After eight years of disappointment, frustration and legal wrangling with the Bush administration, environmental groups think Barack Obama could be the nation's greenest president.
In a short video addressed to the attendees of the Global Climate Summit, a 2-day event arranged by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, President-elect Obama emphasized his enthusiasm for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland and promised that his administration would mark a "new chapter in American leadership on climate change."
More than 600 climate change leaders from across the country and around the world convened in Los Angeles to attend the Summit arranged by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On issues as varied as climate change, toxic chemicals and the Great Lakes, Obama promotes an ambitious agenda that would advance green initiatives and reverse polluter-friendly rules and executive orders from President Bush and his aides.
Unlike Al Gore, who wrote a best-selling book about the environment but rarely mentioned the subject when he ran for president, Obama often embraced green issues on the campaign trail and has continued to do so since becoming president-elect.
Some of his promises could be muted by the troubled economy. But for months Obama's transition team has been quietly studying new environmental policies that could be adopted quickly, as well as Clinton-era initiatives that could be revived.
Obama also has pledged to listen more closely to scientific advisers and environmental experts, whose advice the Bush administration frequently ignored or overruled, putting politics and ignorance before better living through scientific inquiry.
"I think we are in store for something new," said William Reilly, who led the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under President George H.W. Bush. "His pledge to follow the science will be reassuring to a lot of people, including those who fear the regulators are going to run amok."
One of the new president's first actions likely will be to reverse the Bush administration's decision to block California and 17 other states from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from cars and trucks. The initiative would force automakers to build more fuel-sipping vehicles and is seen as a major step toward weaning the nation off imported oil.
Reversing Bush's policy also could create momentum for Obama's proposal to cap emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, and let power plants, factories and other polluters trade the right to emit within the limit.
"Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all," Obama told the governors. "Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high; the consequences too serious."
Under the first President Bush, Reilly oversaw the creation of a similar system, known as cap-and-trade, that significantly reduced acid rain pollution from power plants. The current president vowed during his 2000 campaign to set up a trading scheme for carbon dioxide but reneged after taking office.
"We've suffered through an administration that wasn't smart about using green energy to kick-start the economy," said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago. "But the president-elect knows that retooling the auto industry and creating more green jobs is good for the economy and good for the environment."
In addition to addressing the dire needs of our environment for the environment’s sake, there is a “silver lining” in the taking action at this time. That is what Tom Friedman has called “the next great challenge and the next great opportunity for America.”
The Green Economy! There is an incalculable amount of opportunities to develop and implement technologies to rehabilitate our planet, to its original pristine state.
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