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Obama’s Second Term: What’s In It For Climate Change?

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

We loved that President Obama mentioned climate change in his reelection victory speech, but what will that really mean for us? Is he ready to seriously tackle the issues that need to be tackled, or will he continue on the slow, menial path he has been on over the last four years? Even if he does decide to make some changes, will he be able to push them through Congress? I shudder at the thought of that alone.

It’s easy to predict that he will stay on a similar course that led him to raising vehicle fuel efficiency standards and work on regulating greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. As MarketWatch noted, coal stocks dropped and solar stocks soared as the election results came in, so there is certainly speculation that the administration is going to get down to sustainable business.

Obama did mention the idea of “freeing ourselves from foreign oil,” something that every president since the ‘70s has had in their dream. This could mean he is looking into more oil and gas drilling in the U.S. Domestic oil production is on the rise, with imports falling below 45% for the first time in 30+ years. The U.S. Department of Defense has also been looking into alternative fuels, such as biomass and natural gas jet fuels.

This second term also means the administration will have to live up to U.S. commitments made at the Copenhagen and Durban climate talks to reduce emissions by 4% below 1990 levels by 2020, and to craft a global agreement by 2015 to tackle climate change. Could a carbon tax be in order? This could make a dent in the country’s CO2 emissions and encourage alternative energy, all while helping balance the budget. Unfortunately, a Republican-controlled House makes this pretty unlikely, so a more realistic alternative is to turn off coal plants and replace them with natural gas and renewables.

At the very least, I think Obama’s second term will allow him to really get things done without beating around the bush, or at the very least, ATTEMPT to get things done, causing the American people to talk about it and make climate change less of a taboo issue around here. Hey, maybe it will actually get mentioned in the next presidential debates!

What do you think? Do you have high hopes for environmental action over the next four years, or are you not holding your breath?

Image: Barack Obama, “Four more years” tweet, 7 Nov., 2012

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