The coming year should be a good one for greens: after eight years of whining, environmentalists finally have an ally in the White House and a real chance to get things done. Here's a rough month-by-month guide to the big issues we'll be hearing about in 2009:
January: Three weeks into the new year, Obama will take over the reins of power. Watch out for energy and environmental references in his inauguration speech: fixing the economy will undoubtedly top his to-do list, but greens will be disappointed if the climate battle doesn’t come a close second.
February: It’s one thing to promise reforms, and quite another to actually pay for them. February should provide a reality check, as Obama unveils his first budget and tells America which of his energy and environmental promises he can actually afford to implement.
March: Congress will need to pass a new spending bill by early March to keep the federal government ticking over. That could give lawmakers a chance to reinstate an offshore drilling ban, which jittery Democratic leaders cut from this year’s spending measure amid soaring oil prices.
April: On the campaign trail, Obama pledged to ensure that signatories to NAFTA and other trade deals met basic environmental standards. That promise could come under the spotlight this month, as hemispheric leaders head to Trinidad and Tobago for the annual Summit of the Americas.
May: The start of May marks the end of Obama’s first 100 days. By that point, Obama should have built plenty of momentum for his energy reforms; if he’s still struggling to find his feet, it could be a sign that he won’t be able to deliver on his pledge to bring sweeping change during his first term.
June: In a key test of Obama’s willingness to risk displeasing corporate America, a new rule on commercial lighting comes up for final approval in June. Overhauling the strip-lights used in American workplaces wouldn’t come cheap, but it’s an important part of Obama’s plans to boost energy efficiency.
July: Obama will take to the world state at July’s G8 summit, and needs to dazzle the international community to lay the groundwork for a meaningful global climate deal. Don’t expect massive anti-globalization protests: the summit will be held on a remote Italian island that’s accessible only by boat.
August: Some are predicting that August will bring a rush of “Obama babies”, conceived during the heady wave of optimism that followed Obama’s election nine months earlier. Paging Dr Malthus...
September: Roads and railways will be on the agenda this month, as the surface transportation bill comes up for renewal. Some transport wonks wants to see the gas tax phased out and replaced with a per-mile charge, reflecting increased fuel economy and alternative fuel use.
October: Anti-terrorism rules governing chemical safety will expire this month, and the Center for American Progress has already begun calling for Obama to use the deadline to push through a comprehensive overhaul of America’s chemical-management rules.
November: November will bring Obama’s last chance to push through cap-and-trade legislation before world leaders head to Denmark for climate talks. Solid progress, if not finished legislation, will be needed if Obama is to convince the world he’s taking climate change seriously.
December: As Obama's first year in charge draws to a close, all eyes will be on Copenhagen, where world leaders will meet to broker a replacement for the Kyoto climate agreement. How warm a reception Obama receives will depend, in large part, on how well he handled the previous eleven months. Keep your fingers crossed; we could be in for a bumpy ride...
This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in January 2009.