How President Obama Can Move On Climate Change Now

Since President Obama’s inaugural speech when he took on climate change, progressive groups and many Democrats have been coming up with ways he can address it. 

Republicans have made it clear they have no interest in climate legislation or a carbon tax.

So, what does Obama have in mind?

He would like to see Congress pass a Clean Energy Standard that would allow utilities to decide the types of resources that would meet a target. 

He plans to do "targeted and smart" investments in research and demonstration projects that can catalyze clean energy and create manufacturing jobs, and push greater efficiencies in buildings. And a key point of action is to use the upcoming corporate tax reform process to try to "level the playing field" for renewable energy, advisor Brian Deese, who is deputy director of the National Economic Council said at a conference.

"The way that corporate tax reform gets done could have a dramatic effect, long-term, about the incentives for investment in the United States for different types of technologies, renewable technologies," he says. 

And there may be executive actions that don’t require approval from Congress. Then there’s the EPA, which can implement regulations that require power plants to cut emissions.

Bicameral Task Force Forms

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) launched a Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change this week to raise awareness, develop effective policies and enact measures that "reduce emissions, spur new technologies and enhance resiliency to climate disruption."

In December, Barbara Boxer (S-CA) formed a climate change caucus in the Senate.

"Every day we wait, every time we allow an opportunity to reduce our carbon pollution pass us by, it becomes less likely that we will be able to prevent the worst impacts of climate change," says Waxman.

Waxman sponsored comprehensive climate legislation which passed the House in 2009, but never came up for a vote in the Senate. He’s now focused on getting a carbon tax, which would "help solve the seemingly intractable problem of global warming and at the same time help solve the seemingly intractable problem of the budget deficit."

But he knows that won’t happen now. Instead, if confronted by aggressive executive actions, Republicans might decide they would prefer legislation, which they could influence.

They wrote a letter to President Obama, outlining the measures he can control. The first thing is to use his State of the Union address to expand on his vision for tackling climate change. 

They ask him to develop a comprehensive plan that he can quickly achieve through executive action that includes:

1. Specific steps federal agences will take to ensure US emissions are at least 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 (the goal Obama set at the UN conference in 2009.

2. Accelerate investments in clean energy technology by marshalling resources of leading scientific institutions

3. A strategy to protect the many vulnerable areas of the US from the worst effects of climate change.

"During your first term you took key – and often overlooked – steps forward. The investments you made in solar and wind energy and energy efficiency under the Recovery Act invigorated US production of clean, renewable energy and helped return Americans to work. The new tailpipe standards you negotiated for automobiles will double fuel economy and produce major reductions in carbon emissions from passenger vehicles. Your Environment Protection Agency has proposed new standards for power plants. Unfortunately, these measures are likely to only get us only half the way toward the 2020 goal. A much more aggressive plan of action is needed," the letter says.

They point to the fact that fossil fuel industries are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to confuse the public – as a result, too few Americans understand the gravity and urgency of the situation, which is why presidential leadership is so necessary.

The administration has broad authority to spur research and development in clean energy, enact tighter efficiency standards through the Department of Energy, set emission limits through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and many agencies could act together to reduce climate change forcers such as black carbon and methane.

The letter ends by saying, "We in Congress need your leadership most of all. Virtually all Republicans opposed comprehensive climate legislation in the 111th Congress, and they voted to strip EPA of regulatory in the last one. Progress in Congress may be so difficult or protracted that you should not hesitate to act."

Mobilize the Public

They also plan to mobilize the public to force through "barricades of denial." 

"We know that meaningful carbon legislation won’t pass in this Congress under the present status quo-of a Congress surrounded and barricaded by special interests, by polluters, by phony organizations set up by polluters to look like legitimate scientific organizations," says Senator Whitehouse.

"So a new factor has to be brought into that equation, and that is the clear understanding, a clear and present understanding of the American public, that this is something we have to do something about," he says.

(Visited 4,503 times, 4 visits today)

Post Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *