Philip Bump reports on a disappointing meeting held with administration officials the morning after the State of the Union address, in which it became apparent that President Obama's threat to act unilaterally on climate change "isn't looking all that threatening." The prior evening, the President had declared: "if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations [from climate change], I will”
During a meeting with administration officials including Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Heather Zichal, deputy assistant to the president for energy and climate; and Brian Deese, deputy director of the National Economic Council, Bump and his colleagues pressed them to explain what steps Obama would take if Congress didn’t act. "[T]he response," he reports, "was underwhelming."
"White House officials are talking about small steps the administration could take, but aren’t currently pushing forward on the big executive action that advocates have wanted to see: EPA regulation of greenhouse gases from existing power plants."
"Turning knobs and ratcheting down standards can make a difference in the climate fight, but it can’t win it. If small tweaks are the threat Obama is holding over Republicans — or if he isn’t saying what that threat might be — it’s not likely anyone will be cowed into action. When you hand someone a note reading 'Do this or else,' it’s generally recommended that the recipient be afraid of the 'or else.' And that there be one."