President Obama is preparing a major policy push on climate change, including, for the first time, limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants, as well as expanded renewable energy development on public lands and an accelerated effort on energy efficiency in buildings and equipment, senior officials said Wednesday.
Heather Zichal, the White House coordinator for energy and climate change, said the president would announce the new policy initiatives in the coming weeks. Another official said a presidential address outlining the new policy could come as early as next week. [...]
Ms. Zichal suggested…that a central part of the administration’s approach to dealing with climate change would be to use the authority given to the Environmental Protection Agency to address climate-altering pollutants from power plants under the Clean Air Act. She said that none of the initiatives being considered by the administration required legislative action or new financing from Congress…
Kevin Drum is cautiously optimistic that this could mean Obama is serious about making this a key focus of his second term, and adds:
The EPA can actually do a fair amount if it decides to. And Republicans know it: it’s one of the reasons they’ve held up the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head up the EPA. This announcement is likely to turn up the heat in that battle another notch or two.
That will also turn up the heat in the expected battle over whether Dems will revisit rules reform. McCarthy is one of the three key nominees (along with Obama’s picks for Labor Secretary and head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) that Dems have demanded Republicans stop obstructing, lest they exercise the nuclear option and do away with the filibuster on nominations by simple majority. This figures into the battle over rules reform in another way, too. The push to curb emissions on existing power plants — a key pillar of Obama’s climate change agenda — will likely be fought over bitterly in court. The arena will be the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Obama is pushing three judicial nominations that Republicans are also threatening to blockade.
The mere fact that Obama will be talking about climate change more is alone a good thing. Climate change tends to get woefully little coverage on the news networks, and as Jonathan Bernstein has pointed out, the way to change this is for public officials to talk about it. This is particularly true of presidents; it was also good that Obama described climate change in urgent terms – as the “global threat of our time” – in his speech in Berlin today.
The downside, of course, is that more presidential focus on the issue will draw out the climate deniers in Congress and lead to more grandstanding from them. (Which won’t exactly do wonders for that ongoing GOP makeover.) Of course, maybe increased attention to it will smoke out a few of the more reality-based Republicans and get them to drop their reluctance to call out the climate “skeptics” in their ranks. One can hope, anyway.
At any rate, note that the White House is heading into this in the full expectation that the GOP will mount a wall of opposition to everything and that the only way headway will be made is via executive action. That will up the hysteria quotient significantly, but so be it.