such measures. That will leave the president with a long checklist of calls for and expectations from his environmental base and solely the comparatively narrow corridors of his personal regulatory authority through which to pursue any of it — ought to he choose to take action.
Final week, leaders of greater than three dozen distinguished environmental and conservation organizations issued a letter to Obama, calling on him to use the bully pulpit of his presidency to, among different issues, place global warming entrance and heart in the nationwide discourse.
Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, said the administration has climate change squarely in its sights. “The president has made clear that he believes bloomberg new energy finance energy efficiency that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human activity and that we should proceed to take steps to confront this menace,” Stevens mentioned, ticking off the accomplishments of Obama’s first term. The administration, he added, “will proceed to build on this progress and climate change will likely be a precedence in his second time period.”
That assertion — and a variety of different environmentally contentious points — will probably be carefully watched over the next 4 years. Amongst the hot spots:
Power PLANT EMISSIONS
Again in 2007, the Supreme Court dominated that if the EPA determined that greenhouse gases have been a threat to human health, those emissions must be regulated by the company underneath the Clear Air Act. Two years later, the EPA beneath administrator Lisa Jackson decided just that: carbon dioxide and different greenhouse gases are a public well being risk. Within the months and years that followed, the agency issued new curbs on emissions from cars and mild trucks, in addition to from any new power plant.
Those guidelines outraged the coal-burning business, which presently has no real looking way to meet the emissions limits. Massive-scale carbon seize and control know-how is many years from commercialization, despite the roughly $5 billion the Obama administration has invested in developing “clean coal.” The upshot: the rule effectively prevents the building of new coal plants.
Within the second Obama term, environmental teams want more. They need to see these rules finalized, and extra importantly, they want new rules for current energy plants, which account for roughly 40 % of the nation’s emissions. Just how aggressive the administration will be is an open question, on condition that it could virtually definitely drive existing coal plants to shutter. The uncertainty — together with rock-bottom costs for pure gasoline — is driving many utilities to switch power plants to natural fuel, which may gasoline the plants within the EPA’s guidelines.
Acknowledging that any emissions guidelines on present plants won’t go down without a pitched legal fight, David Goldston, the director of government affairs with the Pure Sources Protection Council, referred to as it “low-hanging, but toxic fruit.”
“The administration must take this first step,” Goldston said. “The president has repeatedly stated he is excited about attacking the climate downside, and this falls into authority he already has.”
KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE
A choice on the contentious pipeline, which would ship heavy crude oil from Alberta to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast — and then to the global oil market — was abruptly delayed by the Obama administration just as the 2012 presidential marketing campaign was about to kick into full gear. “More research wanted” was the explanation provided by the State Division, which must make the decision as a result of the pipeline crosses a global border, though politics actually performed a key role in the decision to delay.
Republicans in Congress respond angrily to the deferral, going so far as to tie agreement on last year’s payroll tax cut deal to approval of the pipeline, finally to no avail.
But a 12 months has now passed, the president has won a second term, and the choice remains a skunk at his re-election backyard celebration. Opinions differ on the actual-world affect of the pipeline, both commercially and in phrases of global warming, though it’s secure to assume that the venture wouldn’t deliver a bumper crop of jobs nor lower prices at the pump, as supporters argue. At the same time, not everybody agrees that a accomplished Keystone XL pipeline would essentially imply “recreation over” for the local weather, as some opponents of the challenge have declared — though a research by a Canadian environmental group on Thursday suggests the climate impacts of Keystone could also be worse than previously thought.
But whatever its actual effects, the pipeline remains an especially highly effective totem for stakeholders on each sides. It represents to some, rightly or wrongly, Obama’s commitment to American jobs and liberation from the tyranny of Center East oil, and to others, the president’s willingness to mark a clear finish to the era of fossil fuels.
“Reject dirty fuels,” the coalition of environmental groups declared in its letter to Obama final week. “We should not pursue dirty fuels like tar sands when local weather science tells us that 80 p.c of existing fossil gasoline reserves must be stored in the ground.”
Different local weather motion advocates see the pipeline as a distraction. “It has emerged as a very symbolic flashpoint,” said Elliot Diringer, the govt vice president of the center for Climate and Power Solutions in Washington and a former policy adviser on the White Home Council on Environmental Quality beneath President Invoice Clinton. “But I do not know that we must always expend our political capital on symbolic victories slightly than actual progress.”
As the State Division continues a new environmental evaluation of the mission, eyes will inevitably shift to retiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presumed successor, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry. He will nominally inherit Keystone’s federal permit application — though the final word resolution will likely be Obama’s.
