Dancing with the Environment: Will Obama Take the Lead to Act Quickly on Climate Change?
Shiva Nataraja is the Hindu god whose endless dance embodies creation, preservation, and destruction. For the past eight years, George W. Bush has lead the world in a dance of environmental destruction. Will Obama lead us in a dance of creation of renewable energy policies and environmental preservation? Like Nataraja, will Obama dance atop the demon Apasmara (aka Bush) who represents ignorance?
Obama was elected because he ran a campaign of optimism that countered the fear mongering of the Republican Party since 9/11.
In the eight days following election day, the world has been filled with hope. From energy policies to economic recovery, President-Elect Obama’s plans has been front page news.
Obama and Climate Change
Obama has called the earth a “planet in peril” and created a 30-point environmental plan that includes creating green jobs, reducing US oil consumption, and increasing renewable sources of energy. John Podesta, part of Obama’s transition team, stated, “I anticipate him moving very aggressively and very rapidly on the whole question of transforming the energy platform in the United States from high carbon energy to low carbon energy.” This week Obama sent Jason Grumet, a policy adviser who may be appointed to an energy post, to an environmental conference in DC sending the message his administration will act swiftly on climate change legislation. Grumet said, “The whole transition team felt it important to be here.”
Reversing Bush Administration Environmental Blunders
Obama plans to act quickly to undue many of Bush’s policies that have harmed our environment. Using his power of executive order, Obama plans to allow California the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles, as well as protect fragile western lands for oil drilling. The American people have voted wanting eight years of Republican detrimental policies reversed immediately. Podesta explains:
There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that. I think that he feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.
Cap-and-Trade by 2010
While campaigning, Obama stated he supported a cap-and-trade system. Under Obama’s plan, U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, would be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. By auctioning permits, Obama would fund renewable energy and infrastructure upgrades. New Mexico senator Jeff Bingaman, chair of the Senate’s energy and national resources committee, thinks it will take a year for Obama to sign into law cap-and-trade legislation. Stimulating the economy with renewable energy jobs has priority over cap-and-trade.
By the end of Obama’s first term, he has called for 10 percent of US energy to come from renewables. He has pledged $150 billion over 10 year to stimulate the renewable energy industr and thus create jobs. According to Financial Analyst J. Peter Lynch:
To date, we have had no leadership capable of moving the world in a new direction. President Obama can be this leader, he will be the catalyst for the dawn of the solar revolution and the beginning of the transition to a truly renewable economy.
Scott Sklar, President of the Stella Group, continues Lynch’s praise of Obama‘s proposed policies on renewable energy:
President-elect Obama is the first national presidential candidate who has explicitly campaigned for renewable technologies and green jobs – and the U.S. will now more likely embrace more comprehensive policies that will drive these U.S.-created technologies to become integrated into our nation’s energy mix resulting in significantly lower energy imports and greenhouse gas emissions.
Green Jobs and Economic Recovery
Obama has stated that creating “green collar” jobs to replace industrial “blue collar” jobs is his “number one priority. ” Creating jobs in renewable energy will not only make the US world leaders in climate change, but it will also stimulate the struggling economy. In fact, Obama will move forward with an energy bill that will create jobs before a climate bill. Not only will Obama create 5 million new jobs in a green economy, he has pledged to give Americans a $500 rebate check funded by a windfall profits taxes on big oil companies. He even plans to put 1 million plug-in-electric hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015 by giving $4 billion to the auto industry and $25 billion in loans to retool factories to make efficient cars, as well as a $7,000 in consumer tax credits to purchase of advanced cars.
Obama is serious about climate change. Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, explains:
There’s a lot of good stuff here, but like any campaign platform, they’ll be fortunate to implement half of it. Still, I have been hearing through the grapevine that they [Obama’s camp] are quite serious about it. The question is whether Congress will go along. There’s a good chance that a significant fraction [of the plan] will go through.
Bracken Hendricks, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is confident Obama will act on his campaign promises:
This energy plan is not just about environment, climate change, energy prices, or supplies individually. It’s an overarching plan that embodies Obama’s approach to national service, energy security, and economic stability. He’s going to hit it head-on.
As I stated last week, Obama’s win was a win for our environment. The big question for me is not how quickly Obama will act on his campaign promises, but will he re-engage the U.S. in international negotiations to combat climate change? Even though he is not officially president yet, will Obama go to Poland next month to the UN Climate Meetings to help craft an international climate deal that will replace Kyoto? We didn’t elect a maverick; we need someone to lead the world in this dance to save the environment and stop climate change.
Image: Lotus Sculpture