How Barack Obama stands on the environment is a topic among activists and policy makers that generates much debate. Like anything surrounding modern politics, the answer is more complicated than it would appear on the surface. Environmental issues have been at the forefront of almost every Presidential administration since Theodore Roosevelt, who arguably was the first to introduce conservation into civic discourse.
Since Roosevelt's time, many political leaders have shown the topic lip service rather than achieve any substantial progress. Activists and governmental leaders have been continually pushing Barack Obama to put action behind words on the most critical of environmental issues. The largest problem has been getting the public to support such efforts. Since the issue is so complex, those who do not have a working familiarity with the issues and how they effect everyday life often do not have an appreciation for the seriousness of the problem.
Generally, there are two different models for addressing environmental concerns. There is the model that dictates corporations are best equipped to handle the issue through research and self-policing of the industries which are causing it and the other states that an outside entity, like the federal government, is best suited to address the issues through strong regulation and enforcement. The later model is best illustrated by the current President, Barack Obama.
President Barack Obama, both during his campaign and throughout his term in office, has taken a far more activist approach to the environment. Upon taking office, he called for a $150 billion investment in green technology to be spent over the span of 10 years that would have a two-fold effect: begin to roll back the causes of the environmental problems and establish the beginnings of a job program centered on clean technology to replace the base of manufacturing jobs that the United States has lost due to economic conditions and rampant outsourcing. His goal at the start of his Presidency was to create five million new jobs with these programs. His idea was the solution could address major problems comprehensively rather than a piecemeal approach his political rivals had been suggesting.
As part of this new initiative, a program would be established that would attack the environmental crisis on several fronts. One of those fronts would be to actively reduce the amount of greenhouse emissions as well as simultaneously provide incentives to develop new green technologies and strengthen those already in the first stages of growth.
The idea is to attack the environmental problem from a variety of angles. For instance, Barack Obama's administration provides consumers of hybrid cars tax credits to make the purchase more affordable and encourage more people to buy them, which in turn helps the struggling auto industry. Tax credits are also provided for those companies investing funds to further develop biofuels and alternatives like ethanol, which is a corn-based fuel source. Alternatively, companies developing resources to expand the use and availability of solar and wind power are also receiving tax credits from the government so they can continue their research with the goal of creating sources of energy that are both renewable and can be produced within the country, making the United States far less dependent on foreign sources of oil.
The pinnacle of the plan is an initiative called Cap and Trade. The plan, which enjoys the support of environmentalists across the country, has met with limited success in Congress until recently. Barack Obama's administration has endorsed the plan which would roll back the creation of pollutants to the level they were in 1990 over the span of the next 40 years. This would be accomplished by capping the current levels of pollution and making corporations who exceed them pay a fine until they take the necessary steps to address the problem. Corporations which manage to come under the limit would be able to sell off the remaining balance to other companies at a profit to themselves, which provide a financial incentive for companies to comply with the programs goals.
Most environmentalists acknowledge that the damage done will take decades to repair, but have expressed some measure of hopefulness that the current model of approaching the crisis, led by Barack Obama, will likely benefit all.
Posted on: Jun. 16, 2010