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Yes he can

Written By: - Date published: 10:45 am, December 9th, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: Environment, International - Tags: ,

burning-earth-smallIn America the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just ruled that greenhouse gases “threaten the public health and welfare of the American people”, and that they are pollutants that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Ho hum, so what? Quite the opposite. It isn’t clearly spelled out in much of the media coverage, but this is a real game changer.

What it means is that Obama no longer needs the approval of Congress to take action to reduce greenhouse emissions. Only Congress can enact new legislation (or Senate can ratify a treaty from Copenhagen), but as a result of this move Obama can take action under already existing legislation. He can make binding commitments at Copenhagen whether Congress / Senate like it or not:

The uncertainty of Senate action on climate has restricted the President’s ability to make firm commitments. But now the President can clearly say, I have the legal authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even if the Senate refuses to get its act together.

This is very smart politics from Obama. And I can’t imagine that he has arranged to untie his hands like this unless he damn well means to use them. Obama can now commit America to meaningful emission cuts, and show the real leadership that the world so desperately needs at Copenhagen. Gordon Brown is pushing for Europe to commit to 30% by 2020 (we need 40% Gordon!). Is this the turning point? For myself I can’t believe it until it happens. But if Obama does lead something significant at Copenhagen then he will have earned his Nobel Peace Prize, his place in history, and the thanks of us all.

[Hat Tip Sign On. Just when I’d given up on Obama too!]

Update: Since writing this last night my brief flash of optimism has faded to black. What a mess.  Once again the rich nations of the world are conspiring to screw the poor.  This could wreck the conference.

15 comments on “Yes he can ”

  1. Scribe 1

    Yep, this was a great way for Obama to circumnavigate the checks and balances put in place by those pesky Founding Fathers.

    Bravo, Mr President.

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      Don’t be stupid scribe. He is granted the powers to do this under legislation the Congress legitimately passed.

      If they don’t like what he does with that legislation, guess what Congress has the power to do?

    • r0b 1.2

      Yep, this was a great way for Obama to circumnavigate the checks and balances put in place by those pesky Founding Fathers

      So where were you Scribe when the Bush administration gutted the Constitution? Patriot Act any one?

      American democracy is an empty shell owned by big money. Checks and balances have become tools to strangle any reform agenda. If Obama has a legal mechanism for smashing the logjam then I say good for him.

      • Scribe 1.2.1


        I was critical of that, too, in answer to your question. I supported the Act, but not the method of implementation.

        What did you think of how the Patriot Act was implemented? Based on your comment above — If Obama has a legal mechanism for smashing the logjam then I say good for him — you mustn’t have had a problem with it.

        Or is the use of such legal mechanisms dependent on your agreement with the policy it’s enabling?

        captcha: authoritys — no spellcheck on captcha?

        • r0b

          I supported the Act, but not the method of implementation.

          You supported an unconstitutional Act? An Act with crucial provisions that were against the law? You now have a bit of a credibility problem when appealing to legal distinctions.

          The method of implementation sucked big time. But as far as I recall it wasn’t technically illegal. Just immoral, dirty and stupid (much like our current government’s abuse of urgency – do you have a problem with that too?). I supported neither the Act (illegal) nor its method of implementation (dirty).

          Obama’s use of the EPA is not in the same ballpark. Arguably the EPA is doing (for once) exactly what it was set up to do. The fact that it bypasses political logjams happens to be a bonus that yes, I thoroughly approve of.

  2. Bill 2

    There’s some fishy Orwellian bollox going on here.

    According to The Story of Cap and Trade, a Supreme Court ruling in April gave the EPA the power to regulate major greenhouse gasses. The EPA was also apparently gutted…. market solutions being favoured over legislation or regulations

    Anyway, this is December. The ruling was in April. Not breaking news…just propaganda.

  3. NickS 3

    Took the EPA bloody long enough.

    And the “Danish text” is frankly pathetic, for it seems the Danish, UK and USA negotiators have failed to realise that they need to act in good faith with the developing nations, otherwise Copenhagen is not going to get very far.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Yep, the Danish Text effectively removes any possibility of agreement if the rich countries try to keep it in any shape or form.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    I agree with James Hansen that an ETS is a stupid idea.


    • Bill 4.1

      ETS are far worse than merely stupid.

      In Europe it failed. Emissions increased and consumer costs skyrocketed.

      The trade aspect is a rort. Plain and simple.

      Again, the cartoon linked in my previous comment outlines a couple of the more obvious trading scams associated with the offsets of ‘Cap and Trade’.

      Why will people not face the simple reality that we can have either capitalism or a future and act accordingly?

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1

        Because their representatives are owned by the capitalists and they’re fed a lot of misinformation through the MSM. They don’t yet realise that that’s pretty much the options available.

  5. TightyRighty 5

    While i do not like Obama, I applaud him for doing something that will most likely be politically unpalatable in America. It shows guts and courage to stand against the electorate. I don’t like what he is doing, but respect his belief that what he is doing is right. good on him. if only our leaders here showed a bit more courage to make changes.

    • Lanthanide 5.1

      Unfortunately this is exactly the sort of thing that the ignorant masses get worked up about – see the Palin Supporters video from a few days ago. Almost everything they talked about was completely groundless and fabricated, but when Obama goes and actually does something along the lines of what they were talking about, it’s really going to drive the right-wing propagandists into overdrive.

  6. I have faith in Obama.

    He will do the right thing.

  7. FYI.. the US EPA is in effect the US environment standards setter.

    It’s recent top official announcement (Lisa Jackson) gives practise and process implementation powers to the Supreme Court ruling (was it back in 2007) that carbon dioxide is an atmospheric pollutant.

    As an atmospheric pollutant this waste gas has been deemed after significant studies conducted for the EPA, harmful to health.

    An immediate importance of this is what state and federal judicial process can now render unto polluters.. as for instance in a Louisiana community’s (Kivalina I seem to recall) allegations on industrial CO2 emitters(and other GHG gasses, as SO2 from coal) harming health and livelihood etc in their communities.

    A further question you might consider is why is the US Chamber of Commerce currently so very concerned for its members about likely legal actions centered on the law of tort. That is, polluters need now answer or evade the legal consequences of their polluting ways.

    Else smarten up their act. Or, in several major coal-fired energy plants, close down.

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