By all appearances, President Obama would love to work with Congress on energy issues and steps intended to combat the climate crisis. But so long as the legislative process has been brought to a halt, the White House has the ability to take some steps on its own.
In a speech this morning in Maryland, Obama took just such a step.
President Obama took another step to curb greenhouse gas pollution on Tuesday without waiting for Congress as he directed his administration to develop new regulations to reduce carbon emissions from the heavy-duty trucks that transport the nation’s goods.Appearing in a grocery chain truck bay in this Washington suburb, the president said the Transportation Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would draft new fuel economy standards for trucks by March 2015 so that they could be completed a year after that as he rushes to put in place a new regulatory structure before leaving office.
“[I]mproving gas mileage for these trucks are going to drive down our oil imports even further,” the president said. “That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses’ fuel costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers. So it’s not just a win-win, it’s a win-win-win.”
If the announcement seems vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s actually Obama’s second major initiative on this issue. In 2011, the administration established new fuel-efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, which take effect this year, and which are, as the New York Times reported, projected to “reduce carbon pollution by 270 million metric tons, or the equivalent of taking 56 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.”
Remember, none of this is subjected to congressional approval – there can be no filibuster or obstructionism; the policy is simply going forward thanks to executive-branch regulatory authority.
That said, Obama did remind Congress today that lawmakers can be a constructive partner on this issue.
From a White House report that was released to coincide with the president’s remarks:
In addition to taking executive action to make America more energy independent and cut carbon pollution, the President is also renewing his call for Congress to end subsidies to oil and gas companies and create an Energy Security Trust Fund to fund research and development for advanced vehicle technologies. And he is proposing to support investment in advanced vehicles and infrastructure through a new tax credit and an extension of tax credits to support cellulosic biofuels. […]In addition to urging Congress to repeal the $4 billion in subsidies that taxpayers provide the oil and gas industry each year, the President has called on Congress to establish an Energy Security Trust and enact reforms to promote diligent oil and gas development on federal lands. The Energy Security Trust proposal has broad bipartisan support, including retired admirals, generals and leading CEOs, and focuses on shifting our cars and trucks off oil. This $2 billion investment in a range of cost-effective technologies – like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, hydrogen, and domestically produced natural gas – will be drawn from revenues generated from federal oil and gas development. Establishing a dedicated source of funding will allow the Energy Department to maintain targeted and sustained investments that are catalytic and directly advance U.S. energy security.
The odds of these measures overcoming opposition from congressional Republicans is roughly zero, but I guess the White House figures it can’t hurt to ask.