Obama's energy and environment team—a Nobel scientist at the Department of Energy, a California bureaucrat at the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and the first African American (from New Jersey!) to head the EPA—is, well, fairly gangster. In response to the good news, particularly the changes at CEQ, Grist's Dave Roberts emails:
To head up the White House Council on Environmental Quality, George W. Bush chose the odious and oleaginous James L. Connaughton, a pasty balding white guy's pasty balding white guy. Obama just chose a lesbian born in South America. Elections have consequences!
That's certainly correct. With regard to the Energy Department, the renewed fealty to scientific inquiry and to green research and development could not be clearer. With regard to the EPA pick, I'd read it as a strong commitment to the legal fight over emissions reduction legislation, to firmer regulation of land and water use, and to exploring the intersection of air quality and health disparities, especially in poor or underserved urban communities.
But with regard to the CEQ pick, any change at all is a blessing from on high. I spoke with Connaughton at length around this time last year, and was overwhelmed and, frankly, impressed by his unblinking ability to spin straw into gold (that is, rampant environmental neglect into laudable stewardship.) To wit: The former ExxonMobil lobbyist told me that US oil companies are "essential" to our economic growth, and that George W. Bush's White House was "probably the most environmental ever," citing his own personal committment to marine wildlife preservation or some such thing. His schtick on "clean coal" is hypnotically sincere.
As if this weren't cause enough to rejoice at Connaughton's imminent evacuation, there's the time I called over to CEQ to ask about green jobs and was asked, straightaway, "what's that?"