Big failures, small successes mark Obama’s environmental record

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Nov 032011

Deutsche Welle, 3 November 2011 [original source]

As presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a bold green agenda. He vowed to reverse the climate change policy of his predecessor and push for green jobs. But one year before the election the results are mixed at best.

Barack Obama in Copenhagen (…)

Alexander Ochs, director of the climate and energy program at the Worldwatch Institute in Washington, isn’t all that surprised about Obama’s reactions to the Fukushima and Deepwater Horizon accidents. He notes that Obama upon becoming president considered nuclear energy a clean technology and it doesn’t seem Fukushima changed his stance.

What’s more, says Ochs, energy security for most key players in the US simply trumps environmental protection. By continuing or even expanding domestic drilling for oil, those players hope to decrease US dependency on imported oil, which in the long run is impossible because of decreasing reserves.

And yet, despite many shortcomings, it wouldn’t be fair to label Obama as an abject failure on the environment. While it wasn’t hard to beat the environmental record set by his predecessor, Obama does deserve credit for some important green initiatives, argue the experts.

As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Obama administration has made available investments in renewable energy projects totaling $90 billion (65 billion euros), explains Ochs. He adds that the so-called Cafe standard, i.e. the fuel standard for cars and light trucks, has been raised substantially. And the way in which federal agencies analyze environmental impact of green house gas emissions has also been improved.

While these efforts sound mundane compared to a sweeping international climate mandate they are important and do produce clear environmental change, says Ochs.


“Environmental protection could indeed play a role in the election to the extent that it can be cast by Republicans as a job killer,” says Ochs. “If Republicans are successful in framing it this way it can become quite a liability for Obama and Congress Democrats.”

Author: Michael Knigge, Editor: Rob Mudge