Voting For The Environment – Where The Democrats Stand.


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While I understand there are very big issues that the next President will have to face, one of my personal concerns is how they are going to treat issues pertaining to the environment. Prior to Edwards dropping out of the race, he had my vote based on his concern for the poor and for the environment. But alas, he is not in the race anymore. So I will now be voting for Obama, although sort of reluctantly and mostly because I do not want another Clinton in office – I feel it is time for a different family to be running the show for a bit. Personally I would love to have a woman President – just not this one at this point in time. But that is an argument for a different time! As of today, the day before Super Tuesday, here is some of what the two Democrat candidates are saying about their policies concerning energy and the environment:

Hillary Clinton

  • A new cap-and-trade program that auctions 100 percent of permits alongside investments to move us on the path towards energy independence – by 2050.
  • An aggressive comprehensive energy efficiency agenda to reduce electricity consumption 20 percent from projected levels by 2020 by changing the way utilities do business, catalyzing a green building industry, enacting strict appliance efficiency standards, and phasing out incandescent light bulbs
  • A $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund, paid for in part by oil companies, to fund investments in alternative energy. The SEF will finance one-third of the $150 billon ten-year investment in a new energy future contained in this plan
  • Aggressive action to transition our economy toward renewable energy sources, with renewables generating 25 percent of electricity by 2025 and with 60 billion gallons of home-grown biofuels available for cars and trucks by 2030
  • 10 “Smart Grid City” partnerships to prove the advanced capabilities of smart grid and other advanced demand-reduction technologies, as well as new investment in plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies
  • An increase in fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030, and $20 billion of “Green Vehicle Bonds” to help U.S. automakers retool their plants to meet the standards (Toyota doesn’t need help, funny, huh?)
  • A new “Connie Mae” program to make it easier for low and middle-income Americans to buy green homes and invest in green home improvements
  • A requirement that all publicly traded companies report financial risks due to climate change in annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission
  • Creation of a “National Energy Council” within the White House to ensure implementation of the plan across the Executive Branch.
  • A requirement that all federal buildings designed after January 20, 2009 will be zero emissions buildings.

Barack Obama

  • Cap and Trade: supports implementation of a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, invest in low-emissions coal plants, and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid.
  • Will double science and research funding for clean energy projects including those that make use of our biomass, solar and wind resources.
  • Convert our Manufacturing Centers into Clean Technology Leaders: will establish a federal investment program to help manufacturing centers modernize and Americans learn the new skills they need to produce green products.
  • Will establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.
  • Increase Renewable Fuel Standard: Obama will require 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels to be included in the fuel supply by 2022 and will increase that to at least 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030.
  • Create New Forum of Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitters: Obama will create a Global Energy Forum – that includes all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – the largest energy consuming nations from both the developed and developing world.

Now, how much of this do we believe will actually happen? If history is any guide, adult politics is kind of like high school politics – promise the Coke machine in the cafeteria and get elected. What happens? No Coke machine ever shows up. Let’s hope I am wrong. But that all being said, what do you guys think of these 2?

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  1. This is a very helpful listing of the positions of both of these candidates. What I have noticed, however, is that any mention of the environment or even climate change by any of the candidates ends up in a discussion that solely focuses on ENERGY. Likewise, the above list (perhaps by default) only focuses on ENERGY. With respect to the environment, we need to be concerned with more than just energy. What about biodiversity loss? Overfishing? Resource depletion in order to satisfy renewable energy goals? What about the fact that we’re still sending huge amounts of garbage to landfills that will take 500 to 1000 years to decompose? I’d like to have a candidate to vote for who not only supports the above energy positions but also will help our society make better decisions for future generations. Is there a candidate out there like that? I’d love to know.

  2. Ryan – I think make you an excellent point, not just in the context of presidential politics but it can extend to the larger discussions about the environmental movement, the sciences of biology and ecology, and the political engagement it will take to tackle climate change and energy demand.

