The jury is still out on this one. After President Obama’s February State of the Union address, I still can’t figure out whether Obama’s drastic environmental plans are leading to the better future he promises or just one that is a little “less bad” than the one that could have happened if Mitt Romney had been elected? I mean…

I got it

After all, Obama did call climate change a FACT. So, there is no disputing that the POTUS believes in the reality of climate change and his two dogs prove he’s an animal lover but, where and when he plans on taking action to protect animals and the future of our planet gets a little fuzzy.

I got it

He does promise another year of action! But am I alone in feeling a little like I did when I heard Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction for the weather about this coming year of “action?” Are we out of the dark winter months of fossil fuels or can we expect to see a clean energy spring?

Only time will tell whether Obama’s environmental politics are enough to reverse the destruction wrought by the Bush era and make real positive change. But until then, here are some things to keep in mind about what our fearless leader has done so far, whether it is enough is up to you!

Fossil Fuels

The official slogan of the Obama Administration’s energy website reads:

“We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” – President Barack Obama, March 15, 2012

While what we have seen from Obama doesn’t exactly “trap” us in the past, I don’t think we are being launched into a truly sustainable future any time soon…

Here’s what we’ve seen so far:

  • During the February State of the Union Address, Obama made clear he was willing to “cut the red tape” in states to allow for the expansion of natural gas exploration and new natural gas plants. His goal to get America off foreign oil is apparent and he seems to be on board with the natural gas as a “bridge” fuel to lower carbon emissions and energy independence, this is a slippery slope. Not to mention natural gas doesn’t just appear out of thin air, most of America’s natural gas comes from fracking.
  • Oh…and there is STILL NO ruling on the Keystone XL Pipeline! Obama has successfully delayed the pipeline but since the State Department’s final environmental impact assessment found that the pipeline would “be unlikely to alter greenhouse gas emissions,” (I’M SORRY WHAT?!) the ball is now in Obama’s court.
  • In 2009, the Memorandum of Understanding called federal agencies into action to minimize the adverse environmental and health impacts of mountaintop coal mining — it’s a nice gesture, I guess.
  • On a positive note, during the State of the Union, he also nods to the rise of solar power in the U.S. and plans to reinvest over $4 billion from fossil fuels to alternative energy. According to the White House website, since Obama’s first term the use of solar, wind, and geothermal energy has doubled across the country.
  • The Obama Administration aims to achieve a 54.5 mile per gallon fuel standard for all American cars by the year 2025. This standard doubles the current standards for cars and would make a real difference in our carbon outputs.

Conservation

  • National Oceans Council — President Obama has promised an ongoing policy of stewardship to the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes. To do so, the National Oceans Council has implemented a plan including measures on marine planning, commercial fishing, aquaculture and agriculture, as well as sections on offshore oil and gas and shipping ports. While the council aims to forge cohesive policies for management of oceans, lakes and coastlines, there are a lot of competing interests at play making for a long haul until real change is seen.
  • Omnibus Public Land Management Act & America’s Great Outdoors Initiative — Supporting these two pieces of legislation, Obama has helped to conserve over two million acres of forest and miles of rivers. These also work to restore landscapes and provide “green” jobs for Americans.
  • Restoring Treasured American Ecosystems — the Obama administration has established task forces to conserve and protect the Gulf of Mexico, California’s Bay Delta, the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, and Everglades. While these are positive steps, the proof is in the pudding…

Animal Rights Policy

The Humane Society give the Obama Administration a B- for their Animal Protection efforts. Overall, this is a pretty good ranking, the country isn’t failing but a B- is still mediocre…

  • Obama’s 2014 budget includes more funding for chimpanzee sanctuaries to accelerate the transfer of government-owned chimps in labs to safer, healthier environments.
  • His administration’s budget also proposes more money for the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. More funding to the Animal Welfare Act would support legislation that would close loopholes that had previously allowed puppy mill operators to sell cats and dogs online scotch-free. The Horse Protection Act defunds inspections of horse slaughter plants. This would prevent federal workers from being placed in slaughter plants to certify horse meat for sale (gross), effectively barring the opening of plants that have been closed since 2007.
  • The Department of the Interior shut down President Bush’s amendment to the Endangered Species Act which would have done away with a consultation requirement. By revoking this clause, National Wildlife and Marine services must be consulted before any action that would effect endangered species is taken.
  • In 2010, more than 187,000 square miles of land were designated as critical habitat to protect polar bears.
  • Progress has been made to protect captive and farm animals, but there is still a long way to go on these issues.

What You Can Do To Help

You still have power to influence Obama’s policies on animals and the environment for the next two years.  If there is an issue you are passionate about, check out these links and tell the President what you think!

Image source: Center for American Progress Action Fund / Wikipedia Commons