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This article is from the In-Depth Report Earth 3.0: Solutions for Sustainable Progress

Where Do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Environment and Energy?

From drilling for oil to climate change, the answers may surprise you



Colorado Environmental Coalition

Table of Contents:
1: Global Warming: Is It Man-Made? | Reducing Carbon Emissions
2: Offshore Oil Exploration and Drilling | Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
3: "Clean Coal" | Natural Gas
4: Nuclear Energy | Endangered Species
5: Water Shortage | Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal)

Global Warming: Is It Man-Made?

Obama The Democratic presidential contender, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), acknowledges that climate change is real, man-made and an "immediate threat."

From a July 2007 speech on the floor of the Senate: "I know that when it comes to the word 'carbon,' the range of views among my colleagues is varied and complex. I am among those senators who believe that carbon from human activities contributes to climate change, that it is an immediate threat, and that we must immediately require emission reductions through a strong cap-and-trade system."

McCain Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate, along with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I–Conn.), introduced the Climate Stewardship Act in the Senate in 2003—which was seen as a break with hard-line Republicans. He acknowledges that human activity accelerated global warming and proposes an "all of the above energy solution" called The Lexington Project to stem it.

From remarks made at a wind turbine-manufacturer in Portland, Ore., in May: "For all of the last century, the profit motive basically led in one direction—toward machines, methods and industries that used oil and gas. Enormous good came from that industrial growth, and we are all the beneficiaries of the national prosperity it built. But there were costs we weren't counting, and often hardly noticed. And these terrible costs have added up now—in the atmosphere, in the oceans, and all across the natural world."

Wildcard Wild card:
Although McCain has a strong record with regard to global warming, his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, said in a recent interview: "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made." She softened her stance during a September 11 interview with ABC News's Charlie Gibson, saying "man's activities certainly can be contributing to the issue of global warming."

 

Reducing Carbon Emissions

Obama Obama plans to invest $150 billion dollars over the next decade to fund private efforts to develop alternative energies. He also wants to put a million 150-mile- (240-kilometer-) per-gallon plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015 and plans to raise fuel economy standards by 4 percent each year. He will also institute a cap-and-trade system to limit industrial carbon emissions. Carbon credits, which companies can buy if they pollute more than they are allowed, will be auctioned in a market set up by the government. The ultimate goal is to reduce carbon emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

From a speech in Portsmouth, N.H., in October 2007: "No business will be allowed to emit any greenhouse gases for free. Businesses don't own the sky, the public does, and if we want them to stop polluting it, we have to put a price on all pollution."

McCain McCain's platform revolves chiefly around monetary challenges for companies and consumers—including a $5,000 tax credit for consumers who buy zero-emission cars (encouraging automakers to create such vehicles) and a $300-million X PRIZE–like competition to develop a battery for plug-in hybrids and fully electric cars. Like Obama, he supports a cap-and-trade system—but in his version, the government gives carbon credits free of charge to companies who continue to pollute. His ultimate goal: bring carbon emission down to 60 percent below 1990 levels.

From an op-ed McCain wrote for The Financial Times March 19, 2008: "Americans and Europeans need to get serious about substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years or we will hand over a much-diminished world to our grandchildren. … We need a successor to Kyoto, a cap-and-trade system that delivers the necessary environmental impact in an economically responsible manner."

Table of Contents:
1: Global Warming: Is It Man-Made? | Reducing Carbon Emissions
2: Offshore Oil Exploration and Drilling | Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
3: "Clean Coal" | Natural Gas
4: Nuclear Energy | Endangered Species
5: Water Shortage | Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal)

Offshore Oil Exploration and Drilling

Obama Obama has softened his stance on drilling in protected areas off the  U.S. coasts, which the Bush administration is considering opening up to exploration. Before early August the Democratic candidate was solidly against it. He now says he is open to limited drilling as part of a larger effort to curtail volatile gas prices—provided it can be done in an environmentally responsible way. He also calls for oil companies to drill in the 68 million acres (27.5 million hectares) where they already have access but are not currently exploring, most of it offshore.

From a statement made by Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton in mid-July: "If offshore drilling would provide short-term relief at the pump or a long-term strategy for energy independence, it would be worthy of our consideration, regardless of the risks. But most experts, even within the Bush administration, concede it would do neither. It would merely prolong the failed energy policies we have seen from Washington for 30 years."

McCain McCain is in favor of drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf federally controlled submerged land off all U.S. coasts (as opposed to state-controlled seabed)—in order to lessen American dependence on foreign oil and lower gas prices.

From an early September campaign rally in Lebanon, Ohio: "Drill, baby, drill. We must drill offshore."

 

Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)

Obama Obama has consistently opposed drilling in ANWR. He supports keeping the refuge free of disruption from human activity. Oil exploration there is likely to negatively impact Porcupine caribou, blocking a portion of the herd's 1,800-mile (2,900-kilometer) migration.

McCain McCain's official position on ANWR is against drilling in the reserve. In recent weeks, however, his plans may be shifting, especially following the selection of Palin, who is in favor of drilling in the area.

From a recent article in The Weekly Standard: "Last Friday, McCain had breakfast in Aspen, Colo., with Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, who has taken out television ads to promote his efforts to end American dependence on foreign oil. After the breakfast, Pickens told reporters that he had pushed McCain to drill in ANWR. McCain, Pickens continued, 'said that he hadn't decided to do that...yet. But it was, you know, still an open question.'"

