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Obama administration

Though the Senate may be standing still, America's roads are moving fast toward a clean-energy future.Today the Obama administration announced its goals for its next set of clean cars standards, picking up where the first clean cars program left off and stepping up gas mileage standards and tailpipe emissions controls.

Across the United States—from California's Central Valley to Chicago, Houston and New York—people are breathing polluted air and suffering. Asthma, bronchitis, heart disease, birth defects and even cancer are the prices paid by residents in scores of American communities where polluting facilities operate.

Health organizations across the country are urging President Obama and Congress to recognize the damaging public health effects of climate change and to take measures that will reduce its impacts and the causes of climate change itself.

In a letter signed by many organizations, including the Lung Association and American Medical Assocation, the groups underscored how climate change harms the public:

On the campaign trail, President Obama shared his thoughts about mountaintop removal mining:

We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains. We're tearing up the Appalachian Mountains because of our dependence on fossil fuels ... Strip-mining is an environmental disaster ... What I want to do is work with experts here in West Virginia to find out what we need to do to protect the waterways here. That's going to be a primary task of the head of my Environmental Protection Agency.

In a speech in Oslo on September 6, John Holdren, President Obama's science advisor, suggested that 'global warming' be replaced by 'global climate disruption' as a more accurate expression. As The New York Times reported it, "changes to the climate are rapid when viewed in terms of the capacity of society and ecosystems to adjust; the impact is distributed unevenly; and the outcome will be overwhelmingly negative for most of the globe." Global warming implies slow changes that might even be benign.

Holdren (an old friend of mine and one of the smartest people in the universe) has long been a lightning rod for the right wing climate deniers owing largely to his long association with the population biologist Paul Ehrlich, with whom he wrote several books. Following Dr. Holdren's speech, the right blogosphere immediately accused the administration of playing politics, of trying to "rebrand" the subject preparatory to another push for a climate bill next year. The administration denied there's any rebranding going on.

I'm no expert, but John's suggestion makes good sense to me.

At the end of this month, all eyes will be on the EPA as it makes its next key decision on mountaintop removal coal mining: its preliminary determination whether to veto the permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine, due September 24.

The Spruce No. 1 mine is one of the largest mountaintop removal mining projects ever considered in Appalachia. Last spring, the EPA released a proposal to rescind this permit based on scientific and legal analysis showing that the mine does not adhere to Clean Water Act standards.

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