In our last blog post, we discussed some of U.S. president Obama’s most important environmental achievements. While the president has accomplished much over the past five years, not all has gone according to plan. This post will look at Obama and his administration’s most notable environmental policy failures.
Despite the president’s many achievements on climate change, Obama and his team have been heavily criticized for not being more vocal on the issue. Many activists argue that he has failed to use his platform to educate the American public on the importance of the issue. This silence is in part, as critics argue, a capitulation to Republican opposition. Whatever the cause, the U.S. has no national climate change policy.
Failures in other areas have compounded his critic’s views that his environmental policy has been too soft and has been, to a certain extent, overpowered by Republican resistance. Despite initially delaying a bill drafted by the Bush administration that would allow drilling off the U.S. coast, the president eventually reversed his stance and allowed oil companies to continue with these operations.Obama has also signaled several times that, although he opposes the Keystone pipeline, he does not have the power to stop it from going ahead.
Rather than complete failures in policy, some of these examples can be partially seen as a purposeful political strategy. They demonstrate that Obama has accepted that some issues are currently too contentious to be handled without political caution. In the case of climate change, by keeping the issue relatively low profile, Obama has been able to stealthily implement modest but successful policies. However, there is no doubt that opposition from the Republican party has led directly to the failure of various policies and the watering-down of Obama’s overall environmental plan.
One of Obama’s most significant environmental defeats was the failure of the 2009 cap-and-trade bill (entitled the “American Clean Energy and Security Act”), to make it through the Senate. In his first term, the president may have lacked the political will to push more aggressively for legislation such as this; however, there are signs that he may opt for a more assertive approach to environmental policy in his final three years in office.