Obama's leadership on climate change

Now that President-elect Barack Obama's energy and environment team is complete, the message he's sending is loud and clear: The vacuum of U.S. leadership on climate change will be filled. His nominees share his goal of reducing carbon emissions and developing the next generation of energy production that will reduce this nation's dependence on fossil fuels. More important, they generally reflect the pragmatic approach to governing that Mr. Obama appears to be crafting with his Cabinet picks overall.

What Mr. Obama wants to accomplish is well known and would be a radical change in approach from the Bush administration's. Carbon dioxide would be declared a dangerous pollutant to be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. California would get the EPA waiver it was denied last year to implement its stringent tailpipe emissions standards. And the United States would institute a cap-and-trade system that would put a price on carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a declining allotment of pollution allowances. Mr. Obama has said his goal is to reduce U.S. emissions to the level of 1990 by 2020 — an ambitious target, though one that falls short of recent commitments by European countries.

Steven Chu, the Nobel physics laureate who has been nominated as energy secretary, heads the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which focuses on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Lisa Jackson was chosen to be the next administrator of the EPA. She had been the chief of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection and is credited with helping pass the state's Global Warming Response Act (its goal is an 80 percent reduction in the 2006 level of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050). Nancy Sutley will bring her years of experience at the EPA and the California State Water Resources Control Board and as an energy adviser to then-Gov. Gray Davis, D, to bear as the chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality . Carol M. Browner, EPA administrator under President Bill Clinton, will coordinate the administration's energy, environment and climate change policy from the White House. (Question: Isn't this what the Council on Environmental Quality is supposed to do?) Rounding out this team are Sen. Ken Salazar, Colo., and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who were tapped this week as the next interior and agriculture secretaries, respectively.

We understand some of the rumblings from industry still smarting over Ms. Browner's aggressive and successful efforts to push through clean-air rules while she was at the EPA. Getting buy-in from all sectors for the tough decisions that are to come to address global warming may require a softer touch. For Mr. Obama himself, the biggest challenge will be addressing climate change while not stifling the growth that will be needed to pull the United States out of its economic pit.

— The Associated Press

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