It looks as though President Obama may have decided that getting re-elected in 2012 is more important than saving the planet from the much-dreaded global warming. But then how does he break it to the people who helped elect him and whose support he will need in 2012?
Political prognostication is always a chancy business, but a few new developments have occurred that seem to point to the president moving to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s nascent regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions.
First, the left-wing British press reported Monday about how a government shutdown may force the EPA to delay its greenhouse-gas regulation by two years.
It was a novel thought because the recently passed House bill to fund the government would strip the EPA of its emissions authority altogether, while any talk of a two-year delay in EPA authority has been limited strictly to a not-so-popular coal-state/Democrat bill sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. No one had previously linked EPA funding issues to a two-year delay.
Reading on, the article quoted Eileen Claussen, former EPA air chief and Pew Center for Global Climate Change head, as saying, “If I was predicting, I would say that (Obama) might sign a delay provision, to delay the EPA effort for two years or something like that.
“It probably depends on the particular circumstances. … I would bet that if it was a delay, and it was part of a money bill that was really important, he would sign it.”
Once again, that was a novel thought.
Later that afternoon, news broke that Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote the president, worrying about the EPA regulations killing jobs: “Without careful consideration, the unintended consequences of imprudent regulation could ultimately undermine our shared objectives of reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions and spurring economic growth.
“It is disconcerting that, to my knowledge, the EPA has neither a plan in place nor the authority to provide these protections to U.S. manufacturing, a sector of the economy critical to the continued economic recovery of my state and so many others.”
Dave Doniger, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s chief global warming lawyer, wrote a telling takedown of Brown’s letter that appeared on Grist.org, a website popular among hardcore environmentalists.
Doniger essentially accused Sen. Brown of doing industry’s bidding in questioning the EPA. Brown is from a Rust Belt state, but he is a reliable lefty who has never before opposed the EPA. Grist piled on the senator with the heading: “Look who’s running for re-election.”
Brown, however, isn’t the only one up for re-election in 2012. So is the president, and his political survival instincts may be asserting themselves once again over his job-killing, central-planning inclinations.
A final relevant omen may be last week’s decision by the EPA to ease up dramatically on its regulation of industrial boilers.
Though the president may be rethinking the EPA’s regulatory overreach on greenhouse gases, he needs moral support and rationale from his base to actually make the move. Claussen’s comments and Sen. Brown’s letter could be seen as much-needed and prominent political air cover.