How Much Has Changed?
|June 3, 2009||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
How Much Has Changed?
Obama Administration Deals Series of Anti-Environmental Blows
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Perhaps we need to focus less on personality and more on economic justice, a social good we could achieve via geonomics. This 2009 article was posted on AlterNet, May 29. Writer St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon and Born Under a Bad Sky. Writer Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland.
By Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank
With little more than 100 days in office, the Democrats, under the leadership of President Barack Obama, have unleashed a slew of anti-environmental policies:
Earlier this spring, the delisting of the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes and parts of the northern Rockies, which was announced during the waning days of the Bush era, was upheld by Obama. About 200 packs of wolves live in the northern Rocky Mountains today. But only 95 of these packs are led by breeding pairs, which is less than half of what most biologists consider to be a healthy number in order to fend off imminent decline and long-term genetic problems for the species.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced they were revoking an 11th-hour Bush directive that weakened the ESA listing process. However, then the Department of the Interior refused to repeal a special rule that would have granted the polar bear protection from the impacts of global warming. Many believe the ESA could be used to limit the issuing of permits for development projects that would threaten the polar bear by emitting additional greenhouse gases.
EPA administrator Lisa Jackson called greenhouse gases a threat to human health but only weeks later said: “The endangerment finding is a scientific finding mandated by law. … It does not mean regulation.”
Obama proposes reducing U.S. emissions by putting a price on carbon. “[Cap-and-trade] programs have so many leaks, trap doors, and perverse side effects that they’ll probably do more harm than good,” says Ted Nace, director of CoalSwarm.
“The illusion that a solution is in place will then prevent simpler, more focused solutions from being implemented. An example of this phenomenon is the sulfur trading system. Proponents of cap-and-trade point to it as proof that pollution markets work, but decades after the program went into place, coal plants continue to spew inordinate amounts of sulfur dioxide,” says Nace.
Last week, Obama announced standards to force carmakers (if there are any left five years from now, when the rules are slated to finally kick in) to curb carbon-dioxide emissions by 35 percent and hike fuel efficiency standards from 30 to 35 miles per gallon. However, the plan endorses a national emissions standard, which will likely pre-empt states, such as California, from adopting even more stringent clean air rules.
As the clock approached midnight for the Bush administration, his Interior Department put forward a rule opening 300 million acres of coastal waters to oil drilling. Instead of killing the drilling plan outright, Salazar merely extended the analysis period for six months.
To replace oil, the Obama administration pushes biofuels, which will push marginal agriculture lands into production of genetically engineered and pesticide-saturated monocrops, scalping topsoil and draining dwindling water supplies across the Great Plains and Midwest.
Industrial agriculture and the bioengineering industry want to chop down national forests and burn the public’s trees inside a new generation of biomass power generators. Biomass booster Homer Lee Wilkes, picked to be Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, would control the U.S. Forest Service.
The coal-extraction industry was given the green light to proceed with 42 of its 48 pending mountaintop-removal permits. While Obama speaks out about the negative impact of blowing up mountains to expose thin lines of coal, he is not taking on an industry that pollutes rivers and threatens public health. “If you still have an Obama sticker on your car, maybe think about scraping it off and sending it to the White House with your objections,” says Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero.
Obama’s boldest decision was zero funding for the planned nuclear-waste repository at the sacred Yucca Mountain. This vault on earthquake-prone lands of the Western Shoshone near Las Vegas was long meant to be the escape hatch for the nuclear industry’s most aggravating problem: where to hide the accumulating piles of radioactive material from the nation’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors.
Still, Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Obama’s chief science adviser, John Holdren, are pushing for federal subsidies for a new generation of nuclear power plants — even though Obama has admitted there’s no safe place to store nuclear waste. Holdren also hawks fusion energy — billions more for the nuclear lobby under the guise of research and development. The pipeline of federal subsidies has kept the industry alive since Three Mile Island.
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