Last night, Politico reported that President Obama's energy and environment adviser, Carol Browner, is leaving. While reporters Mike Allen and Darren Samuelsohn call her one of the few White House figures to come out of the BP oil disaster looking competent, an NPR story notes that Browner had recently been criticized for "politicizing" the Gulf spill by saying the oil was nearly gone when it wasn't and editing a document so that it appeared scientists were on board with an oil-drilling moratorium, which they weren't.
Either way, this is part of a number of ousters at the White House after the midterm elections, and what it might mean is disconcerting. Browner had pushed for more regulations of fuel emissions for cars and greenhouse-gas emissions, and in the absence of comprehensive climate legislation, regulations are the only way the administration can work to curb emissions. Given that Obama has recently promised to review regulations and strike a balanced, free-market approach, it's unclear whether he will take a strong regulatory approach on climate issues.
In all this, it's hard to find the Obama who, as a candidate, excited environmentalists by saying, “My presidency will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process." It also punches a hole in his efforts, and the efforts of groups like the Blue/Green Alliance, to fight the image of climate-change legislation as a job killer and, instead, portray it as a job creator. An official told NPR that Browner was pleased with the message Obama will send on the environment in tonight's State of the Union. We just have to see whether we're pleased, too.
-- Monica Potts