Why Obama Could Lose The Green Vote
Environmentalists across the country are disappointed since Obama's big jobs speech two weeks ago. According to Bill McKibben, an avid environmental author and activist, Obama has not lived up to the pledges he made in 2008. Now green voters are getting restless.
A major criticism is that Obama's jobs plan makes no mention of green jobs. Former Vice President Al Gore has said that many economists agree that employment associated with green technology would greatly benefit the US economy. However the president failed to mention any such jobs.
This has led to activism. In an email, McKibben said protests at the White House a few weeks ago led to 1,253 arrests, the biggest act of civil disobedience in environmental activist history.
Students at the University of Delaware staged a demonstration to get the attention of Vice President Joe Biden, who was visiting the campus at the time. Not to let their voices go unheard, "rallies have greeted President Obama at every single public appearance he's made since Labor Day," McKibben said.
Many of these events have been spearheaded by environmentalists from Tar Sands Action, a group aimed at convincing the President to deny the building of a major oil pipeline this December.
Ironically, Obama's decision to delay re-visiting current smog standards from the Bush Era (another target of criticism) poses a threat to human health, according to Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters. In a controversial move a few weeks ago, the President ordered the EPA to put a halt on toughening the smog standards previously deemed "inadequate".
While the President did say that a review is set to take place in 2013, the consequences of waiting are not minimal. According to the American Lung Association, implementing more adequate regulations would avoid over ten thousand deaths a year. Indeed, studies have shown that smog is related to bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory problems. The South Coast Air Quality Management District lists athletes and children as some of the most vulnerable.
In addition to public health concerns, many argue that re-visiting the smog standard could remedy the green jobs criticism. McKibben explains that reforming the inadequate smog standards has the potential to create those green jobs environmentalists are pushing for. Big businesses, he says, have the kind of money that could be putting people to work on designing new plans and building new equipment to improve the air we breathe.
With scientific data, economy studies, and an election campaign on the horizon, one wonders why the President doesn't find these issues more timely. McKibben believes immense pressure from big businesses is a major factor. Implementing new regulations now would be a "burden" to corporate polluters.
In an inescapable paradox, it seems whatever the President chooses is bound to leave one area of the population dissatisfied. The question then remains, will Obama persuade green voters to give him another chance? Optimists say he still has a bit of time.
Reach Ela Bernal here.