America Awaits

Barack ObamaAs the Whitehouse awaits a new president the environment movement breathes a collective sigh of relief. A democratic government with a "liberal" leader must be able to turn the tide on eight years of environmental myopia. Mustn't it?

Even in his last days in office the outgoing president is putting more and more grey hairs on the heads of those who care about the environment.

But before we breathe in some of that fresh air, it's worth asking a few questions of Barack Obama. The paradox of the American presidency is that someone can be elected without ever having to really reveal what their policies are. Doubters point to his love of coal and enthusiasm for ethanol, but he's gaining respect with his forward thinking climate and energy plan.

The main points of his new plan incude a call to cut carbon dioxide emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, to be accomplished through a cap-and-trade system that would auction off 100 percent of emissions permits, making polluters pay for the carbon dioxide they emit.

Obama also wants 25 percent of U.S. electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025 and for 30 percent of the federal government's electricity to come from renewables by 2020, while investing heavily - to the tune of $150 billion over ten years - in renewable technology.

It is likely to be the biofuel targets that will worry environmentalists the most. The aims of 36 billion gallons to be used in the U.S. each year by 2022 and 60 billion by 2030 will send shivers of lost rainforests and sprawling monocultures down the spine.

But if done properly, there is hope yet.