The Environmental Protection Agency has drawn up the first-ever set of carbon limits on trucks and buses and the Obama administration intends to announce them next week.
The new plan will reduce by 20 percent heat-trapping emissions from truck and bus tailpipes, according to Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign.
The regulations will be promulgated in the form of a joint rule from the EPA and the transportation department and is aimed at boosting fuel economy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. Under orders from Obama, the two agencies will expand the program next week to include heavy-duty trucks for model years 2014 through 2018.
Were the GOP not out to simply destroy the progressive Obama administration, the new regulations the president is putting forward would increase chances for a reasonable climate deal. The idea is that Republican politicians would agree to cap and trade, or a carbon tax in return for the EPA suspending its carbon regulations. (If the Republicans were not so completely dominated by extremists, some thinking goes, they might be able to back a bill they dislike in exchange for loosening of regulations they oppose.)
The move by Obama to push ahead now, via the EPA and without waiting for Congress, is also motivated by concern that the GOP, if it were to take over Congress, would undermine EPA, OSHA and other important agencies.
The New Republic's John Judis says, "They would abolish cabinet departments, repeal Obamacare [sic], and privatize social security...but they won't be able to overcome a Senate filibuster or a presidential veto ...What they will do, however, is undermine the work of regulatory agencies ... It could make life very difficult for them by cutting their funding."
Behind the politics, of course, is the more serious issue of global warming itself. New findings, released Oct. 21, show that the Arctic is unlikely to return to the conditions known in the 20th century - ever. That change is likely to affect weather conditions in the lower 48 states. The information was released in an annual update by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Greenland had its warmest year on record," said the NOAA report. "Other glaciers also shrank, and this ice loss is accelerating. Predictions about sea level rise will have to be revised upward. The warming trend made any return to previous Arctic conditions increasingly unlikely."
The largest glacier loss ever observed in Greenland occurred this past summer, when a 110 square-mile chunk - 20 square miles larger than the city of Boston - of the Petermann Glacier broke away. There is, according to NOAA, a link between melting arctic ice and the severe cold experienced last winter in eastern North America, northern Europe and Eastern Asia. Cold air bottled up in the arctic blows south as the massive ice formations break up, according to the report.
Meanwhile, Democrats point out, the Republican Party continues to put roadblock after roadblock in way of environmental protection.