Some commentators have argued President Barack Obama suffers from a failure of leadership. That was evidenced once again last week when he traveled to Paris to demand the world cut greenhouse gas emissions on the very day his administration was making moves that would do just the opposite.
On the first day of the Conference on Climate Change sponsored by the United Nations, Obama took his turn among the assembled world leaders to address global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. "I've come here personally, as the leader of the world's largest economy and the second-largest emitter," he said, "to say that the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it."
Then Obama did what he often does. He lectured his audience, even though that audience was made up of his peers. Ignoring a recurrent audio cue to stop after he passed his allotted three minutes, Obama went on for 14 minutes, at one point painting an apocalyptic picture of the future planet -- "submerged countries," "abandoned cities," fallow fields, political conflicts producing "floods of desperate peoples seeking sanctuary" -- unless global warming is curtailed.
If the situation is as dire as Obama says it is, you wouldn't know it from his actions. On the day he delivered his speech in Paris, back in Washington the Environmental Protection Agency, in a move that received subdued coverage in the mainstream press, announced new rules that gutted the Renewable Fuel Standard, the one piece of legislation from the past decade that has reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Ushered into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the RFS required oil companies to blend renewable fuels -- mainly ethanol -- into the national transportation fuel supply. Each year the amount of mandated renewable fuel would be increased until 2022. The concept was simple. Burning more ethanol would mean using less oil, helping to defund Middle Eastern regimes that support terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The RFS worked. In five years, ethanol comprised 10 percent, or more, of every gallon of gasoline used in the U.S. But Big Oil turned that success on its head. Oil companies argued that at 10 percent they reached a "blend wall" they couldn't move beyond, even though 22 states and the District of Columbia had already passed the 10-percent mark. The Obama Administration bought Big Oil's argument that blending over 10 percent could be harmful to vehicle engines and promised weakened regulations.
Those regulations were released on November 30. The EPA cut the amount of mandated renewable fuel for this year and next by 15 to 25 percent. More troubling, the agency acknowledged the blend wall, even though the Department of Energy, the administration's most science-based agency, says the blend wall is fiction.
In the end, the Obama Administration -- perhaps the most regulation-happy in history -- weakened a regulation that was actually working. According to the Renewable Fuel Association, "biofuels consumed under the RFS have reduced U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 354 million metric tons....the equivalent of avoiding carbon dioxide emissions from 74 million passenger cars." If that's true, how can Obama be taken seriously when he lectures world leaders on the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight global warming at the same time he is weakening a regulation that has proven to do just that?
On climate change Obama is not leading from behind. Because of his in-your-face hypocrisy on greenhouse gases, he is not leading at all.