We already know what the next big battleground in this fight will be: the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, it’s worth remembering, has the right — confirmed by the U.S Supreme Court — to regulate greenhouse gasses as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. That makes it both our next best hope… and the neoconservatives’ next target.
The stakes are high. The EPA has enormous capacity to create change, if the President were to direct it and act boldly. A recent study suggests that better Federal regulations on electricity generation, auto standards, landfills and appliances could spur a 22% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2030. That figure, however, almost certainly low-balls the Federal government’s total capacity to make change, especially if it ties in policies that impact land use and transportation (not just fuel standards for cars). A climate-focused EPA, backed by a clean energy and smart-growth focused Administration, might actually do significantly more to build a thriving bright green economy than a milquetoast climate bill.
That’s why the minions of coal, oil and car companies are already gunning for the EPA, and we can bet that we have yet to see the full force of their hate machine turned on the EPA and its allies. That’s why it’s absolutely critical that the EPA not only be lobbied and pressured, but defended.
I’ll have to look into Steffen’s numbers. The World Resources Institute published a report this week saying that if federal and state governments really tried, we could get part of the way toward the 17 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels Obama pledged in Copenhagen last December, and anything less than an ambitious push would bring us far short of that goal.
Here’s a handy chart:
Either way, Steffen’s strategy sounds like a good one: Celebrate the EPA.
There ought to be a nationwide effort to celebrate the EPA and tell memorable stories of its successes. That effort should include strategic communications work in the next few months, pitching magazines and TV shows that have long lead-times to cover the anniversary, and offering helpful resources for telling one of America’s greatest success stories. (One thing in particular that ought to be done immediately is gathering interviews with old-guard Republicans who helped create the EPA; getting it on the record that this was a bi-partisan achievement, and something Americans of all stripes can support.)
So let it be done.