President Obama’s first four years saw him attempt to say yes to everything on climate and energy – yes to both the right policy choice AND the political pander. Tougher fuel efficiency standards and new air pollution limits? Yes! The fastest expansion of oil drilling in U.S. history? Yes!
This all-of-the-above strategy has been a failure – instead, we’ve gotten the worst of all worlds. More risky drilling than ever? Gas prices near record highs? Price tag for climate-fueled weather disasters hitting $188 billion? Yes, yes and yes!
Tonight, I hope President Obama continues his inaugural theme of making good choices and smart investments. He needs to keep saying yes to clean energy investment and yes to carbon emissions continuing to go down while economic recovery continues its upward track.
But President Obama also needs to start saying no – no to America serving as the middleman for dirty, expensive Canadian tar sands. No to unlimited, untracked methane emissions from gas fracking. No to unlimited carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants.
The good news for President Obama is that making those hard choices is politically popular. Today’s Washington Post poll finds more than half of voters support action on climate change, with just a third of voters in opposition. Climate-fueled extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy have shifted the center – climate action is now a clear political winner.
Now that’s worth saying yes to.