Environmentalists in the United States are reeling from the latest news that Barack Obama is pulling the plug on his proposal to tighten Bush-era ozone standards. For three years, Obama had been promising to tighten ozone emission limits from 75 parts per billion to 60 or 70 parts per billion. But in a surprising about-face, Obama decided to scrap the tighter emission limits as they would impose too much of a burden on the economy.
The latest announcement is just one amongst many other environmental initiatives that the Obama Administration has reneged on in the past few years.
Just recently the State Department gave the go-ahead on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a new pipeline which will bring oil from the Alberta tar sands to refineries in Texas and Oklahoma. The project sparked ongoing protests outside of the White House, culminating in the arrest of around 1000 protesters, including James Hansen and Daryl Hannah.
And then there was Al Gore’s scathing essay in Rolling Stone which criticized Obama for has lack of leadership on issues of climate change.
Although Obama was elected amidst great fanfare from environmentalists for his forward-thinking environmental agenda, he has since lost most of that support.
In the words of Justin Rubin, executive director of MoveOn: “This is a decision we’d expect from George W. Bush.”
But why would Obama shift his environmental agenda so drastically?
Many are suggesting that Obama has sold-out to business interests and caved to Republican demands, a theory perhaps not too off the mark. After all, the Republicans did wage an aggressive campaign to halt the new emission standards arguing that the new emission standards would stunt growth and cost up to 90 billion annually (a figure which is of course unproven).
And with the 2012 election just around the corner, Obama had to make a tough decision whether he would stick to his guns on the emission standards or abandon them in favor business interests.
But despite the accusations from environmentalists and progressives, the Obama Administration holds stead-fast in their claim that this has nothing to do with political pressure. As one White House official stated: “This has nothing to do with politics, nothing at all.”
What are your thoughts on Obama’s term in office so far? Do you think his hands were tied by political pressure, or should he have managed things a little differently?
Image CC licensed by Rachel Johnson