With the failure of cap and trade legislation during his first term, and increasing evidence about the severity of climate change, it is tempting to view President Obama’s administration as a lost opportunity. Jonathan Chait disagrees:
What has he done? He has done quite a bit, probably far more than you think, and not all of it advertised as climate legislation, or advertised as much of anything at all. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was many things—primarily, a desperate bid to shove money into enough Americans’ pockets to prevent another Great Depression—but one of them was a major piece of environmental reform. The law contained upwards of $90 billion in subsidies for green energy, which had a catalyzing effect on burgeoning industries. American wind-power generation has doubled, and solar power has increased more than six times over.
The administration has also carried out an ambitious program of regulation, having imposed or announced higher standards for gas mileage in cars, fuel cleanliness, energy efficiency in appliances, and emissions from new power plants. In aggregate, they amount to a major assault on climate change. Some environmentalists judge them to be insufficient—a fair critique—but many more Obama supporters aren’t even aware that they exist.
And while Congress will continue to fiddle while the planet heats, Chait points out that the biggest regulations to address climate change are likely yet to come.