This week, Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced that she will leave her post. Jackson began her tenure under the president’s first administration with high hopes and a sharp focus on addressing climate change in a meaningful way. However, to her dismay, many of her efforts were stalled by opponents of the administration’s policies and even the White House. One large proposal the EPA put forth to limit climate-change emissions was rejected by President Barack Obama, who argued that the new regulations would be too expensive for the industry and the market to bear. However, he did tell the EPA that he would revisit the proposed rules in the year 2013. Happy New Year!
So, what might we expect from Obama in 2013, and beyond? Obama claims an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, of which those policies and practices only appear to be strengthening. For example, the president has been a fierce advocate of renewable energy. He has called for the extension of the wind energy production tax credit. On federal lands, the Obama administration has approved 24 wind, solar, and geothermal projects, giving them an energy capacity of close to 13,750 megawatts, according to the Department of Energy. This growth of renewable electric power generation, however, is placing enormous pressure on an aging electrical grid system that is facing more reliability concerns. These challenges were realized recently following Hurricane Sandy. Renewable energy is no doubt going to remain a key focus for Obama.
Industry advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling allowed Obama some cover during the presidential debates, citing historic highs in domestic production of energy. But, the president has not halted efforts or proposals to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, and the EPA is currently conducting a study about the impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water. So this topic, too, will remain an important one in the federal spotlight.
Generally, Obama has favored strengthening regulation through existing law, instead of new law. No doubt, a strategy he has opted for after the cap-and-trade bill, which would have limited climate change emissions, stalled in the U.S. Senate.
So, in 2013, we have a president who faces enormous energy challenges if he continues to push an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy forward. They include large increases in domestic production of energy, a growing but small renewable electric generation arena that is threatened by lack of congressional action, a country that remains one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, and an aging electrical grid system desperately need of updates.