The administration has already given a nod to TransCanada, the corporate behind the pipeline, to begin building the decrease leg of the venture, which runs from Cushing, Okla. to the Gulf Coast, prompting pitched battles between protesters and local police. But the connection to Alberta’s oil sands — an inarguably soiled deposit of thick bitumen that requires copious, emissions-intensive refining and chemical remedy to turn it into useable product — stays the true take a look at for Obama, a president who has, in spite of everything, spent an excellent deal of effort touting an “the entire above” vitality technique.
Any choice continues to be seemingly a very good methods off, however it is sure that giant swaths of the electorate can be sad with no matter determination the president makes.
THE Climate Dialog
The third and remaining presidential debate last October marked the first time for the reason that 1980s that a complete season of presidential and vice presidential debates went by with nary a mention of climate change. For environmentalists, and lots of atypical Individuals, it was a troubling milestone, particularly as a gargantuan super-storm — and one of many type that virtually all local weather scientists have been warning for years would increase in frequency as the planet warmed — bore down on the East Coast and, in the long run, precipitated unprecedented destruction.
“Hurricane Sandy,” wrote Daniel Honan at BigThink.com, “Mother Nature’s revenge on the 2012 election “
Obama was specifically targeted for his silence, which seemed to take hold throughout his first time period around the time that support for broad climate change legislation — a high-tier marketing campaign goal of candidate Obama in 2008 — was foundering. Inexperienced teams were angered by the president’s determination to recede into the background on the local weather battle, and to give attention to other objectives, principally health care and immigration reform.
“I simply think it is irresponsible for our leaders to not tackle considered one of the most important challenges dealing with our generation,” Phil Radford, the govt director of Greenpeace USA, mentioned at the conclusion of the debates. “It is certainly one of the biggest safety threats we’ve — it’s a threat to agriculture, it threatens our economic system. And to easily not talk about it is one in all the most important failures of our leadership.”
The White Home characterized those and similar complaints as unfair. But given latest information that 2012 was hotter on average in the United States than any year on record, and the release on Friday of a congressionally-mandated evaluation of climate change suggesting that the impacts of global warming are already being felt, Obama can count on demands for his voice on the matter to increase.
“Leadership issues,” wrote Dan Lashof, director of the Pure Assets Defense Council’s climate and clear air program, in a weblog publish on Monday. “As a result of the president has to rally public help for the bold steps he must take to handle climate change and to ensure those steps aren’t undone by Congress.”
Writing in their letter to the president final week, environmental leaders emphasised this point: “Increase your voice,” they wrote. “Elevate the difficulty of local weather disruption and climate options in the public discourse. Connect the dots between carbon pollution and extreme weather, and lead the public dialogue of what we need to do as a nation to each put together bloomberg new energy finance energy efficiency for the modifications in climate which can be no longer avoidable and keep away from changes in local weather which might be unacceptable.”
A bunch of additional environmental issues will confront the president over the subsequent four years — at the same time as lots of his key energy and environmental lieutenants have both announced their departures or are expected to take action soon. These embrace Lisa Jackson at EPA, Steven Chu on the Energy Department, and Jane Lubchenco on the Nationwide Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
On Wednesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar introduced that he, too, would be stepping down.
Strengthening of the Clean Water Act to guard headwaters and wetlands, in the meantime, is high on many groups’ agendas. Activists will also be watching the EPA because it completes a evaluate of hydraulic fracturing — used by oil and gasoline companies to exploit deep deposits of hydrocarbons — and its impacts on water sources. Conservation teams have complained that Obama has thus far set aside for safety fewer acres of land than any current president. They need extra. Calls for reforming oversight of toxic chemical manufacturing and dealing with — a woefully below-regulated business, in keeping with activists, are additionally gathering momentum, as are calls for that Obama suspend oil and gas exploration within the Arctic.
That last push comes after a string of embarrassing missteps by Shell Oil, which was granted federal permits to plumb exploratory wells off the coast of Alaska this 12 months, solely to founder amid tough seas and an obvious inability to take care of control of its drill ships.
An investigation by the Division of Inside is underway, however the tea leaves suggest that the Obama administration will continue to chart its personal course on these issues.
“Developing America’s home vitality sources is crucial for reducing our dependence on overseas oil and creating jobs right here at dwelling,” Salazar mentioned last week, “and the administration is absolutely committed to exploring for potential power sources in frontier areas such as the Arctic.”
This text is a part of a series produced by The Huffington Publish that carefully examines essentially the most pressing challenges dealing with President Obama in his second term. To learn different posts within the sequence, click on here.