Barack Obama is nearing the end of his presidential road, and the view outside his windows is not a comforting one. Behind him, the rocky early years of his presidency fade into the mists of history. Ahead of him, the stomach-churning prospect of an actively obstructionist Republican majority in the House and Senate rears its darkly partisan head.

 

The Obama legacy carries subtle flavors of missed opportunities, souring the edges of his titanic vision. Take climate change, for instance. With campaign vows spinning visions of 80 percent reductions in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, a younger and more spirited Obama carved out a bold vision of the future. Now, with a Senate bill struck dead in 2010 and Congress mired in perpetual partisan gridlock, the war against man’s decimation of his environment seems relegated to the trash heap of failed possibilities.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) sweeping new proposal for cutting carbon emissions marks President Obama’s last stab for the summit on the climate change issue. Announced yesterday, the rule slashes emissions across the nation to the tune of 30 percent by 2030, using 2005 levels as a benchmark. The EPA eschewed across-the-board regulations for this proposal, instead opting for a series of state-specific targets that give state governments the leeway to cut emissions in the ways they see fit. Currently, the regulations remain in draft form pending input from a variety of actors and extensive evaluation.

 

Unsurprisingly, the move is generating a good deal of controversy. The proposal seems geared towards phasing out coal as a viable source of energy, though the EPA does not officially foresee a significant impact to the coal industry. Republicans and Democrats alike have criticized Obama’s bypass of Congress, though the move itself has roots in Supreme Court precedentThe Chamber of Commerce has warned of a possible rise in electricity prices and loss of jobs associated with the EPA’s mandate.

 

Obama’s EPA gamble is a bold political stroke, coming at a time when his approval ratings continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel and Democratic Senate contenders are distancing themselves from Obamacare. It is a nifty bit of policy wonkery and a hearteningly substantial attempt to realize effective climate regulation. With a new international treaty on the topic scheduled for debate in Paris next year, these new regulations could provide the catalyst for the serious political attention this issue so desperately deserves.

 

What are your thoughts on President Obama’s dramatic environmental move? Do you think this will have a significant impact on our country? What about his approval rating? Sound off here, or find me on Twitter @aa_murph