Barack Obama: Climate change we can believe in? Michael Bloomberg backs 'green' President
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Saturday 03 November 2012
It took a hurricane – but for first time in the race for the White House, the environment became an issue, with an interrogation of the President's record last night.
Climate change didn't come up in the debates, nor has it been broached in any detail at the stump. But post-Sandy, the endorsement of Barack Obama by Michael Bloomberg chiefly for his position on the matter has, however briefly, earned global warming a cameo in the parade of talking points dredged up daily on the campaign trail.
"Our climate is changing," New York's Mayor said on Thursday night, explaining his endorsement.
"And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York city and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be – given this week's devastation – should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action."
Mr Bloomberg, who sat out the 2008 race, concluded that Mr Obama – and not his Republican challenger Mitt Romney – was the best man to tackle the climate change that may have fed the Halloween weather monster.
But, given his record in office, is he? Or has the good Mayor – reminiscent of the Nobel Prize – rewarded the President for what he might do, rather than what he's actually achieved? Al Gore was last year moved to say: "President Obama appears to have bowed to pressure from polluters who did not want to bear the cost of implementing new restrictions on their harmful pollution."
Four years ago, the-then Senator Obama promised legislative measures to curb carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. But in 2010 the Obama White House-backed cap-and-trade bill, which would have set up the mechanism to achieve that goal, was shot down by a Republican-led filibuster in the Senate. Mr Obama's boosters blame the opposition, but others say he simply didn't push hard enough.
The President did tighten fuel-economy standards for cars and light trucks, and under his direction, the Environmental Protection Agency came up with tough new norms on mercury emissions from power plants (a point raised by Mr Bloomberg). He blessed the clean energy industry with billions in stimulus money and yes, he did reject a permit that would have allowed the construction of the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline to ship heavy crude sucked out from Canadian oil sands so hated by environmentalists to Oklahoma, saying he hadn't had the time to carry out a proper environmental review by a congressional deadline (Mr Romney supports the construction).
But he never again made a bold policy push of the kind mooted during his first White House run. He has also faced opprobrium from the environmental lobby for not coming down hard enough on offshore oil drilling in the aftermath of the BP disaster. Nor has he raised the environment with any enthusiasm in this year's contest. As the Washington Post said yesterday: "Obama rarely mentions the issue at all."
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