In a season of a high-profile Supreme Court nomination, economic stimulus, and early health care negotiations, why are we hearing so little about the Obama administration's environmental and energy policy?
The answer may lie in Obama's use of terms like "clean coal," "carbon capture and storage," and "cap and trade" that imply more a gesture of environmentalism rather than a full-scale energy revolution. In recent weeks, Obama has deferred to House Democrats to craft a climate change bill that creates the first carbon emissions trading system loosely modeled on EU energy policy. The plan though, in giving away 85% of carbon trade permits to industry for free, sets far more modest goals than the EU system for reducing carbon emissions.
Obama has been even more quiet about a $2.4 billion rollout this month of "clean coal" investments designed to reduce the environmental impact of coal-powered energy. Environmentalists like Al Gore mock the very idea of clean coal power, but similar programs are being implemented in the EU and China as economic stimulus measures.
Even as energy policy takes a back-seat to other administration priorities, there is still pressure to move quickly on new programs. Obama has promised to raise substantial revenue from carbon emissions trading to help pay for expenses like universal health care. Also, there is hope that Obama will sign on to global energy standards this December in Copenhagen to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which previous U.S. administrations never implemented.
Watch the Global Pulse episode on "clean coal" policy here.