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Obama’s Greenhouse Gas Plans Face Challenges in Court

President Obama took office back in 2008 with a clear mandate. The voters spoke loudly and clearly about their desires, and he was adamant that his administration would follow through. One of the cornerstones of his presidency, according to his address to the country given during both his first and second inaugurations, would be a movement towards environmental improvements and green energy initiatives. Although he seemed adamant about the lofty goals and the ideals he wanted to bring to the forefront of the American political conversation, very few practical changes have been made. President Obama has since tried several times to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But this week his efforts met a new sort of roadblock, and he may end up battling for these resolutions in the court system.

The President has seen a real dearth of support for any plans to curb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Congress, despite the fact that the nation’s scientists almost universally acknowledge that these gases are directly contributing to global warming and the climate changes that are poised to cause real problems for mankind. Obama is going to propose enforcing a carbon dioxide output limit on all current power plants, nudging the country’s electric suppliers towards the renewable energy options of solar and wind power and away from coal. For some reference, burning gas to create power ends up generating around half the carbon dioxide of burning coal, with a similar resulting output.

Whether Obama’s initiatives become law will depend on how the courts interpret his Clean Air Act. The way it is written provides the President’s administration with the ability to curb greenhouse gases. Back in 2007, the Supreme Court qualified carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and that classification put it in the crosshairs of the Clean Air Act. Even though that shift has yet to create any real changes in policy, business organizations are already rallying together, promising to battle any additional regulations against emissions with the courts. According to a statement from the National Association of Manufacturers, any climate policies should be in the hands of Congress, working in conjunction with other countries. If the President attempts to do anything, they will file a suit.

Environmental groups are firmly on Obama’s side. The President outlined a plan that goes much farther than curbing greenhouse gases. His goal is to increase the production of renewable energy on land owned by the government, and to offer incentives for people across the country to embrace a higher level of energy efficiency. According to a supporter at the World Resources Institute, Obama’s future legacy may well be determined by his success or failure on environmental issues.

So how will these new regulations impact people on a daily basis? The Environmental Protection Agency has not yet been consulted, and that may be part of the problem. If a detailed program isn’t laid out, with clear action items that can be standardized and translated into policy, it may remain a political issue without any real power to impact climate issues. After all, the EPA laid out a proposed set of limitations on emissions last year and saw their suggestion met with nothing but animosity from the business community. States are trying to enact their own changes, and efforts you’ll see in Vermont law are leading the way there. But for a real and lasting impact to be felt, new policies on the federal level will have to be realized.

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