by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Apart from the times he called himself the president of “clean coal”, President Obama always talked a better climate change game than his Republican opponents. But his lovely words are overshadowed and outweighed by his actions, which are largely consistent with his Republican and Democratic predecessors, and have mostly served the interests of Big Oil and Big Energy.
Pretty Words, Ugly Actions: The Obama Legacy on Climate Change
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
President Obama announced his plan last week to slash US carbon emissions by 2030, mostly by EPA rules which will effectively prohibit new coal fired electric plants. This is unambiguously good news, especially from a president who once declared himself in favor of “clean coal.” .
The bad news is that the Obama administration could have done this in its first weeks in office rather than half past its seventh year, and it doesn't begin to redeem Obama climate change legacy.
The bad news is that the US still leads the world in water polluting, earthquake causing fracking, in taxpayer subsidies to the fracking industry, and in the export of fracking technologies, for which the Obama administration has been a tireless advocate.
The bad news is that when the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest known gas and oil spill in history occurred, the Obama administration actively colluded with oil companies to lie to the public concealing the volume and extent of the leak. President Obama had the US Navy and Coast Guard ban civilian overflights of the spill area, and local police agencies bar civilian access to affected shorelines apparently to prevent independent experts from assessing the extent of damage and the speed at which the poisonous discharge was settling on the sea floor. The Obama Justice Department even protected British Petroleum by declaring that damage awards could only be assessed against BP's holdings in the US Gulf rather than against its global assets on six continents and oceans across the planet. And although the president's party controlled both houses of Congress for another six
months, President Obama and his party sponsored not one piece of legislation, not one administrative rule to rein in the plundering
and polluting activities of Big Oil.
The bad news is that despite past disasters and future dangers the Obama administration continues to issue new permits for drilling up and down the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, and is even permitting deepwater offshore fracking. What could possibly go wrong?
The bad news is that the Obama administration, just like the Bush and Clinton ones before it, has continued the bipartisan American
tradition of subverting and destroying international accords on climate change, giving the final coup de grace to the Kyoto Accords, condemning hundreds of millions in Asia, Africa and Oceana to suffer the ravages of climate change.
The bad news is that the Obama administration's equivocation on the Keystone pipeline seems transparently calculated to get his party through the 2016 election, after which it will almost certainly be approved, whoever is elected. The Obama administration has issued permits for drilling in the Arctic Ocean, accessible for the first time in human history due to the melting of polar icecaps.
Actual leadership on climate change would set a near term goal of 80 to 90% of US energy needs met by renewables like wind and solar, an end to fracking on land and sea, and banning of offshore drilling, especially in the Arctic. Leadership would be applauding the citizen activists who are delaying the departure of Shell's mammoth Arctic drilling rig from the port of Seattle. Leadership would have the US look more like Germany, which although it's as far north as Canada derives most of its energy from wind and solar power and other renewables. At this point climate leadership would mean popularizing the case for leaving the coal in the hole, the gas beneath the grass, and the oil in the soil while we fund and find other ways to power our agriculture, our cities and our lives.
But none of that is part of the Obama legacy on climate change, which is pretty words but ugly actions.