“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.”
-- President Obama in his second inaugural address.
Bowing to broad, bipartisan opposition to his global warming aims in Congress, President Obama has vowed to use regulators at the Environmental Protection Agency to clamp down on carbon emissions he says are causing natural disasters.
The president’s primary target is the nation’s largest source of electricity: coal-fired power plants that still produce more than 40 percent of the nation’s electricity.
And while the EPA may have been denied the authority to regulate global warming itself, the agency has offered up a host of regulations on other, non-climate-related emissions that would make burning coal even more expensive than the president’s preferred energy sources like solar and wind.
In a signal that he is serious about his aim of taking traditional, cheap energy sources off-line, the president will today nominate Gina McCarthy, the woman who wrote the controversial coal regulations as the head of the agency’s air regulation division, to lead the EPA.
Obama’s previous EPA boss, Lisa Jackson, pushed hard for the coal crackdown, championing the rules McCarthy crafted. But Jackson was generally an ineffective agency head, engaging in public clashes with those who environmentalists call climate change “deniers” (those who question the claim that mankind is substantially to blame for changes to the planet’s climate).
Jackson left under a cloud when it was revealed that she had been using a secret email account, but her “Richard Windsor” Gmails were really just the coda to an unsatisfactory run in which her agency (remember the guy who wanted to “crucify” those who violated EPA regulations?) lived up to many of the worst predictions of its detractors.
With McCarthy, Obama is not looking for new fights, but winning the ones that have been raging for years.
You will hear many times today that then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney tapped Bostonian McCarthy to devise his state’s global-warming policy. She is also credited for working with the corporations she regulates to ease transition into tighter government controls of their industries.
Her job is to get as much of Obama’s climate agenda in place as possible, wearing down resistance and leaving the president with some plausible legacy on environmental issues, always a top concern for liberals.
Before the Panic of 2008, many moderate Republicans, including Romney and that year’s GOP nominee, John McCain, were big on climate change. It was a good way to win admiration in blue states and establish some environmental bona fides with a Texas oilman in the White House.
But the intervening years were a disaster for the climate change movement.
The biggest problem for greens was that as the U.S. economy imploded and has subsequently limped along, Americans, previously willing to pay a little more to be environmentally righteous, tightened up.
Global warmist Republicans like Romney and McCain quickly abandoned their prior calls for quick action saying that, at most, higher costs for struggling industries should wait until after the economy fully recovered. Since we’re still waiting for that, Republican support has remained frozen.
On the geo-political front, Obama was hoping to get ratification of an international global warming treaty and the creation of a new U.N. based enforcement mechanism. He even flew to Copenhagen to try to do a deal with China to try to get the world’s biggest emitter of carbon to agree to restrictions.
The answer from China and other big emitters like India, Russia and Brazil was that they would be quite happy to let the U.S. suffer now with the promise that they would pay the price when they were no longer “emerging” nations.
Without China on board, Obama wasn’t able to get support, even in the supermajority Democratic Congress, for treaties or unilateral carbon caps. New Secretary of State John Kerry vows that he will get the U.S. on board with a U.N. climate treaty, but unless he can convince China, India, Russia and Brazil to hamstring their own economies, there won’t be any more chance of that now.
On the science front, the Obama era hasn’t been very good for the climate sector, either. And that’s aside from the discrediting of many of the most audacious claims popularized in former Vice President Al Gore’s climate books and movie (to say nothing of the man himself).
Just ahead of Obama’s trip to Copenhagen, a flood of leaked emails from the Climatic Research Center at East Anglia University, the mother lode of global warming research, showed not just serious questions about the assumptions of the movement but also the tactics employed by the climate establishment against “deniers.”
Given all this, Obama did not make global warming much of a big deal during his re-election campaign. His administration held back many of the EPA regulations ahead of the election and Obama, who once promised his plans would bankrupt coal-fired utilities spoke of the promise of clean coal.
The election over, it’s full steam ahead at the EPA.
The president faces a dilemma on the Keystone XL pipeline--opposed by environmentalists because it will drive down the price of gasoline for Americans, and, they believe, increasing global warming through increased consumption. The State Department brief on the project argues against this saying that the Canadian oil will be used regardless, but if Obama gives the project the green light it will rankle many who see global warming as the most critical issue facing mankind today.
While global warming as an issue may have crumbled, its adherents on the left are even more committed than they were before the debacle of the past four years. And Obama can’t convince congressional Democrats to risk their hides on more carbon fee votes, but he can serve the movement.
In McCarthy, a woman known as “Obama’s green quarterback” those environmental groups will have a powerful ally. While they may not like the idea of further U.S. complicity in carbon consumption through the Keystone project, if McCarthy can make her rules stick, the energy landscape will be permanently altered in the U.S.
By making carbon-based electricity prohibitively expensive through regulation, Obama and McCarthy could oversee the painful but permanent birth of high-priced but climate-conscious energy in America. Cheap coal plants, once closed, will not be reopened.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.