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What Are Obama's Next Moves on Environment?

AP
Monday, 26 Jan 2009 | 1:05 PM ET
Global Warming
CNBC.com
Global Warming

President Barack Obama's decision Monday to reverse a pair of Bush administration environmental policies could be an sign of other decisions the new White House team could take to combat climate change.

Here are some moves the Obama administration could consider:

Give The EPA The Go-Ahead To Act On Global Warming:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the legal authority to act to curb global warming under the Clean Air Act, but did not do so while George W. Bush was president.

To set this in motion, the environment agency needs to find that climate change threatens human health and safety. EPA's own scientists recommended last year that this so-called endangerment finding be made, but the Bush administration rejected that recommendation.

Obama could ask that the scientists' recommendation be reconsidered, make the endangerment finding official and clear the way to establish controls on the greenhouse gases that spur climate change, including cutting industrial emissions and limiting pollution from new coal-fired power plants.

Cap Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Law:

As Congress considers various measures to stimulate the U.S. economy, Obama and his team could work with both parties to craft a comprehensive law to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

This kind of legislation has been debated on Capitol Hill for years but has never passed either house of Congress, though it came close to passing in the Senate last year.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Environment and Public Works committee, has pushed for such a law and can be expected to push for it again this year.

Set U.S. Alternative Energy Standards:

While 28 states now require power companies to produce some fraction of their energy from alternative sources, there has been no national U.S. standard.

Environmental activists have urged a national renewable electricity standard requiring utilities to make 25 percent of their electricity from solar, geothermal, wind or other sources.

Recognize Energy Efficiency's Climate Benefits:

The new administration could rewrite energy efficiency standards for household appliances to reflect the added benefit of curbing climate-warming emissions.

As it stands now, these standards are aimed only at using less oil. Encouraging clean energy more efficiency is considered the easiest way to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Increase Funding For Clean Energy Research:

Research into advanced batteries, energy efficient materials and other technologies could rise in the Obama administration, possibly funded by some economic stimulus money.

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