One reason I supported President Obama is because he said we must protect clean air, water and lands. But what good is it to say the right thing unless you act on it?Since early August, three administration decisions — on Arctic drilling, the Keystone XL pipeline and the ozone that causes smog — have all favored dirty industry over public health and a clean environment. Like so many others, I’m beginning to wonder just where the man stands.
What’s going on here?
In all three cases, the administration’s decisions have come in the face of a withering industry lobbying campaign based on the usual mix of fear mongering and lies.
With our economy staggering and unemployment at 9.1 percent, some of the biggest corporate polluters in the country and their allies in Congress are suddenly talking about jobs.
Lobbyists from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other powerful corporate interests have spent the summer pressuring the White House to kick new smog standards down the road. If we have to clean up the mess we make, they say, we won’t hire any new workers.
Really? American companies can’t hire workers unless they’re allowed to make our air so dirty our people get sick, miss work and die? That’s nonsense. Companies hire workers to fill orders for their products and services. Cleaning up after themselves is a cost of doing business, and it’s a necessary cost. This isn’t about jobs; it’s about profits.
The fact is, federal safeguards for public health, worker safety and our environment generated up to $655 billion in measurable economic benefits over just the past decade, at a cost to industry of $62 billion — at most — according to the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Even on a strict economic analysis, in other words, the national benefits of federal safeguards outweigh costs by more than 10 to 1. Read the report for yourself.
President Obama has done a lot to protect public health and our environment. He’s championed clean-energy investments, high-speed rail and cuts in the carbon emissions that are warming our planet. He’s promoted efficiency gains in home and commercial appliances that will save us all billions of dollars each year. And the agreement he reached earlier this summer on vehicle gas mileage goals will cut our oil use by a breathtaking three million barrels a day by 2030.
Those are all positive steps and strong.
But we have to keep moving forward. This is no time to turn back from the progress we need.
I have to believe that President Obama still knows it’s important to protect clean air, water and lands. Like so many, I’m waiting for him to stand up for all that. I’m waiting for him to stand up for our future. But we can’t wait forever.