Q: Given that the presidential election is just around the corner, what can you tell me about each candidate’s environmental track record and positions?
Just because the environment is getting short shrift this election season due to our nation’s lingering economic woes doesn’t mean that candidates Obama and Romney can ignore the issue.
Environmentalists have cheered several of President Obama’s moves during his first term, including: passage of the Recovery Act and its funding for environmental and habitat restoration and water quality improvements; passage of the first comprehensive National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, the Coasts and the Great Lakes; and the signing of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009, which expanded land protections and water conservation across two million acres of federal wilderness.
Obama also formed the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to bring together federal agencies to help communities nationwide improve access to affordable housing and increase low cost transportation options while protecting the environment. He also established new rules to reduce the negative impacts of mountain-top removal coal mining, set historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks, made substantial investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants, and reduced carbon emissions within the federal government.
On the downside, green leaders dismay Obama’s lack of follow-through on a 2008 campaign promise to label genetically modified foods so that consumers know what they are getting when they buy corn, sugar or breakfast cereal. Also, a 2011 Obama decision to deregulate the planting of genetically modified alfalfa and sugar beets incensed organic farmers and environmental leaders. Greens also worry about Obama’s enthusiasm for an “all-of-the-above” energy policy that includes the practice of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) to access natural gas in shale beds under wide swaths of the northeast and western U.S.
If re-elected, Obama would no doubt work to expand U.S. leadership on setting emissions limits in unison with other nations, and has pledged to continue to reduce our dependence on oil so as to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Conservationists are also hopeful that Obama will set aside threatened lands for protection from development as both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did soon before leaving the White House.
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