Political environment heating up
For voters still trying to decide between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, environmental issues won't likely sway them one way (click on their name to see their respective campaign sites on energy). The two democratic candidates hold very similar views and policy positions on climate change and energy. She calls on all levels of American society—government, industry, and individuals—to contribute to the effort, while he calls climate change "one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation."
Obama and Clinton both support cutting carbon emissions 80 percent below the 1990 level by 2050 by using a market based cap-and-trade system. They want stronger fuel-economy standards for cars: Clinton asks 55 mpg by 2030 plus $20 billion in "Green Vehicle Bonds" to help automakers adjust versus 40 mpg by 2020 for Obama. Both are committed to renewable energy, biofuels, clean coal, and are wary of nuclear energy unless safety and waste problems can be solved (Obama is more positive about nuclear energy).
Obama would invest $150 billion over 10 years in clean energy. Both Obama and Clinton would double federal funding into energy research. Obama's plan has a $50 billion (over 5 years) Clean Technologies Venture Capital Fund and Clinton's plan has a $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund.
Both he and Clinton would require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in United States come from renewable sources (like solar and wind) by 2025 and wants the United States to produce 60 billion gallons of biofuels by 2030.
But what about the poor? Both Democratic candidates are concerned with how the changes in the market will affect American workers and see "green industries" as a positive for the poor.
Clinton says that her plan will create 5 million jobs and will invest in what she calls "green collar jobs." She will catalyze the green building industry by funding the retrofitting and modernization of 20 million low-income homes and will start a program to help low income families buy green homes and invest in home improvements.
Under Obama's plan, some of the proceeds from the cap-and-trade auction program will go to helping American workers transition into clean technology industries. His "Green Jobs Corps" will provide disadvantaged youth with the job skills for these industries.
Neither Obama nor Clinton speaks of helping developing countries transition and access environmentally friendly technologies in their energy plans. Obama does plan to bring together the largest energy consuming nations in both the developed and developing world, which would be G8 plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa.
Republican candidate John McCain does not offer a specific plan to confront climate change and environmental concerns, but does say that ensuring clean air and water, sustainable land use, and ample green space "is a patriotic duty."
He believes in harnessing market forces to encourage technologies—especially nuclear energy, though he also supports renewable sources, biofuels, and cleaner coal—to reduce emissions. Our dependence on foreign oil, he says, is also a national security issue. He supports a global approach to climate change, saying that the United States rightly did not join the Kyoto Protocol and should not consider it until China and India join.
Although his campaign remains general, environmental magazine Grist reports that he does have a legislative record on some of these issues. His Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act would reduce emissions from utilities, industry, and transport to about 30 percent of the 2004 levels by 2050. In 2002 he introduced legislation to raise car fuel standards to 36 mpg by 2016.
Grist offers a comparison chart of the candidates (including Ralph Nadar). It also interviewed the candidates and provides environmental fact sheets about each one. Click on their name to see Grist’s summaries: