As part of a post arguing (correctly) that Obama’s environmental record has, on balance, been excellent, Jon Chait has some links to people assuming that the regulations issued today would never come:
The lingering conclusion that Obama simply did not care about the environment made many of my fellow liberals doubt that Obama would ever take such a risky step. “I think this has the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell of actually happening, but don’t let anyone tell you Obama has no options,” wrote Matthew Yglesias. The failure of the EPA to immediately produce regulations prompted Joe Romm to conclude Obama was “delaying action.” When Obama’s budget did not include power plant regulations — which are not a budgetary item — Ryan Lizza wrote, “Nothing in his new budget follows through on that promise. And if that doesn’t, what will?” in a column headlined, “Has Obama Already Given Up on Climate Change.”
As Chait implies earlier, I assume this ultimately baseless pessimism has essentially Green Laternist roots. To some people, the fact that climate change legislation didn’t pass can be taken as ipso facto evidence that Obama didn’t really want it to pass. At any rate, we can now presumably proceed to an argument that the standards are inadequate, which you can bet will mostly ignore the Anthony Kennedy’s veto power over them.
Meanwhile, Ezra Klein, while (again, correctly) noting that the regulations are “probably at the outer limit of what can be done,” argues that there’s some basis for optimism in that they’re less ambitious than what Republicans nominally favored a few years ago:
The power plant regulations the Obama administration will announce today are far less ambitious than the proposal McCain offered in Oregon in 2008. They’re less ambitious than the proposals Newt Gingrich championed through the Aughts. They’re far less than what’s required to keep the rise in temperatures to two degrees Celsius.
But they’re probably at the outer limit of what can be done so long as the Republican Party refuses to even believe in climate change, much less work with the Obama administration on a bill. The good news, if there is any, is that the Republican Party hasn’t always refused to believe in climate change. There was even a time when its key national leaders were committed to doing something about it. Those leaders are still around today. They could still do something about it today.
I think the problem here is the word “committed.” Given Republican control of the government from 2001-06, plus (on this issue) a Congress that would have worked with Republicans on climate change in 2007-8, we can have a very good idea of what Republican elites actually favored on climate change. Their actually policy preference on climate change, like their policy preference for health care reform, is “worse than nothing.” The record of the Republican Congress on climate change under George W. Bush was terrible, as was the record of George W. Bush’s EPA. There is less than no chance that a McCain or Romney administration would have issued anything like these regulations. The fact that the McCain campaign pretended to favor some good climate change action and the fact that a notably uninfluential Republican buffoon favored some decent policy proposals while the Republicans who actually governed the country were making things worse is really neither here nor there, and it’s hard to imagine this changing anytime soon.