Joe Romm and Stephen Lacey from the Center for American Progress review the President's clean energy record
Climate Change: D/Incomplete
A lot of people in the climate community would say Obama deserves an F in climate. Given all the Administration has done to set the stage for a massive uptake of renewables and other clean technologies, it’s unfair to give him an outright F. Instead, he gets an incomplete or conditional D.
In the face of the most vicious and well-funded attacks on climate science, this president has not stood up to the climate-denial machine. Since the completely bogus 2009 “climategate” scandal and the defeat of a cap-and-trade bill in Congress, Obama has fallen silent on the issue, even while the science continues to prove how dire the situation is. As a leader with one of the loudest megaphones in the world, Obama should be doing far more to defend the science.
There are still many unknowns that may impact whether this Administration’s grade goes up or down. The first is the future of the proposed 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring carbon and water-intensive tar sands crude from the Canadian province of Alberta to refineries in Texas. Leading climate scientist James Hansen calls the project “game over for climate.” After a strong and vocal protest movement pressured the State Department to delay a decision until 2013 and demand another environmental review, congressional Republicans set a 60-day deadline which forced the Administration to deny the pipeline application to TransCanada. However, the state department insisted at the time that "denial of the permit application does not preclude any subsequent permit application or applications for similar projects." TransCanada could reapply with an alternate route, which is a likely scenario. Obama deserves an F if he ultimately approves the project.
The other unknowns involve a few of the regulations mentioned above that are currently in the works: two aggressive fuel standards for light and heavy vehicles, and the Environmental Protection Agency regulation of carbon emissions. If both of these are finalized, they could prove to be a very effective tool for substantially reducing greenhouse gases in the transportation and electricity sectors – perhaps even better than the original carbon cap-and-trade program proposed in Congress.
In conclusion, when grading the Obama Administration across this range of issues, it fares above average. But the political pressure from Republicans to drop strong support for clean energy has the Administration on the ropes. K