President Barack Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, recently boasted that his boss will “go down in history as the greenest president we’ve ever had.”
Yes, cars, trucks, and buses will increasingly burn less fuel because of this White House. If the courts don’t spike the Clean Power Plan, our national electric grid will get cleaner. Solar panels are back on the White House roof, symbolizing the Obama administration’s faith in renewable energy.
But Earnest must be kidding. Just as cutting back from two packs of cigarettes a day to one pack won’t do away with your personally inflicted cancer risks, all Obama’s great steps toward a lower-carbon future won’t paint his legacy green.
Not when he’s also championed the construction of new nuclear reactors, supported heavy spending on failed so-called “clean” coal experiments, and embraced fracking for natural gas and oil. Along with wind and solar power, those dirty-energy mainstays form the core of Obama’s “all-of-the-above” policy.
Maybe you missed it with all the news about presidential campaign launches, but the Obama administration just formally began a 30-day review expected to greenlight Shell’s exploratory Arctic drilling north of Alaska. The government allotted merely 10 days for public comments, infuriating the Sierra Club and other environmentalists.
What’s the fuss? For one thing, this drilling would invite more accidents like the devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska. Besides, scientists say the best way to avert an irreversible climate disaster is to forgo burning at least 30 percent of the world’s oil. Denying Shell the opportunity to drill in the Chukchi Sea would mark a great step in that direction.
This contradictory move looks pretty clumsy, coming right after Earnest crowed about Obama being the Greenest. President. Ever.
Which brings me to Democratic frontrunner Hillary “Inevitable. Next. President.” Clinton.
The former first lady, senator, and secretary of state talks a good green game. “The science of climate change is unforgiving, no matter what the deniers may say,” she told the League of Conservation Voters in December.
That would sound greener if she had bold plans for ending America’s addiction to fossil fuels. They’re climate change’s main culprits, after all. Does Clinton support the Keystone XL pipeline, which her State Department endorsed? She won’t say.
And a lot of what Clinton does say about oil and gas dilutes her climate cred.
She’s also openly supportive of fracking both in the United States and abroad. And the fact that her family’s charitable foundation has accepted millions of dollars in donations from ExxonMobil, the Saudi government, and other oil interests bodes badly for anyone who wants her to clamp down on the practice.
Environmentalists are sick of Obama’s “all-of-the-above” stance. All that dirty-energy support can wipe out gains from his more planet-friendly policies. Yet don’t count on a wave of none-of-the-above votes in 2016 if Clinton gets nominated.
Republicans trend soot-black on energy issues.
Coal? GOP leaders love it. Oil? Drill, baby, drill. Fracking for natural gas? They’re rocking it. Nuclear reactors? The GOP covets them more uniformly than Democrats do.
The growing popularity and market share of wind and solar power in red and purple states is making some GOP hopefuls more open-minded about renewable energy than their peers.
But there’s no reason to expect whoever clinches the 2016 Republican nomination to go greener than Obama or Clinton. The crowd vying for that gig is openly courting Big Oil.
As the Rolling Stones song goes, they see the White House and they “want it painted black, black as night, black as coal.”