Obama turns an even lighter shade of green
Photo: The White HouseSo what’s up with President Obama? He says all the right things about clean energy and global warming. But actions speak louder than words, and in the past six months his green cred has faded fast. He opened up the East Coast and the Gulf to more deepwater drilling — before the BP leak thwarted the plan, for now at least. He let the climate bill, and then any energy bill, wither like a baked grape in the Senate. Now, his Justice Department has sided with utility companies in a lawsuit that was trying to curtail greenhouse gas emissions.
This is how he rolls?
Hell to the chief: The latest slap comes in a case before the Supreme Court in which eight states and the city of New York sued a group of utility companies for burning fossil fuels. The plaintiffs argued that the resulting greenhouse gases are a “public nuisance” because they contribute to climate change. But Obama’s legal team has sided with the utilities, apparently because it wants the EPA, not the courts, to deal with greenhouse gases. That may sound reasonable, but green groups point out there’s no guarantee that the EPA, under siege from Republicans, will be able to deliver on Obama’s promises. More importantly, the Justice Department’s position undercuts any future suits that may try to use nuisance law as a way to attack greenhouse gas pollution. As Matt Pawa, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, told Mother Jones‘ Kate Sheppard:
It reads like a Bush administration brief. It felt like being stabbed in the back. The Obama administration claims to care about global warming, so why is it opposing an effort to curtail greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired plants?
Lost leader: Obama’s backsliding on green issues is that much more galling in light of what’s happening elsewhere in the world. Canada is about to put bisphenol-A, or BPA, a common chemical used in plastic water bottles and baby bottles, on its list of toxic substances. The Indian government has committed $6.4 billion to clean energy and energy efficiency programs for more than 700 industries. Even in Russia, hardly a model for anything environmental, President Dmitry Medvedev stopped a highway-building project that was tearing up a forest between Moscow and St. Petersburg. (Of course, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin begged to disagree, insisting that the highway must be built, but still …)
Can Kevin Bacon still be in the movie? You’ve heard all the wild ideas. Pump particles into the atmosphere like some non-stop volcano. Launch mirrors into space. Bury massive quantities of greenhouse gas-sucking charcoal in soil all over the Earth. Clever geoengineering to the rescue! Sadly, it ain’t so. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, no geoengineering project would be able to cut carbon dioxide levels enough to keep the oceans from rising. Only sharply cutting greenhouse gas emissions will make a real difference, says researcher Svetlana Jevrejeva, who told the BBC’s Katia Moskvitch:
Substituting geoengineering for greenhouse emission control would be to burden future generations with enormous risk.
View to a top kill: BP gave us plenty of drama this summer as it stumbled and bumbled its way to plugging its gushing deepwater well. But apparently there was a helluva lot more stress and nastiness behind the scenes, including frustrating failures, culture clashes with government scientists, and even a threat by one engineer to throw another one overboard. Clifford Krauss, Henry Fountain, and John Broder provide some of the story’s twists and turns in The New York Times.
And if you want to get a good idea of some of the madness aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig on the April day this debacle started, check out the narrative by Russell Gold and Ben Casselman in the Wall Street Journal.
I see blue people: It was bad enough for BP when Brad Pitt said it made him want to reconsider the death penalty. Now Avatar (and Titanic and Terminator) director James Cameron is piling on. Earlier this summer Cameron called BP engineers “morons.” Yesterday, he told the New York Daily News that BP’s involvement in controlling the leak was “a bit like having the bank robbers run the video surveillance of the vault.” And he didn’t stop there, likening BP to the greedy corporation that pillaged Pandora. And furthermore:
[The world is in worse shape] than anything I dreamed up for The Terminator. I should make a new Terminator-like movie where someone travels back in time to warn us before it’s too late.
Arnold should be available.
Get Grist in your inbox