Tomorrow night, the President will deliver State of the Union address. This is his chance to lay out his policy plans and tell Americans what he’d like to accomplish with the rest of his term.
In the speech, we can probably expect Obama to continue to try to reach out to the Republicans to urge them yet again to work with him. But given that Congress is plagued by Republican leadership that can’t govern and won’t work together, we should also expect the President to go over their heads–directly to the American people–when they refuse to do their jobs.
One real opportunity to get around the record-breaking obstructionism is on climate change, which is something Obama has been wanting to address since he was first elected.
The Natural Resource Defense Council has a proposal out there that is now being cited as a blueprint Obama can use. Basically, the NRDC plan outlines how the Environmental Protection Agency can use its existing authority to reduce carbon pollution.
The fact that his can be done without Congress is big. This is a body whose failure and obstructionism is so insidious that only 23% Americans say they view its members favorably in recent polls.
The EPA can use its existing powers to work with states to set new carbon pollution standards under existing authority in the Clean Air Act. This will cut existing power plant emissions 26 percent by 2020.
As the New York Times explains:
Now there is a broad expectation that [Obama] will follow up his first big use of the E.P.A.’s powers to rein in emissions — proposed rules last year for new power plants — with a plan to crack down on emissions from existing power plants.
According to estimates from the Natural Resources Defense Council, emissions from current coal-fired plants could be reduced by more than 25 percent by 2020, yielding large health and environmental benefits at relatively low cost. Such an approach would allow Mr. Obama to fulfill his 2009 pledge to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions by about 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, the group says. ‘There’s a really big opportunity, perhaps bigger than most people realize,’ said Dan Lashof, director of the N.R.D.C.’s climate and clean air program.
The plan is simple: reducing industrial CO2 pollution from the biggest source–electricity-generating power plants. In the US these plants put out about 40 percent of the nation’s total emissions.
To be sure, the EPA has taken important first steps by setting standards that will cut the carbon pollution from cars. They’ve also proposed standards to limit pollution from new power plants. But the EPA has yet to tackle the CO2 pollution from hundreds of existing fossil-fueled power plants in the United States.
You can watch the SOTU Tuesday, February 12 at 7 p.m. MST.