Obama’s Environmental Team: Status Quo We Can Believe In?

If anyone needs a reminder that despite the rhetoric, President-Elect Obama is still beholden to the Democratic Party and it’s benefactors, I think this week’s picks for his environmental team should clear things up.

I’ll preface this by saying up front that I know little about either person, but from what I’ve been reading & hearing, environmentalists are unhappy with Obama’s nominations of Tom Vilsack for Ag Secretary and Ken Salazar for Interior Secretary.   Publicly, they are giving hesitant support while hoping that they will be willing to work with them.    Their actions in the first year will probably determine how long a honeymoon Obama has with the green wing of the Democratic party.

Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa, is being seen by many as a proponent for factory farming, biofuels, and business-as-usual for agriculture, which isn’t too surprising considering his tenure running a state that has invest heavily in those things.  For fun, google ‘Vilsack Monsanto‘ and see all of the links that come up.   Suffice it to say that the hardcore greenies are tres unhappy.  Maybe Matt from FGLB (an Iowa resident) can shed more light on him.

Salazar is seen by many in the green movement as problematic, due to his ties to ranching and mining.  The Interior Secretary’s basic job is to oversee care & use of government-owned land (mostly out west), so most if not all Interior Secretaries for the past few decades (or longer) have basically acted as asset managers coordinating mining and grazing rights for private industries on public lands.  Salazar appears to be no different on that front.

From my perspective, Obama’s choices for Interior & Agriculture look to be a business-as-usual approach.  He has supported corn ethanol production during the campaign, but has also supported proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions.     Not terrible for the environment, but not an unqualified greenie either.     I will say his pick for Energy Secretary (Steven Chu) is an interesting one.  Will there be behind-the-scenes tension between Ag & Energy over alternative fuels?

Interesting times.   For the record, I did vote for Obama and continue to think he was the best possible candidate all things considered.  Some of his cabinet appointments have impressed me, others have not.  No candidate is perfect, and I’m sure the President-Elect has his hands full trying to appease many special interests while building a team of competent leaders.


2 Responses to Obama’s Environmental Team: Status Quo We Can Believe In?

  1. onestraw says:

    I take it this way. Bush put in people that The Right loved – and the Left dug in. By most accounts outside of the “angry” left, these more central choices are someone that “people can work with”. Given the unbelievable amount of change that is needed I hope that these choices reflect a desire to actually DO something rather than entrench opposition.

    And for the record, ranching could be argued as the “best” use of much of the short grass prairie in SD/Co/WY area. I lived there for 3 years and turning perennial grass into beef/buffalo is one of the best ways to convert sunshine into calories with so little rain. Grass-fed beef is carbon negative if done right -rebuilding 500# of topsoil annually per acre under good conditions.

    He’s not Al Gore, but then again Al Gore pisses alot of people off. We need to get sh/t done. I just hope we do.

  2. Bart says:


    As long as Salazar doesn’t go all James Watt on us with regards to water rights & mining, I’ll have no issues. It’s Vilsack that is the more contentious nominee IMO.

    Your point regarding the nominees being ones people can work with versus being ideologues is a good one. Here’s hoping that’s the case.

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