Obama disappoints environmentalistsI give President Barack Obama’s Gulf oil disaster responses this week an A for effort but a C for efficacy. He is doing too little and coming too late to the party
By: Bonnie Erbe, The Dickinson Press
I give President Barack Obama’s Gulf oil disaster responses this week an A for effort but a C for efficacy. He is doing too little and coming too late to the party — the renewable energy party, that is. With his prime time speech and White House announcement of British Petroleum’s $20 billion cleanup fund, he’s doing something, but whether that’s enough is an entirely different question.
The president has disappointed so many of his constituencies there are almost too many groups to count. He’s disappointed labor unions that poured millions into his campaign coffers and delivered an army of volunteers to get him elected. More recently some of those unions poured money into the campaign coffers of a left-leaning Democrat who challenged — unsuccessfully — the president’s candidate for the Democratic Senate nomination in Arkansas.
He’s disappointed gay, lesbian and transgender advocates who saw in his candidacy a quick end to the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy and higher-profile appointments for openly gay officials.
He’s certainly disappointed pro-choice women with his compromise positions on abortion rights, particularly in this year’s major health care reform legislation.
But no interest group has suffered as much insult to its basic foundations since the president took office as the environmental lobby. Hopes were high from members of this crowd that they would finally have an enlightened supporter running the country. Yes, Obama has advocated for large amounts of federal funding for green jobs and renewable energy sources in historical terms. For that he deserves a terrific amount of credit. But he also supports nuclear power and his position-shift on offshore oil drilling coming just about a month before the Deepwater Horizon disaster is particularly unforgivable.
So on Wednesday night when he tried to put the blame for the disaster, in part at least, on Congress, on BP, on any target he could level in his site, on some level he must or should have had himself in mind
I am not unaware of America’s love affair with oil and gas. The realists among us understand it’s going to be decades before we as a nation are done with gas engines and oil heat. The transition is going to be costly and painful. But the alternative is an uninhabitable planet. Soon! The president’s stingy support for green energy in his originally proposed stimulus package prompted even Senate Democrats to speak out against him:
“‘Energy is way under-represented here in the package that has been discussed,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., after the meeting. ‘We need to do much more in reducing our dependence on foreign energy and that way lies enormous job creation for the country as well.”
The meeting came hours after Obama delivered an address in which he touted alternative energy development and energy efficiency as a major part of his effort to pull the country out of the economic crisis.
Obama caved in to Congress on the final stimulus package, which eventually included more than $27 billion in green energy funding and tax breaks.
But as long as the oil, gas and coal energy lobbies continue to hold considerable clout with the Obama White House, Americans will never see the amount of progress on this issue that we deserve.
— Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail her at bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com.