For environmentalists the world over, hopes and dreams are riding on President Obama's second term. See, his record on the environment wasn't particularly stellar over the last four years. Despite improving fuel economy standards, the president failed to win comprehensive climate change legislation (though the Waxman-Markey bill did pass the House). He also canceled planned standards for ozone pollution and watched as his power-plant emissions standards got thrown out by the courts on more or less a technicality. That's not so green, man.
However, in his inaugural address, President Obama spoke in broad terms about how now is the time to address global climate change, “knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Though tonight's address is likely to focus on jobs, expect the president to tie renewable energy into that plan – he's already supported tax credits for wind and solar energy manufacturers, in addition to his admittedly un-renewable increases in oil and gas production.
On the other hand, I wouldn't expect Obama to call for sweeping legislative reforms, as was tried in his first term. Instead, the president is playing President Bush's favorite “I'm the decider” card, and will use his broad executive powers to enforce environmental regulation, avoiding the endless GOP “job-killer” accusations and filibusters that have stymied his previous efforts. Besides, the White House is already spreading it's political capital pretty thin right now – guns, immigration, debt and deficit. That's a pretty diversified portfolio, if you ask me.
I hope I'm wrong, but once again, it seems like climate will be left on the political back burner tonight.
Here's a prediction for President Obama's State of the Union Address, which will be at 9 PM tonight. For commentary as it unfolds, follow my live blog here.
Again, I'll be making live updates as the speech unfolds, with particular analysis on energy and the environment. Check it out here!