In President Obama’s third address in five days, the president on Tuesday took on climate change, proposing new federal regulations to curb greenhouse gas pollution. Obama says the regulations on large, diesel-based trucks will be signed by executive order, forgoing Congressional approval to limit carbon emissions.
In a Washington suburb, Obama stood before constituents and said that the Transportation Department and Environmental Protection Agency would come together to draft a new fuel economy standard by 2015 for trucks and transportation vehicles. It is estimated that the regulations will help reduce the equivalent of 56 million passenger vehicles on the road.
“It’s not just a win-win; it’s a win-win-win. We got three wins,” said Obama, talking about how the new regulations will not only help cut carbon pollution and business’ fuel costs, but also help ease the burden on prices for consumers.
Large corporations and the like have lobbied against the proposed plan of action, saying the increase in economy standards will only transfer burden to the companies that use these trucks and in the end “diminish safety.”
Obama insists that the EPA and the Transportation Department will take into consideration the concerns of large businesses.
Carbon emissions from transportation, according to the EPA, is the second largest source of greenhouse gas pollution. America stands as the world’s leader in greenhouse gas pollution, putting out 25% of the world’s carbon emissions with only 5% of its population.
Being the car country that America is, millions of tons of greenhouse gases are emitted into the air each year. Countries in Europe, where public transportation is much more common and more accessible, see a radical difference in the amount of carbon emissions their country’s populations produce. Also, cheaper gas prices in America, where the average price for a gallon of gas is less than $4.00, has helped promote a private vehicle-oriented society. In England, the average price of gas is triple the price of a gallon of gas in America for almost half the amount (one liter).
Environmentalists who have been on Obama’s case about climate change are thrilled at the announcement, saying that the president is finally making good on his word to take on the issue of climate change. Activists say that while this is a move in the right direction, other proposals such as the Keystone XL pipeline concern them, and that Obama should prevent its construction from taking place.
Observers say that Obama’s proposal to reduce oil consumption by almost one million barrels a day by 2035 would actually cancel out the entire capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Still, activists say exchanging one reduction of gas emissions for the increase of others leaves the country at square one, with a lot of movement but no action taken against climate change.
Lawmakers say that Obama’s move to push the proposal through without congressional approval snubs their efforts at reflecting the American public’s desires. Observers say that Obama is within his executive authority to do so, following the signing of the 1970 Clean Air Act, which allows the EPA to regulate “pollutants” that harm human health. Carbon dioxide falls under the pollutant list, giving Obama and the EPA the authority to regulate it without congressional oversight.
Nonetheless, Obama’s move to take on climate change has environmentalists excited for an administration that wants to do something substantive about the issue.
by John Amaruso