Does he have a good team? Yes, probably, depending on your point of view. “Best team possible?” I doubt it. Shortly after he was elected, Barack Obama announced the creation of his team for environmental issues, which included Stephen Chu, a Nobel prize winner, as Energy Secretary and Lisa Jackson, former head of New Jersey’s environmental agency as EPA chief. He did not include officials from any of the energy industries, as the Bush Administration had done. Obama’s picks were widely hailed as signaling a clear shift from the Bush years, where the White House was criticized for having its head in the sand on issues such as climate change. How good is Obama’s team in practice? Well, they couldn’t get a meaningful deal out of the Copenhagen summit, but whose fault that is depends on who you ask. While I’m sure Obama would like to have the very best scientific, engineering and regulatory minds working in his White House on environmental policy, he’s got a lot of other things on his plate, such as the rescue of a still-stalling economy which is the #1 concern in the mind of voters. In pure theory I suppose Obama could seek to assemble the world’s greatest “dream team” of environmental minds, but he’d have to get them confirmed to the right posts and also explain to the public why giving this “dream team” such priority is appropriate given the other concerns he’s asked to deal with as US president. Would such a “dream team” look different than the one he’s got? Probably, though I don’t think it’s productive to speculate on who he might have chosen other than the people he did pick. Certainly one could make an argument that appointing Al Gore as some sort of “climate change czar” would be an important and influential move, but it would also be one that would enrage Obama’s critics on the right, many of whom are on record as believing that climate change is a hoax, and it would also raise the question of whether such a high-profile “czar” would really be a loyal servant to the policies Obama wants to further, or whether he might pursue his own interests where they might diverge from the President’s. So, as you see, it’s a tricky business.
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