How Much Has Changed? Obama Administration Deals Series of Anti-Environmental Blows
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Although offshore drilling is so intensely unpopular in coastal states that even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush stood up to his brother's attempts to expand drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Salazar, accompanied by a consort of oil lobbyists, held four town hall forums this spring on offshore drilling and left the distinct impression that he was leaning toward what he called a "comprehensive approach" to energy development, in which the oceans will be mined for offshore wind, wave power and, yes, oil.
This is proving to be an administration that doesn't know the meaning of the word "no."
Down in Appalachia, things are not much better, where the coal-extraction industry was recently given the green light to proceed with 42 of its 48 pending mountaintop-removal permits. While Obama speaks out about the negative impact of the aptly named process, where mountains are blown apart to expose thin lines of coal, he is not willing to take on an industry that continually pollutes rivers and threatens public health.
"If you still have an Obama sticker on your car, maybe think about scraping it off and sending it to the White House with your objections," says Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero, who is working hard to stop mountaintop removal in West Virginia and elsewhere. "Blowing mountains to pieces is a crime."
When it comes to CO2 emissions, the EPA has also been more bark than bite. While admitting that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health, the agency will not necessarily move to regulate industry emissions.
White House climate czar Carol Browner and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson initially said that such a declaration would "indeed trigger the beginning of regulation of CO2," but only weeks later, Jackson reversed her belief that industry would be affected by the White House's admission.
Speaking before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Jackson said on May 12: "The endangerment finding is a scientific finding mandated by law. ... It does not mean regulation."
In fact, instead of implementing real regulatory oversight to combat the alleged culprits of global warming, the Obama administration has held its campaign promise to tackle CO2 emissions by embracing free-market environmentalism, i.e. cap-and-trade.
Obama proposes reducing U.S. emissions 83 percent by 2050 by essentially allowing industry to regulate itself by putting a price on carbon. But many say there is a reason industry isn't frightened.
"[Cap-and-trade] programs have so many leaks, trap doors and perverse side effects that they'll probably do more harm than good," says Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm, an environmental project of the Earth Island Institute that seeks to shut down coal plants in the U.S.
"The illusion that a solution is in place will then prevent simpler, more focused solutions from being implemented. An example of this phenomenon is the sulfur trading system. Proponents of cap-and-trade point to it as proof that pollution markets work, but decades after the program went into place, I can show you a big database of coal plants that continue to spew inordinate amounts of sulfur dioxide," says Nace. "A simpler solution to the global-warming problem would be to mandate that all the existing coal plants be phased out in an orderly, phased manner."
Not surprisingly, Obama refuses to consider strict regulation, let alone a carbon tax to address the country's big CO2 emitters. Instead, after intense pressure from the pollution lobby, Obama's approach to attacking climate change has been whittled down to nothing more than weak market-driven economics that can too easily be manipulated politically. Polluters will be let off the hook because they can simply relocate or build new infrastructure in places where there are few or no carbon regulations.