“But now even Europe seems to be hitting its environmentalist limits,” said the Times. Instead of still more “aggressive climate regulation,” the European Union on Wednesday proposed scrapping the “binding national targets for renewable energy production after 2020,” substituting “an overall European goal that is likely to be much harder to enforce.”
The push for tougher regulations ran into countervailing forces of “high energy costs, declining industrial competitiveness and a recognition that the economy is unlikely to rebound strongly any time soon.” The Union got a wake-up message from businesses warning that tougher regulations could threaten a faltering economic recovery with a jobless rate of almost 11 percent. Germany unhappily finds itself facing rising energy costs with its plan to move from nuclear power and push alternative energy sources.
The EU’s European Commission also backed away from proposing legislation on environmental damage and safety for shale gas extraction by fracking. Officials denied the retreat meant less commitment to climate-change efforts, said the Times, but simply “reflected the complicated reality of bringing the 28 countries of the (EU) together behind a policy.” It was noted Europe “pressed ahead on other fronts,” including a 40 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2030 — doubling the existing 20 percent target by 2020.
Of course, the retreat by the EU drew withering fire from environmentalist groups with Friends of the Earth blasting the proposals as “off the radar of what climate science tells us to do in Europe to avoid climate catastrophe.”
So what, if anything, will the European development mean for President Obama’s push for more aggressive regulations on industry, notably tougher carbon emission standards for new and existing power plants and for heavy-duty vehicles? This year is supposed to be the year for Obama to carve out a legacy in climate fixing.
But, like the EU, Obama now faces resistance from environmentalists that had been his allies. Eighteen groups last week sent him a letter opposing his “all of the above” strategy that includes domestic production of oil, gas and coal. At the same time, the fossil fuel industry and allies in Congress launched a campaign promoting more oil and gas production while opposing new power plant emission controls.
Obama is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Will he follow the lead of Europe, so often cited as the climate-change model, or will he insist on more, tougher regulations that will have the very same effect that has put Europe in an economic bind?
This is one time that the president would do well to follow the example of Europe.