Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obama and Fools' Gold Environmentalism

Read today's CounterPunch story by Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank on how the ObamAdministration is letting us down on the environment.

From quietly continuing Bush Administration policies to drill offshore, support nuclear energy, de-list wolves from the Endangered Species Act, continue flawed market-based policies towards pollution that haven't worked for sulfur and likely will not work for carbon/Global Climate Change, it's a sad, poor bag, not really compensated for by his rather more admirable stance on Guantanamo Bay.

Excerpts from St. Clair & Frank:
It’s not just the wolf that’s been hung out to dry. Shortly after Obama’s inauguration, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced they were revoking an 11th hour Bush directive that weakened the ESA listing process. However, shortly thereafter the Dept. of the Interior refused to repeal a special rule that would have granted the polar bear protection from the impacts of global warming. Salazar said his agency does not believe the law was intended to address climate change, even though many policy analysts believe the ESA could be used to limit the issuing of permits for development projects that would potentially threaten the polar bear by emitting additional greenhouse gases. "The Endangered Species Act is not the proper tool to deal with a global issue - global warming," Salazar said... The Obama administration, under Salazar’s watch, is refusing to lead the way in protecting the bear’s dwindling populations. Of course the oil and gas cartels were unabashedly pleased with the decision. So much for thinking globally and acting locally.

'We welcome the administration's decision because we, like Secretary Ken Salazar, recognize that the Endangered Species Act is not the proper mechanism for controlling our nation's carbon emissions,' said American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard...

Off-shore oil drilling and a new generation of nuclear power plants represented the sum total of the McCain/Palin energy plan. Though it seemed like political comedy at the time, this strategy has now been at least partially embraced by the Obama administration. As the clock approached midnight on the final eve of the Bush administration, his Interior Department put forward a rule opening 300 million acres of coastal waters to oil drilling. According to the hastily prepared decree, the leasing was to begin by March 23. Enter Salazar with a maneuver that is typical of the Obama approach to environmental politics. Instead of killing the drilling plan outright, Salazar merely extended the analysis period for an additional six months. The environmental lobby was given a procedural crumb, while the oil hounds still had its long-sought prize on the table for the taking... Ken Salazar, accompanied by a consort of oil lobbyists, held four town hall forums this spring on off-shore drilling and left that distinct impression that he was leaning toward what he called a “comprehensive approach” to energy development, in which the oceans will be mined for off-shore wind, wave power and, yes, oil. This is proving to be an administration that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “no”...

Down in Appalachia things are not much better, where the coal extraction industry was recently given the green light to proceed with 42 of its 48 pending mountaintop removal permits. While Obama speaks out about the negative impact of the aptly named mountaintop removal, where whole mountains are blown apart to expose thin lines of coal, he is not willing to take on an industry that continually pollutes rivers and threatens public health. 'If you still have an Obama sticker on your car, maybe think about scraping it off and sending it to the White House with your objections,” says Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero, who is working hard to stop mountaintop removal in West Virginia and elsewhere...

When it comes to CO2 emissions, the EPA has also been more bark than bite. While admitting that greenhouse gases are a threat to human health, the agency will not necessarily move to regulate industry emissions. White House climate czar Carol Browner and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson initially said that such a declaration would 'indeed trigger the beginning of regulation of CO2,' but only weeks later Jackson reversed her belief that industry would be affected by the White House’s admission. Speaking before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Jackson said on May 12: 'The endangerment finding is a scientific finding mandated by law ... It does not mean regulation.'

Read the whole thing here.

(And by the by: a big FUCK YOU to the numerous Senate Democrats who voted to block spending on closing Guantanamo Bay. Jason Linkins on the HuffPo says it nicely: is nonsensical to be told by the grown-ups who preside in the House and Senate, as well as those who pundit for a living on the teevee that American prisons -- sufficient to house all manner of depraved criminals -- were not up to the task of also housing the terrorists currently at Gitmo. Apparently, these grown-ups are unaware of America's awesome and terrifying ability to incarcerate people while simultaneously possessed by the belief that these detainees have MAGIC POWERS. Last week, the House GOP crafted a dumb bill called the Keep Terrorists Out Of America Act, sculpted from pure angel feces. And this week, the Senate Democrats caved in to the nonsense, removing the funding that President Barack Obama requested in the war spending bill to close the prison.
Read his takedown of this moronitude here, where he also links to Jon Stewart's excellent takedown, where, "in just six minutes time, delivered what should be considered the most comprehensive mocking of this cavalcade of poor reasoning, bad decisions and unadulterated stupidity.")

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