Was Barack Obama's First Year a Breath of Fresh Air?


Photo via UFOBC

This will be news to no one: some have soured on Barack Obama. The list of his missed opportunities and non-accomplishments thus far irks his supporters and gives ammunition to his enemies. But before we all get too disappointed, it's worth remembering that he actually accomplished a lot his first year, too. For every not-so-abolished Don't Ask Don't Tell law, there's a promising national auto emissions standard, for each not-closed-yet Guantanamo, there's an EPA mobilizing to regulate greenhouse gases. Here are some of his best accomplishments of 2009.According to David Weiss from the Center for American Progress, Obama has truly been a breath of fresh air. Historical, even. So here are some excerpts from his must-read article on the progress Obama has made on the green front:

1. Wish they all could be California cars

President Obama announced an agreement with California, the auto companies, and the United Auto Workers to establish the first-ever greenhouse gas limits for motor vehicles. The plan would increase fuel economy standards by one-third by 2016, which would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. It would also cut greenhouse gas pollution by nearly 1 billion metric tons, which is equivalent to removing 177 million cars from the road. The plan should be final in March 2010.
Indeed--this will likely go down as one of Obama's best and greenest moves in hindsight.

2. Global warming is a real and present danger

The Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to require greenhouse gas reductions from power plants and other sources. But first the EPA has to make an "endangerment finding" that global warming poses a threat to Americans' health and safety. Despite a recommendation from EPA scientists to do so, the Bush administration refused. Under President Obama, EPA followed the science and the law by making the endangerment finding on December 7, 2009.
Another huge move--this one will also put pressure on Congress to get its act together and pass climate legislation before the EPA moves to regulate this coming March.

3. Green stimulus and recovery

As the economic hurricane gathered force last winter CAP recommended that any recovery plan include $100 billion for clean-energy programs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, which became law on February 17, 2009, includes $70 billion for clean-energy investments in the Weatherization Assistance Program, energy- efficiency in government buildings, states' efficiency and renewable energy programs, public transit, high-speed rail, advanced battery research, and other programs. ARRA also includes $20 billion in clean-energy tax incentives for residential efficiency measures, wind and solar power, and super-efficient cars. The New York Times called this program "the largest energy bill ever passed."
Green stimulus is good. More like this, please.

4. Mercury falling

EPA reached a settlement in the lawsuit that led to the mercury rule's rejection, which would require it to propose mercury limits by March 16, 2011, and finalize the limits by November 16, 2011. Power plants would have to meet plant specific mercury reductions.
Bush put these regulations on the backburner or flat out ignored them--Obama didn't.

The piece continues, and is indeed worth reading--especially if you're in need of a dose of optimism to rekindle your faith in a leader that seems to have offered only diminishing returns. Let's not forget that Obama's done a hell of a lot, too. Enough to consider him a breath of fresh air? You'll have to decide for yourself.

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