In the first two years of his term, President Obama fought a number of pitched battles with Congress, from healthcare reform to financial regulation reform. He won more than he lost, but one issue on which he lost spectacularly was his quest to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gasses through a cap-and-trade system. Republicans were unified in their opposition to what they called a "job-killing cap-and-trade program," and even many Democrats were skeptical; a bill never even came up for a vote. Now the President has seemingly decided to keep fighting but on a new battle field, as the Obama Environmental Protection Agency on January 2nd officially declared greenhouse gasses “subject to regulation” under the Clean Air Act. Without comprehensive climate legislation from Congress, the EPA is going it alone, which among other things means that new power plants and refineries will be forced to install technologies to curb their carbon emissions. The strategy is sure to result in lengthy court battles — can President Obama get away with it?
Robert Stavins, director, Environment, & Natural Resources Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club