    In other words. A lot of the actions that are considered necessary to deflect some of the impacts of climate change also encompass the ‘traditional’ environmentalist causes. These include but are not limited to :deforestation, land-use planning, low-impact farming techniques, methane capture at landfills, recycling at the personal scale and business scale.

    I am not a conservation biologist but I guess that many would say that the biggest threat to biodiversity lost is climate change. We have greatly increased our energy consumption in the last 150 years and now we are beginning to see the effects of that.

    I think you have raised a very important point and one I struggle with myself. But I think one way of seeing it, is that climate change, energy efficiency and most renewable energies/fuels (except for some of the Big Ag and eco-unfriendly ones like corn, soybean), have the ability to be the ‘keystone’ of the environmental movement – sort of an umbrella movement. What do you think?

  3. Also keep in mind that unfortunately, Presidential contenders cannot look like hippies…and I mean that in the best way possible. If they start talking about saving near-extinct frogs or fuzzy polar bears, a lot of people will not take them seriously – or so they thing. So they talk about the one thing everyone likes to hear – less dependence on foreign oil.

  4. Thanks for the comments. I do think think that energy can and probably will be the keystone, with the underlying issue fighting climate change. I do still think this leaves out a number of important issues that I feel aren’t getting addressed. For example, we can certainly invest in more renewable fuels sources, but that won’t do anything to address plastic bags that end up in landfills and waterways. When are we going to address that? After climate change investment in energy? I don’t see how that would fall under the energy umbrella. But maybe energy is a good place to start.

    When I see politicians focusing on renewable energy, I do worry that what a lot of people are promising is a “free lunch”. In other words, most Americans don’t want to be inconvenienced, and politicians won’t run on a platform the promises to inconvenience anyone. Most Americans don’t want to drive less, they want to drive the same amount (perhaps even more) but have some new “technology” make their driving carbon-neutral. What I feel that most people want to hear on the environment is that they can keep on driving and consuming as much as they did before, but the difference now is that their presidential candidate will promise to make sure it’s “carbon-neutral”. I don’t see any proposal of trying to change the way people think about resource consumption (whether energy, water, forests, etc.) and consumption in general.

    I definitely hear ya that a candidate couldn’t win by focusing on special situations regarding the environment. What I’d like to see though is a candidate who steps up and says: “As a country we’re going to act like good stewards of this planet. Whatever issue comes up, whether it’s broad energy policy or listing polar bears as endangered, we’re going to act like responsible tenants of the planet. Going forward we’re going to make decisions that aren’t just in the best interest of our generation, but also for all generations to come, perhaps sometimes to the inconvenience of our own.”

    Not sure how realistic that is but it would sure be refreshing!

  5. Ryan, tell me if you think is too much of a reach. Plastic bags are made from petroleum products. The House-proposed energy bill last fall included a provision to cut the massive tax breaks that the oil companies got and redistributing those breaks to renewable energy production. That redistribution of tax breaks was threatened a veto by Bush and removed from the final version.

    If the Big Oil does not get those subsidies would the (exceedingly cheap) price of plastic bags go up? They might.

    I know it’s not the strongest argument of such a linkage! But it is those types of connections that we need to be discussing.

  6. I realized that I might have been being too pessimistic in my last post! Tim, I think you’re right that a lot of things can be linked back to energy needs. Maybe this is the right place to start. Then we can focus on thinkgs like pesticides, overfishing, etc. However I worry that it might be too late by the time that happens, especially with overfishing. I think my frustration comes not because I think that we’re all doomed, it’s just that I think we could be moving faster on things. But maybe I just need to be happy with progress at any pace!

  7. It’s OK to be pessimistic about this stuff Ryan – it gets to all of us sometimes. I honestly think we need to focus on the bigger picture in terms of policy, and the smaller changes will come along with it.

    On a personal level, though, I do everything I can to reduce my energy usage, my consumption of goods, and my footprint. It makes me feel more optimistic about what can be done long term.

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