Energy & Environment

Has Obama made the planet greener? Al Gore says ‘no’

Has Obama made the planet greener? Al Gore says 'no'

Democrats wax lyrical when it comes to President Barack Obama’s durable accomplishments to protect the environment and his administration’s efforts to abandon a fossil fuel-based energy in favor of experimental sources of electricity.

Among the party’s bragging points, the Obama administration doubled the amount of electricity derived from wind and solar, made historic investments in clean energy, and set the first national standards for mercury emissions.

“We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past,” Obama said in March. “We need an energy strategy for the future—an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”

According to Obama’s reelection campaign, that strategy ensures “we never have to choose between protecting our environment and strengthening our economy.”

Securing the liberal base

It’s a winning strategy for Obama to secure his liberal base and capture support from “Big Green” and the endorsement of significant environmental groups including the Sierra Club, Environment America, League of Conservation Voters, and Clean Water Action.

“Together, we can build upon the historic successes of the last four years, including landmark fuel efficiency standards and the first-ever protections against toxic mercury pollution, to build a clean energy economy that creates thousands of new jobs and works for every American,” said Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director.

Republicans argue that the Obama reign has been a disaster for energy development and say it is a significant factor in a still-faltering economy.

Obama says his policies have significantly reduced the country’s reliance on foreign oil, but at the same time his administration has drastically cut back on the number of permits to drill along the Outer Continental shelf. Although development continues mostly unabated on private property, exploration on public land continues to stall. And the price of gasoline at the pump has risen from an average of $1.84 during Obama’s inaugural celebration, to an estimated $3.75 today.

The most contentious issue faced by Obama’s White House and his State Department lead by Secretary Hillary Clinton is approval of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada through the U.S. to Texas.

The administration has obstructed a decision numerous times, citing concerns over the impact construction would have on a delicate underground environment. Their delay tactics pleased environmentalists, but frustrated the Democrats’ labor base that supports the pipeline and the 6,000 construction jobs it is expected to create.

Climate change issue will return

Still haunting the White House is Obama’s complete failure to keep a crucial campaign promise for his supporters—addressing climate change by enacting a federal “cap and trade” policy—disappointing his base, and former Democratic presidential contender Al Gore.

Cap and trade legislation passed the Democratic-lead House, but Obama abandoned the effort in the Senate.

Gore wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine in June 2011 and criticized Obama for abandoning environmentalists and siding with oil and coal companies.

“President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change,” Gore wrote. “The failure to pass legislation to limit global-warming pollution ensured that the much-anticipated Copenhagen summit on a global treaty in 2009 would also end in failure.”

Gore’s warning was not lost on Obama, who told the magazine in an April interview that preventing climate change would be a top priority if he were reelected for another four-year term.

“I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we’re going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way,” Obama said.

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