Obama Retreats on Clean Air -- Surprised?

The White House announced today that it would retreat on its pledge to implement clean air rules, and will revisit the idea of healthy breathing in 2013.  The media has characterized the reaction from environmental groups as surprised and appalled.   However, looking at Obama's record--even his support for clean energy--shows he is following an "all of the above" policy that maximizes the exploitation of natural resources for profit.
  • Obama's Secretary of Energy this week signaled his tacit support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, carrying some of the dirtiest crude from tar sands in Canada straight to the United States. 
  • In August, The President approved the sale of oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, just over a year after the horrible BP oil spill there.  Those leases could produce more oil than the Keystone pipeline could carry in one year.
  • In March, Obama approved the sale of coal leases in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.  Four large tracts of land are expected to produce 758 million tons of mineable coal.
What's the point of the White House's investment in clean energy if its own policy also unleashes greenhouse gas emissions?   Take a closer look at the solar and wind projects Washington has supported and you'll notice that it's not about protecting natural resources, but clearing the way for industry.  The Secretary of Interior has pushed solar and wind energy projects and policies that will destroy thousands of square miles of public land--much of it pristine ecosystems and prized recreation areas.

Concerned citizens and environmental groups have urged the Obama administration to adopt a smarter path with clean energy, such as encouraging distributed generation (i.e. rooftop solar), or putting solar facilities on land that is already-disturbed.  Just last month three major environmental groups warned the administration to reconsider its support for a destructive 7 square mile solar facility.  The groups asked that the administration and solar company to consider using nearby fallow agricultural land instead. 

Washington is not getting the message.  Federal and State officials gathered in Las Vegas earlier this week to discuss clean energy investments and were dismissive of the ecological damage large scale solar and wind development can impose on our wildlands.  The White House has been quiet on distributed solar generation, the most efficient and least destructive form of clean energy.  The Federal Housing Finance Agency has been blocking property assessed clean energy (PACE), a vital program that would enable most homeowners to finance their own rooftop solar installations.

Even through all the smog, it's clear that the Obama administration does not respect nature.  On one hand it proudly announces its efforts to stem greenhouse gas emissions by bulldozing 10 square miles of pristine desert for a solar facility as if it should earn them an environmental badge of honor.  The next press release from Washington announces plans to open up the same amount of land to produce millions of tons of coal.   Obama's environmental credentials should not be measured by his support for clean energy.

Americans need a clean environment just as they need good jobs, and Obama is certainly a smart enough President to meet the challenge of governance in this regard.  This President is capable of bringing complicated issues to the public, and infusing policy with ingenuity.  If Obama cared, he would be leading the country in a way that balances economy and the environment.  His "all of the above" approach, however, just does not reflect any interest in taking that wiser path. 

Just like its position on coal and oil, the White House is taking the "all of the above" approach with solar and wind energy, instead of charting a bolder and more sustainable path with distributed generation or facilities on already-disturbed land.  This administration is stuck in an old energy paradigm that requires massive destruction of natural resources to meet human needs, even when clean energy technology now makes it possible to leave that behind.  The map above shows proposals for massive wind and solar facilities on public land (in red) for Arizona and California.  Projects in Nevada have not yet been added to this map. Click on image to view in higher resolution.


  1. This guy has NO backbone and I'm a registered Democrat! It's disgusting who he has flip-flopped on some major issues, including the environment. SOS = same old @#it. Money talks and it's the big corporations who are now running (RUINING) our country.

  2. Shaun, this is disappointing news. Failure to regulate air pollution will ultimately hinder, not help, meaningful job growth. Here is a political cartoon I drew about this issue. http://t.co/FyAJXQH


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