President Barack Obama called on Americans last week to renew the battle against climate change.
This line from his inaugural address garnered deserved attention: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
But pause the tape right there.
First, Obama in his four years as president already has taken several actions aimed at reducing carbon emissions, primarily through increased fuel efficiency rules for vehicles.
So the president hasn’t exactly been missing in action on this issue, although he did suffer a big failure in 2009 when Congress killed a loophole- filled bill designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Second, and looking forward, Obama’s mention of climate change — while a stirring call to action, saying we can do better than we are right now because the stakes are so high — offered no more details into how that happens.
It’s more of the same positive message he’s been preaching for years.
-The kansas City Star
For example, he wants to promote investments in wind power, which means it’s good the wind energy tax credit was extended for 2013.
But bumping up wind production — or the use of other renewables — won’t do much to quickly and dramatically reduce the harmful manmade emissions that help cause global warming and contribute to climate change.
The key — as environmental organizations, politicians and fossil fuel industries well know — is taking direct actions to cut into those emissions.
It can be done many ways.
Some utilities, such as Kansas City Power & Light, are going at the problem with a multi- pronged approach.
The utility has installed equipment
to slash emissions, has invested in wind power in Kansas and has promoted a few conservation programs.
But KCP&L, along with all other coal- powered utilities across the nation, will have to carefully watch how quickly and how strictly the nation’s clean air laws are enforced in the coming months by the Obama administration.
That’s because one of the best ways to reduce the emissions is to further ratchet down the limits on how much can be spewed into the air by power plants.
Obama faces a number of pivotal decisions in dealing with climate change.
Americans now will be focused on his State of the Union speech in mid-February, to see what kinds of policy changes and funding goals he might propose.
He tried and bombed on promoting a cap- and-trade measure in 2009.
The bill was designed to make businesses buy and sell permits to meet an overall goal of fewer emissions. But this complicated approach is too lenient on polluters and would take too long to work. Congress rejected it.
Instead, The Kansas City Star and some environmental groups favor imposition of a carbon tax or fee on fossil fuels, designed to encourage coal-fired plant operators to install more modern equipment.
But plenty of supporters — including some in the conservative ranks — say a carbon charge has a chance of being approved only if it’s revenue neutral.
One of the proposed ideas is to return the funds raised by the tax or fee to Americans through reduced payroll taxes. It’s an interesting idea to pursue if Obama goes for a carbon tax approach.
Finally, Obama will have to be more creative in working with the rest of the globe, especially the fast-growing countries of India and China, to trim their manmade emissions.
Climate change is a worldwide problem begging for worldwide solutions. Still, America should take the lead to charge in that direction.
-The Kansas City Star