This weekend marked one year until the 2012 election. As we here at Spinach have shown (and will continue to show), not one of the Republican candidates is all that appetizing for out plates. But then, is President Obama all that appetizing either? Our election coverage continues by imposing an important question: What do environmentalists do? Do we continue to stand by the President, recognizing that if we sit out we could face worse for at least four years? Or do we stand by our principles and refuse to support anyone who is not supporting us?
Let’s start by acknowledging this: We are all disappointed in the lack of action we have seen on the environment. Cap and trade died. Then it became a shooting target in Democratic campaign ads (Joe Manchin). The Obama Administration punted on long overdue ozone regs. Now it’s unclear as to whether or not Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline. But does that mean we turn our backs on President Obama?
I am going to stick my head of spinach out and say we need to continue to stand by the President. While we are continuing to kick the problems of climate change down the road, the President has not been a total disappointment. His move on CAFÉ standards is a large accomplishment. We went from 30 years of no standards to new standards (EISA 2007) to another massive overhaul with 54.5 MPG as our new standard by 2025. Then we set the first standards for heavy-duty vehicles. The transportation sector contributes about 20-25% of our GHG emissions annually; improving this sector is a big deal that should not be overlooked. Officials say the light-duty CAFE standards will save Americans $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and cut oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels a day by 2025. Remember, when you’re consuming around 19 million barrels day, every little bit counts.
Oh but wait, there’s more. While ozone may have been punted, Obama has let his EPA continue to promulgate many other important regulations (and there are a number of them–like limiting pollutants from boilers and pollution that cross state lines). EPA has issued the first-ever national standards to reduce mercury and toxic air pollution from power plants. He put his foot down and said he would veto the House Interior Appropriations bill that threatened to brutally attack the EPA with over 30 policy riders. He continues to champion for science and technology initiatives that will lead to breakthroughs in our energy policy (ARPA-E, Energy Innovation Hubs, etc). He continually pushes for a clean energy standard. Oh, and in case you missed it, he thinks we need to end subsidies for fossil fuel companies. Also, let’s not forget, the man did bring the solar panels back to the White House.
Even without all of this, no enviro can deny: It is better to have a President who acknowledges that human-induced climate change is real rather than to have one who either questions human contributions or, worse yet, doesn’t believe it’s happening at all.