Thursday, November 8, 2012

What is in store from a second Obama Administration?

Image: President Barack Obama waves to supporters after his victory speechWith Barack Obama's reelection, we can start to imagine what his second term will look like in terms of environmental issues.

While environmental issues played a very small role in the campaign, Obama did frequently tout initiatives to encourage alternative energy. He can also point to significant administrative and regulatory initiatives - including auto efficiency, mercury pollution, and EPA regulation of CO2 emissions. There was no significant legislative environmental achievement of Obama's first term, although that is as much a reflection of a hostile Congress and the focus on the economy as anything else.

I expect that Obama will continue to push things that the Energy Department, EPA, etc. can do to move environmental issues forward. However, I do not foresee a push, say, a comprehensive energy bill through Congress.  I also do not expect any movement to put a price tag on carbon emissions, as good a step as it would be.

Where he could do so much more would be to take the example that Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Governor Andrew Cuomo have set and start LEADING on the issue of climate change, instead of hiding from it. Sandy's landfall finally woke up the media and helped the public make the connection between climate change and their lives. Exit polls found that 41% of voters thought that the President's handling of Sandy was "very important" or "important" in their decision. In an election decided by 2%, that is a big number.

Will Obama lead? Time will tell. One cause for optimism is that he mentioned climate change in his Victory Speech late Tuesday night:
We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened up by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.
After an entire debate season with no mention of climate change, that was a welcome nod to those of us who want action.

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