Zachary Coile | San Francisco Chronicle
Skeptics believed that the fiscal crisis would force Obama to put his plans to address global warming on the back burner. But in a videotaped speech to a climate summit co-hosted by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this month, Obama said, “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all. Delay is no longer an option.”
State officials hope that Obama will reverse a Bush administration decision and approve efforts by California and 16 other states to require automakers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2016. Obama has said he supports California’s position, but he’ll face pressure from U.S. automakers, who claim that the rules could further harm their chances of survival.
His first big task will be to pick the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator, who will face a series of key decisions on climate change. California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols is seen as a top contender, along with New Jersey’s Commissioner for Environmental Protection Lisa Jackson and Pennsylvania’s Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty, who chaired President Bill Clinton’s White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Obama could take some key first steps by executive order, for example, requiring an analysis of whether new federal projects would impact global warming. He told ABC’s Barbara Walters last week that he plans to take steps to “green” the White House to show the public it’s not difficult to make their homes more energy efficient.
He could also make a statement in his first budget proposal in February by including projections on revenues raised from a future cap and trade system that requires industry to buy credits to emit greenhouse gases. Bush made a similar move in his 2001 budget by assuming revenues from drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Obama could also include in his budget a plan to revoke tax breaks for oil companies and extend tax credits for wind and solar power.
Environmentalists are pressing Obama to order the EPA to begin regulating greenhouse gases under authority established by a Supreme Court ruling last year. California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, plans to push legislation to direct the EPA to set up a cap and trade program, which could add pressure on lawmakers to act on climate change legislation.