After a chastening few months that have seen his efforts to pass a climate change bill defeated and his commitment to environmental protection questioned in the wake of the BP oil spill, Barack Obama has publicly pledged to make energy and climate change policy one of his top priorities for the coming year.
In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone magazine published yesterday, the president expressed frustration over his failure to deliver on campaign pledges to drive the development of the low-carbon economy and end America's reliance on fossil fuels.
"During the past two years, we've not made as much progress as I wanted to make when I was sworn into office," he said, adding that his original plans for climate change policy had been made harder to deliver as a result of the economic crisis.
Obama vowed to restore the momentum on energy and climate change policy next year, promising to give the issue as much focus as he gave healthcare reform during his first year in office, and saying that action to cut emissions was " good for our economy, it's good for our national security and, ultimately, it's good for our environment".
"One of my top priorities next year is to have an energy policy that begins to address all facets of our over-reliance on fossil fuels," he said, adding that he was "committed to making sure we get an energy policy that makes sense for the country and that helps us grow at the same time as it deals with climate change in a serious way".
However, Obama's pledge to revitalise US climate change policy could be frustrated by the result of the mid-term elections, with polls currently suggesting the Republicans could regain control of one of both houses of Cong ress.
Any reduction in the Democrat majority in either house would make it even harder for Obama to pass the kind of comprehensive energy and climate change legislation he has long maintained is necessary to meet his stated target of cutting US greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent against 2005 levels by 2020.
In the interview, he hinted at an alternative strategy for cutting emissions, suggesting "we may end up having to do it in chunks, as opposed to some sort of comprehensive omnibus legislation".
The comments suggest the President could support ongoing bi-partisan efforts to pass a renewable energy bill requiring utilities to source 15 per cent of their energy from renewable sources by 2021, and is likely to continue with controversial plans to regulate emissions from power stations and industrial facilities through the Environmental Protection Agency.
James Murray, BusinessGreen