The great climate shell game, or Obama’s climate policy

I frequently find myself feeling somewhat schizophrenic in the world of the American media. I will be looking at a reality which has very clear features (to me), and I will find it being nearly universally described as something very different.

Case in point is the EPA’s announcement today of CO2 regulations for existing power plants. I am reading about this great action being taken to address climate change, and I don’t see it. Instead, what I see is an elaborate shell game being played by the Obama Administration, the non-profits and the media.

Now, let me be clear: Regulation of CO2 from existing power plants could be the centerpiece of an important suite of policies to address Climate Change, if combined with other measures, like, say, honest and tough regulation of methane (CH4). And it wouldn’t be the most strategic approach, or the most effective, but it could help get the job done.

And that seems to be what many people believe, or at least want the rest of us to believe.

Maybe my problem here is that I have too much context, as I have been watching what the Obama Administration has been doing vis-a-vis energy and Climate Change for too long now. I’ve seen the switch from coal to gas, and I’ve seen the great fanfare about the alleged emissions reductions (hint: if you’re reading an article that cites Breakthrough Institute, it’s likely to not be credible).

I’ve watched “All-of-the-Above” being touted as a strategy, when in fact it is not. As Jonathan Silver (formerly of the DOE) has pointed out, strategies require choices. I’ve watched “All-of-the-Above” be substituted for a real energy policy, and be used as cover for a massive expansion of natural gas, which is becoming the mono-fuel for electricity and heat in whole regions.

And I’ve watched fracking fill those pipelines.

I’ve also read the science that says that CH4 is 34x as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2 on a 100-year time frame and at least 86x on a 20-year timeframe. I’ve watched the EPA use lower numbers than these, which are from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). I’ve watched the EPA give its estimates of methane leakage, and I’ve watched repeated other studies show that the EPA’s estimates are far(1) too(2) low(3).

And I’ve watched the media miss most of this, and fail to ask the hard questions, just as damn near every publication seemed to miss that these EPA regs predict an expansion of natural gas (see page 14).


Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson must be having a good laugh right now over his cigars and caviar. Because no one benefits from Obama’s energy policy as much as the oil and gas oligarchs, the descendants of Standard Oil. “Drill, baby, drill” was too coarse. “All-of-the-Above” is so much more sophisticated, so much more clever.

And it amounts to the same thing.

Which is why it is funny that the Republicans are having such a big fuss about these regulations. It’s like a play – everyone lines up to play their parts. And the whole manufactured debate reinforces the idea that something real is going on.

If we were serious about emissions reductions we would do what Europe is doing. We would move to renewables, double down on energy efficiency and conservation and build the grid infrastructure we need to make all of this possible.

Instead, we are playing shell games with our children’s future.

Count me out of the victory party.

(As a side note, there is one non-profit that appears to not be falling for the ruse. Much credit goes to Friends of the Earth for their honesty and insight.)


One comment

  1. […] new. EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases under the Obama Administration has been historic, but in the details it has also been pretty much gutless. This has not stopped the American right from pillorying Obama and the EPA for federal overreach, […]

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