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Obama Prioritizes on Jobs at the Expense of Environmentalism

Faced with dismal job reports, Barack Obama cannot risk 'green' policies that might make things worse.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 9/4/2011, 6:49 PM

Barack Obama now appears to be in the predicament that George Herbert Walker Bush faced in 1992.

The elder Bush belatedly realized that the unemployment situation could sink him in the next election. When he was asked to explain the rationale for his January visit to Japan in January 1992, Bush replied "jobs, jobs, jobs". That trip, however, will be remembered less for the jobs generated and more for the unfortunate fact that an under-the-weather Bush threw up at the state dinner in his honor.

Obama, following the extremely disappointing job statistics published last Friday, has also reached the "jobs, jobs, jobs" stage of his presidency. He must display to the American people that he is strictly focused on jobs and not on other topics cherished by his base.

He has therefore announced that he will not use the Environmental Protection Agency to impose more stringent anti-smog rules. Manufacturers and Republicans have been messaging that environmental rules that would impose higher operating costs on American manufacturers would damage their competitiveness and result in a loss of jobs.

The next time the EPA will examine the issue will be in 2013-- after the election returns are in.

The decision has infuriated Obama's base, although his supporters argued that he should be evaluated on his overall record. Groups such as MoveOn, the extreme liberal organization, blasted the decision in a statement by Director Justin Ruben:

“Many MoveOn members are wondering today how they can ever work for President Obama's reelection, or make the case for him to their neighbors, when he does something like this, after extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich, and giving in to Tea Party demands on the debt deal…. This is a decision we'd expect from George W. Bush.”

The Obama administration's "green agenda" has not been doing well. And Obama, since his inaugural address, has touted environmentalism as the engine that would spur jobs and his administration has backed the words with governmental cash.

The recent bankruptcies of three alternative energy companies and the failure of some of the environmental stimulus grants to municipalities have been a source of embarrassment. Perhaps the most striking example was the collapse of solar panel maker Solyndra, a company that the administration had staked with half a billion dollars of loan guarantees.

The Republicans have made capital over the fact that the administration has squandered money on the green energy quest, while hampering the exploitation of real energy sources in areas such as shale oil or oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico.

Barack Obama might have been able to adhere to his agenda had he presided over a booming economy where money was less tight. As he does not have this luxury, he finds himself unwillingly retrenching on his environmental agenda.