As a candidate, Obama's pledge to limit the gases that contribute to global warming and embrace cleaner forms of energy pleased many environmental activists. But nearing the end of his first term, Obama's record on the environment is mixed — and many of his decisions have irked the very activists who Republicans suggest have broad sway over administration policies.
"Absolutely, he has been a disappointment," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the environmental group Clean Air Watch. "When Obama was elected, I think public health and environmental advocates thought a number of unresolved problems would be dealt in short order. And we learned that environmental protection did not prove to be a first-tier activity for the White House."
Some Obama actions have cheered environmentalists. He successfully ushered in historic increases in fuel economy standards for automobiles as well as the first-ever regulations on heat-trapping gases blamed for global warming and on toxic mercury pollution from power plants. He has invested heavily in cleaner forms of energy; the U.S. produces more energy from alternative sources such as wind, solar and biofuels now than it has at any point in history.
But Obama failed to persuade a Democratic Congress to pass promised legislation limiting carbon emissions. He abandoned the legislative effort entirely after Republicans gained control of the House in the 2010 elections.
And in a move that deeply angered environmentalists, the president in September scrubbed a plan to set a stricter health standard on lung-damaging smog, sticking with one set by his GOP predecessor George W. Bush that scientists say is too weak.