Absolutely. I believe Obama can, and intends to, make substantive policy moves in the direction of mitigating climate change. Although to date he hasn’t been tremendously successful–the 2009 Copenhagen climate change summit ended inconclusively, and the cap-and-trade bill passed by the House last year is now languishing in the Senate–but I think Obama’s momentum on environmental issues will pick up as his term goes on, especially now that he’s achieved a victory (of sorts) on the health care issue. Obama’s EPA has already begun taking steps to regulate greenhouse gases such as CO2 as pollutants covered under the Clean Air Act, a step that was resisted by previous Republican administrations. Most Democrats in Congress believe that climate change, conservation and better environmental stewardship are important issues. The Democrats have a sizable majority in the House of Representatives as well as the Senate, although you hear much about the Democratic Senate coalition lacking that 60th vote to overcome Republican filibuster attempts. Nevertheless, Democratic control of the federal government is stronger now than it was during Bill Clinton’s two terms, and I think Obama does have an opportunity to push environmental issues. In addition to moving on climate change I would like to see his administration put more wilderness under federal protection, revise and enhance the Endangered Species Act, and take the issue of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge off the table once and for all. On the economic front I’d like to see the federal government stimulate research and development in alternative fuel sources through tax credits and direct grants. The Obama administration has already begun moving in this direction and I think we will see it continue.
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