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It has become increasingly fashionable in liberal circles to credit President Barack Obama for doing all he possibly can to combat climate change. Praise reached especially dizzying levels in the aftermath of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposal of new rules to reduce carbon pollution from power plants this June.
The EPA plan is hard proof that our nation’s “environmental president” has “done everything within his power to fight the most urgent crisis of our time,” gushed New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait. Obama’s actions are “about as much as a president could do on climate change without Congress,” declared Slate’s Will Oremus. Even former President Jimmy Carter, never shy about launching the occasional barb at the White House, said as much at a recent energy conference in that most elite of hangouts, Aspen, Colorado.
One is free to bemoan the painfully slow rate of progress, the logic goes, but the blame lies squarely with Republican obstructionism.
The problem is that this is an awfully shortsighted (if not outright deceptive) way to measure Obama’s environmental legacy. It is no secret that major climate legislation—like a carbon tax—is dead on arrival in Congress, thanks to the pack of troglodytes controlling the House of Representatives. But as the president’s detractors and champions know all too well, some pretty significant environmental policy can be made directly by federal agencies. And on that front, the administration’s weak record speaks for itself.
Under Obama’s watch, coal exports have risen more than 50 percent. Federal officials have paved the way for oil and gas exports, too, rubberstamping massive liquefied natural gas export plant proposals and loosening the four-decades-old ban on crude oil exports. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which is in charge of administering public land, continues to lease millions of acres to coal companies at below-market rates.
But of the administration’s many climate sins—and there are many—one stands out in particular: ongoing tolerance, and even support, for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on public land. No other energy policy seems to so brashly defy climate science, popular will, and rudimentary political wisdom at the same time.
Oil and gas production is booming nationwide thanks to fracking, a drilling technique that involves injecting chemically infused water miles underground to crack open energy-rich shale rock formations.
“Fracking is opening up millions of acres of lands that were once not economically viable to produce oil and gas,” says Dan Chu, senior campaign director at the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America initiative, which opposes fossil fuel extraction on public land….[continue reading]
— by Cole Stangler writing for Vice