‘Alive’ America: Obama’s carbon neutrality plan doesn’t have a chance in this climate and oil market

Last week President Barack Obama issued a presidential climate order calling for the US government to become carbon neutral by 2050. Environmental nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Lobby sent a letter to the White House on July 28 urging it to further emphasize that goal in Trump’s administration, asking it to call for U.S. cuts in carbon emissions in conjunction with China.

The Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a group that has spent years lobbying on behalf of an aggressive carbon emission reduction plan, also has called for a U.S. emissions reduction target of 70 percent by 2050 to set the stage for climate actions in coming years. A past report on CCL’s website explains that a goal like this would be “limited by the size of the fossil fuel reserves currently available.”

Some White House staffers are already saying that this goal is impossible. For example, John Podesta, a former Obama White House adviser, said during a July 25 appearance on CNN that Trump’s oil and gas bans make it a “pretty formidable target” for an aggressive energy plan. And it’s easy to say, “hard,” and pose major budget and staff difficulties, but tough means something different when you are talking about forcing the private sector to come to you with specific changes to change that direction.

The question everyone should be asking is whether the public is already prepared to drive that change?

President Obama, along with President Xi Jinping of China, agreed to create a U.S.-China carbon reduction plan that would reduce both countries’ respective emissions. It seems that President Obama and Prime Minister Modi of India (and a host of other world leaders) don’t mind that many of the production companies of North America–which account for most of the U.S. manufacturing–want to invest their natural resources, their industrial capacity, and their labor force into areas that will allow them to take advantage of cheaper fossil fuels–which just happen to be those producing the commodities that are the worst environmental offenders.

That’s not to say that environmentalism alone is a sufficient defense against such trends. Again, just because you made a decision, that’s not to say that someone else had to follow up with his or her own greenhouse gases. “The culprit here is market forces and the desperate need for industrial growth,” said Matthew Jay, former director of fossil fuels for the Environment Protection Agency under the George W. Bush administration, at the Council on Foreign Relations earlier this month. “Efforts to reduce CO2 emissions are the result of a desperate need for these growth opportunities.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s limits on carbon emissions in vehicles offer a far better opportunity to show the world–and these U.S. stakeholders–what a real alternative to unbridled fossil fuel dominance looks like. Such regulations would bring everyone onto the road to become more energy efficient, lessen our reliance on imported foreign fuels, and thus reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. The best proof of such efficiency would not only prove that those changes are feasible, but also allow the auto industry to claim some real market victories.

Simply, if we can stop adding new gasoline and diesel engines to the planet–at least until such technology can come to a standards around which the oil and gas and industrial lobbies can build in subsidies–that will provide a lifeline to our competing industries by demonstrating that we can do it without turning over the heavy lifting to others. By 2030, as more and more of these industries adopt green technologies (and make economies of scale), China and India will no longer be dragging their feet, while the U.S. still is able to help the rest of the planet become, in President Obama’s words, “alive.”

Mik Willis is a freelance reporter and editor.

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