Obama is expected to throw climate hawks a bone (or I guess a small rodent) in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night:
"You're going to like what you hear," White House aides have told green groups, according to an official at one environmental organization who expects the president to publicly commit to moving forward with EPA climate regulations.
"In past speeches, there was a lot of, 'I call on Congress,'" the official added. "And what I'm expecting to see more of this time is, 'This is what my administration is going to do.'"
If this OOEO (official at one environmental organization) is right, it will be cause for good cheer. But the question remains, even if Barack Obama is pure of heart and dedicated to climate progress, what can he do?
He'll get no help from Congress. Serious climate legislation is off the table as long as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is in charge of the House but not in charge of his Tea Party faction. So what can be done without Congress?
The definitive answer on this comes from the World Resources Institute, which recently updated its classic report, "Using Existing Federal Laws and State Action to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions." (You know you've heard of it.) To summarize: A lot can be done! But mostly in the short term. After 2020, you need legislation.
WRI analyzed three scenarios, combinations of federal (executive) action and state policy. They are referred to as lackluster, middle-of-the-road, and go-getter. Here's how they shake out: