In an unfortunate signal that the White House may be pulling back from action on climate change, Carol Browner, the White House energy and climate change advisor, is stepping down from her post. Browner was appointed by the President when he took office; she was deeply involved with the clean up of the Gulf Oil spill, but her primary focus was coordinating policy action on climate change. She is credited with brokering a deal between the auto industry and the EPA (she led the agency during the Clinton administration) to raise vehicle emission standards, and with shepherding the cap and trade bill that passed the House but failed to get through the Senate.
With the demise of the climate change bill and the Obama administration’s new focus on warmer relations with the ‘business as usual’ community, it seems that political action on climate change is going to take a policy back seat, at least for the rest of the President’s first term. With its focus on jobs and the economic recovery, The White House is under pressure to lighten up on climate change action by the Chamber of Commerce and energy interests. At least one energy lobbyist will not miss Browner, saying “Her departure may be part of a legitimate effort to pay careful attention to addressing some of the real regulatory obstacles in the way of job creation in the United States.” The conflation of unemployment with action to save the planet is an unfortunate strategy that seems to be gaining traction in Washingotn.
It is unclear whether Browner will be replaced; environmentalists and others will be watching closely for further signals of pullback on climate change action.
Photo: Carol Browner named Climate and Energy Czar in December 2008 from Obama Biden Transition team, Creative Commons license.