On one hand, The Hill reported Thursday, “White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said a renewable-electricity standard could be an area of bipartisan energy cooperation now that President Obama has backed away from politically moribund bills to cap greenhouse-gas emissions.” On the other, The Wall Street Journal reported a day earlier, “President Obama’s top advisers recommended cutting off funding for a federal loan-guarantee program meant to spur the construction of wind and solar farms and other alternative energy projects, saying taxpayer dollars might be better spent elsewhere.”
On EnergyNow, a new weekly news show funded by the American Clean Skies Foundation (which is, in turn, partly supported by the Chesapeake Energy Corporation, a natural gas producer), Grist’s David Robert’s argued that, “The bipartisan energy options now being discussed aren’t a different way of accomplishing the same goals as comprehensive climate/energy legislation - ‘other ways to skin the cat,’ as Obama called them — but an abandonment of those goals.”
That perspective might be a little extreme, but one indication that the White House’s new energy agenda might be more capitulation than the compromise is the fact that “Obama’s enthusiasm for gas drilling [has raised] eyebrows.” The president’s “newfound interest in expanded natural gas drilling [on Wednesday] surprised many on all sides of the drilling debate, from environmentalists to drillers and even the coal industry,” Greenwire reported. Drilling groups were pleasantly surprised by Obama’s change of tack, of course, but that doesn’t mean Republicans will be prepared to make any concessions in the other direction.
Another Greenwire article pointed out that the country could just as easily see more confrontation as compromise. Indeed, stories from The Washington Post to the San Antonio Express have reminded readers that the GOP is poised to launch major investigations into climate science and thwart the Environmental Protection Agency’s Supreme Court-mandated ability to regulate greenhouse gases as air pollutants. For that reason, perhaps, by Friday morning many news roundups (from the likes of Politico and the Society of Environmental Journalists) had started to focus on who will lead important House committees with jurisdiction over energy policy. But the future of climate legislation is neither the public nor the media’s only concern.
Elsewhere in Environmental Policy News
Thankfully, reporters have not focused exclusively on energy. Other interesting pieces since have explored the election’s likely impacts on basic scientific research (including financing for R&D), on transportation policy (including the future of high-speed rail), on agricultural policy, and on West Virginia’s coal industry.
Indeed, the days after the election have seen a surge of media interest in policies and regulations related to the environment. As always, E&E Publishing (producer of Greenwire and ClimateWire) has been the most prolific, churning out article after article under its “Campaign 2010” tag. Grist has also been producing a lot of copy, if you don’t mind a little bit of advocacy journalism. The Hill’s energy and environment blog, E2 Wire, is another great source of analysis on the environmental ramifications of the elction, as is Politico, if one searches for stories by either Darren Samuelsohn or Robin Bravender. The news department of the journal Science has been turning out great work under it’s “Election 2010” tag. And the Society of Environmental Journalists has been rounding up articles under its “Environmental Politics” tag.
Exploring these links, it doesn’t take long to see that where energy and environmental policies and regulations are concerned, the next two years are likely to exhibit a stark tension between a hesitant, restricted federal government and assertive states that vary widely in terms of their aspirations. One can only hope that the press does not fall prey to indifference, as it did in the months leading up to Election Day, and continues to remain as engaged on energy and the environment as it has been in the days since.