Holding the President’s feet to the fire

If you go to the Obama campaign site Obama, you’ll read its boast of the EPA initiating restrictions on mercury and other pollutants from coal and oil fired power plants during the President’s tenure.

Just recently, the Obama administration announced its reaching agreement with the nation’s auto manufacturers to increase vehicle fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025,

Perhaps the best news for environmentalists is the State Department’s recent announcement that it would delay construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to review its previously approved routing, ultimately deciding its verdict after the 2012 elections.

These seeming environmental breakthroughs, while making good copy, masquerade sobering truths.

Take the Keystone delay, for example. While this change from approval to delay has apparently rekindled environmentalist enthusiasm for Obama, Greens should be forewarned it probably reflects politics rather than sincere commitment.

You may remember that just last August hundreds of protestors against the pipeline, which would transport carbon-heavy tar sands from Canada to the Gulf, were arrested outside the White House, leading many environmentalists to think seriously about not supporting the President’s reelection.

This caution has apparently been tossed to the winds by the Keystone delay. I think this is a mistake. (See Rekindle.) Obama is simply just another politician governed by pragmatics, hence quite willing to pander rather than stick to principle in order to keep power. The Keystone Project delay is about re-routing only, not abnegation, and environmentalists are foolish not to note the difference as well as its ominous time-line.

Underscoring my suspicion is Obama’s earlier September decision to shelve new EPA proposals on smog. The President justified his decision on the basis of not wanting to jeopardize the economy by imposing new pressures on industry and business. Republican House speaker Boehner had argued that one of the EPA’s proposals would have cost $90b. Never mind, however, the consequences for those millions with respiratory problems. Clean Air Watch called Obama’s turnaround “political cowardice.” I agree.

As for the original Keystone plan that routed the pipeline incredulously through the sensitive Oragulla Aquifer, it was the Obama administration that signed on.

Won’t anything ever change in Washington? If we hold our ground and not conflate rhetoric with meaningful change, it will.

The bottom line is that we must hold the President’s feet to the fire.

Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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