Back in November, at the time of the original Keystone XL pipeline decision, environmental groups threatened to pull their backing for Obama if he approved the pipeline. Michael Brune, executive director of America’s largest environmental group, the Sierra Club, is on record as saying that the President’s decision on Keystone would have “a very big impact” on how they funnel their resources—with the obvious implication being that they would not support the President if he didn’t do their bidding.
Other environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Defense Fund took a different tack but with the same goal. A press release from the Rainforest Action Network promised the President that if he denied Keystone, he would see a “surge of enthusiasm from the green base that supported you so strongly in the last election.”
Environmental groups clearly understand they have the ability to influence the President’s decisions based on their claims to support—or not support—his bid for a second term. So far, they must be pleased with his administration’s efforts. On Wednesday, April 18, leading environmental groups came out with their official endorsement of President Obama—“the earliest” the groups “have ever endorsed in a presidential election cycle.” According to The Hill, “The groups are planning a mix of advertising and on-the-ground work on Obama’s behalf.” However, Glenn Hurowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, thinks the groups should have waited longer before endorsing the President. He believes the early endorsement removes the “greens’ leverage.”
Most pundits agree that the 2012 presidential election will be a hard fought, close race. In order to win, President Obama needs the four million votes from “greens” the groups represent—and they do not want increased domestic resource extraction. According to BusinessWeek, funding from environmental groups is currently less than 50% of what it was through the same period in the 2008 campaign—one of the reasons cited: “renewing offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Though receiving little press, the Obama administration is working hard to convince the “greens” that he is one of them.
The NRDC (one of the groups promising support if Obama does the right thing) has launched a major fundraising effort—aided by the actor Robert Redford, to block a proposed mine that would provide America with access to one of the largest known deposits of copper in the world. Copper is essential for electric transmission and America’s industrial future—and highly sought after by developing economies such as China. The land—already designated for mineral exploration and development—also contains gold, silver and molybdenum. Despite the fact that the Native Alaskans living near the proposed Pebble Mine site want the infrastructure and jobs the mine would provide, rich sport-fishermen and out of state environmental groups (NRDC is based in New York City) are claiming to “pressure the Obama administration to reject any permits that could allow Pebble Mine to move forward. And if necessary, we will challenge this disastrous project in federal court.” The fund raising letter states: “Only NRDC combines grassroots power with the legal clout of more than 400 attorneys.”
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