President Warms to Climate Change

In an historic inaugural speech yesterday, President Obama addressed the issue of climate change. The 18-minute speech not only mentioned the reality of climate change and thus, the energy issue, but stressed its impact on the future:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.

Yet he devoted little time to the issue of global warming in his re-election campaign. So why now? Perhaps he considers it a realistic second-term priority. He failed in his first term to win passage of important legislation to lessen greenhouse gas emissions. It appears that this time around, the President plans to focus on what the administration can accomplish to reduce power plant emissions, increase home appliance efficiency, capitalize on the country's increased production of natural gas, and have the federal government produce less carbon pollution.

Despite the lack of solid legislation in 2010 that would have capped carbon emissions and issued tradable permits, emissions have decreased about 10 percent since Obama assumed office. But, the Obama administration made some fairly significant energy and climate changes during his first term: the stimulus contained $90 billion for various green technologies; fuel-economy standards were moved to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025; and the EPA began regulating carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act.

We are hoping, at the very least, that in the second term, the President will fulfill his 2009 promise to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.