Al-Hayat, Saudi Arabia
Obama’s Popularity Dwindles as Economic
and Environmental Promises Fall Flat
By Khalil Zaher
It is nonsense to think that the administration's use of executive powers to try to enact policies, or the increasing reliance on symbolic gestures, compensates in any way for the inability to get legislation passed in Congress.
Translated By David Marcus
30 June 2014
Edited by Gillian Palmer
Saudi Arabia - Al-Hayat - Original Article (Arabic)
Ambiguity in the Obama administration is not limited to foreign policy. It extends to a number of economic issues from Obama's campaign platform, which basically won him the election. We find it in his insisting that his policy entails big returns with low risks: an attempt to maintain contradictions. He wants America to remain a great nation but without bearing the responsibility and costs that come with it, as with the issue of harmful gas emissions, for instance. The impossibility of holding onto two contradictory aspirations has resulted in his reneging on much of what he promised to his voters and to the rest of the world. “Change” (which happened to be Obama's campaign slogan) means making tough decisions, which he just hasn't been prepared to do. It's no surprise that his popularity has waned, especially among independents, and thus his ability to get things passed in Congress grows weaker, even though at the start of his presidency he invited his Republican opponents to work together (reinforced by his keeping certain Republican officials in his cabinet, such as Robert Gates, defense secretary under President Bush, among others).
It is nonsense to think that the administration's use of executive powers to try to enact policies, or the increasing reliance on symbolic gestures, compensates in any way for the inability to get legislation passed in Congress. Such symbolic gestures are no indication that election promises have been fulfilled.
This kind of behavior manifests itself quite clearly in energy policies. Seeing that the administration can't seem to get anything passed at the federal level to limit greenhouse gas emissions, it has resorted to expanding its well-organized power to pollutants, including carbon dioxide emissions (although the label "pollutant" may not technically apply to this gas).
A report on climate change was published last month, prepared by over 300 experts from different departments, federal institutions and research centers (mostly belonging to the executive branch), to increase pressure on opponents of Obama's environmental agenda. The report linked climate changes to the environmental disasters North America has experienced over the last few years: hurricanes, floods, droughts and crop failure, resulting from increases in human-produced greenhouse gas emissions. The report's conclusions are in agreement with those of the fifth report from the United Nations' climate change team, also published at the beginning of the year.
As for the symbolic gestures, one of the more remarkable ones was the installation of solar panels on the roof of the White House last month. The administration has also put off making a decision on the "Keystone Pipeline," which seeks to transport oil sands from Alberta, Canada to the East Coast of the United States. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline so as to obstruct Canadian heavy oil production. Ironically, stopping the pipeline won't stop the production of Canadian oil, which will just be transported by trains or boats (alternative means may actually be more dangerous to the environment than using the pipeline).
But the federal government's policies remain limited in affecting overall development in the U.S. energy market, significantly due to the influence of local policies at the state level, which vary from state to state based on economic, social and political factors (especially the availability and variety of energy resources). There are, furthermore, different agendas and pressure groups behind each variety of energy sources. So if there is government support for a specific energy source, this translates into taking political action. Rarely do we find an energy resource in the U.S. market that does not have some kind of direct or indirect support from some entity. Those forces of pressure on local and federal policies, therefore, will play the biggest role in determining future trends in the energy market.
There are two main factors expected to shape the discussion and competition in the U.S. energy market, and to determine the path it will take in the coming years. First is the growing economic and strategic importance of shale gas and oil resources, as it has become the main reason behind the recoil in the costly and highly toxic coal industry. This has in effect weakened competition in the nuclear industry, which hopes to continue to be tied to the increasing worry over climate change and the development of safer and more cost-efficient technologies.
The second factor is the increasing concern over climate change and the economic and environmental effects thereof. These concerns have reinforced the basis for developing clean and renewable energies, which have witnessed fast growth. The concern over climate change has additionally supported in some way the development of nuclear energy. At the same time, it has contributed to the weakening of competition over fossil fuels, especially coal, while shale gas has become merely an unsustainable interim replacement for coal in the event that climate change worsens. But the major economic and strategic return for shale gas and oil resources will become a significant hurdle for drawing up a clear-cut strategy on the environment.http://watchingamerica.com/News/241607/obamas-popularity-dwindles-as-economic-and-environmental-promises-fall-flat/