But by its very nature and how it was accomplished, this was an extremely narrow victory by the president and not by any definition a mandate. His coalition was a mile wide and an inch deep. There was no vote for any program or Big Idea — despite what liberals are saying about the triumph of the left. In fact, I daresay if the public had gotten a whiff of this proposal before the election, the president might not have made it over the finish line:

Barack Obama may consider introducing a tax on carbon emissions to help cut the U.S. budget deficit after winning a second term as president, according to HSBC Holdings Plc.

A tax starting at $20 a metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent and rising at about 6 percent a year could raise $154 billion by 2021, Nick Robins, an analyst at the bank in London, said today in an e-mailed research note, citing Congressional Research Service estimates. “Applied to the Congressional Budget Office’s 2012 baseline, this would halve the fiscal deficit by 2022,” Robins said.

Hurricane Sandy sparked discussion on climate protection in the election after presidential candidates focused on other debates, HSBC said. A continued Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives means Obama’s scope for action will be limited, Robins said. Cap-and-trade legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate after narrowly passing the house in 2009.

North American discharges fell 1.3 percent last year amid slowing economic growth. In China, the world’s biggest emitter, greenhouse gases from fuel use rose more than 9 percent in 2011, according to BP Plc (BP/) statistics published on June 13.

“Cap-and-trade has been demonized” and Obama probably won’t seek to install such a program in his second term, Richard Sandor, founder of the world’s biggest carbon trading exchange in Europe, said today at the presentation in London of his book titled Good Derivatives.

New carbon trading programs in California, China and Brazil may encourage U.S. lawmakers to introduce greenhouse gas trading by about 2020, Sandor said.

Is it any wonder the president was vague about his plans for a second term?

Enough with the talk about “mandate.” Obama is going to have his hands full trying to stave off the coming disaster of the fiscal cliff. If he can’t manage to avoid it, any talk of his “mandate” will disappear faster than his promise in 2008 to have the “most transparent administration in history.”