Table of Contents:
1: Global Warming: Is It Man-Made? | Reducing Carbon Emissions
2: Offshore Oil Exploration and Drilling | Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
3: "Clean Coal" | Natural Gas
4: Nuclear Energy | Endangered Species
5: Water Shortage | Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal)

"Clean Coal"

Obama According to Obama's Web site, the U.S. Department of Energy under his control would work with private companies to design five clean-coal plants that take advantage of carbon capture and sequestration. In early 2007 he co-sponsored the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007 as a measure to lessen dependence on foreign oil by turning coal into automobile fuel. But, Scientific American, among others, has argued that liquid coal could very well be worse than gasoline, both environmentally and economically.

McCain McCain promises to pour $2 billion annually into the development of clean-coal technology. He wants to commercialize the new processes by building new plants using techniques like capture and sequestration in the U.S.—as well as export these methodologies to countries like China. He also supports utilizing coal-to-liquid systems.

From an interview with Grist magazine: "I'd like to see coal gasification, and I would subsidize R&D in that effort. I'm all for government funding basic R&D, by the way. I really believe that we're going to have to use a kind of a coal [technology] that does not emit the greenhouse gases that present-day coal-fired utility plants do."

Wildcard Wild card:
Obama's running mate, Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, believes developing clean-coal technologies is essential to combating global climate change. He asserts, however, that coal is wrong for America and suggests exporting any new coal technologies to emerging countries like China and India, both of which depend heavily on coal-derived energy.

 

Natural Gas

Obama Obama supports the immediate construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline, both for relieving dependence on foreign oil (and increasing American energy security) and because building and maintaining it would create new jobs. According to his campaign, the pipeline could supply up to 1.5 trillion cubic feet (42.5 billion cubic meters) of natural gas per year.

In early August Obama unveiled his energy plan, advocating for cooperating "with the Canadian government to finally build the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline, delivering clean natural gas and creating good jobs in the process."

McCain McCain is a booster for tapping the Outer Continental Shelf to extract both oil and natural gas. According to his campaign Web site, there are 77 trillion cubic feet (2.2 trillion cubic meters) of recoverable natural gas offshore. Each year, roughly 2.4 trillion cubic feet (68 billion cubic meters) of natural gas are used each year, according to the Energy Information Administration—a more than 30-year supply at current consumption levels.

From a Santa Barbara, Calif., speech, in late June: "Every year, the federal government buys upward of 60,000 cars and other vehicles, not including military or law enforcement vehicles. … From now on, we're going to make those civilian vehicles flex-fuel capable, plug-in hybrid or cars fueled by clean natural gas."

Table of Contents:
1: Global Warming: Is It Man-Made? | Reducing Carbon Emissions
2: Offshore Oil Exploration and Drilling | Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
3: "Clean Coal" | Natural Gas
4: Nuclear Energy | Endangered Species
5: Water Shortage | Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal)

Nuclear Energy

Obama Even though Illinois has more nuclear power plants than any other state, Obama is not gung ho on that type of energy. Although John Edwards was a stalwart in opposing nuke power, Obama believes that it will likely have a role to play in any mixed bag of alternatives aimed at replacing oil-based energy.

From a December 2007 town hall meeting in Newton, Iowa: "I start off with the premise that nuclear energy is not optimal. So, I am not a nuclear energy proponent."

McCain McCain wants to end the moratorium on building new nuclear plants—the U.S. hasn't broken ground on one in 30 years. His plan puts the country on track to open 45 new facilities by 2030 on our way to constructing a total of 100. Bloomberg.com estimates the proposal will cost taxpayers $315 billion.

From a speech at Missouri State University in Springfield: "Every year, [the 104 operating nuclear] reactors alone spare the atmosphere from the equivalent of nearly all auto emissions in America. Yet for all these benefits, we have not broken ground on a single nuclear plant in over 30 years. … And our manufacturing base to even construct these plants is almost gone. We will need to recover all the knowledge and skills that have been lost over three stagnant decades in a highly technical field."

 

Endangered Species

Obama In August the AP reported that Obama opposed a Bush administration proposal that would bar input from independent scientists in reviews of the plights of endangered species.

From a statement by Obama spokesman Nick Shapiro: "After over 30 years of successfully protecting our nation's most endangered wildlife like the bald eagle, we should be looking for ways to improve it, not weaken it. As president, Sen. Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and undo this proposal from Pres. Bush."

McCain McCain had no comment on Bush's proposed blocking of scientist input on the protection of endangered species. He did, however, oppose Congressional spending on a study of grizzly bear DNA that scientists believed would aid in protecting the species—which has been considered threatened since 1975. McCain called the earmark an example of pork barrel spending.

From a McCain TV spot: "Two hundred, thirty-three million for a bridge to nowhere. Outrageous…. Three million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. Unbelievable…. A million dollars for a Woodstock Museum—in a bill sponsored by Hillary Clinton. Predictable…. Who has the guts to stand up to wasteful government spending? One man. John McCain."

Wildcard Wild card:
McCain and Palin sat on opposite sides of the ice floe when it came to deciding whether the polar bear should be listed as an endangered species earlier this year. McCain supported it; Palin was against it. (In May, the U.S. Department of the Interior deemed polar bears "threatened".) Another point of possible contention: so-called Congressional earmarks requested by Gov. Palin to study the genetics of harbor seals and mating habits of crabs—which stand in direct conflict with McCain's stance on using federal funds to study grizzly bear DNA.

Table of Contents:
1: Global Warming: Is It Man-Made? | Reducing Carbon Emissions
2: Offshore Oil Exploration and Drilling | Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
3: "Clean Coal" | Natural Gas
4: Nuclear Energy | Endangered Species
5: Water Shortage | Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal)

Water Shortage

Obama With 39 states predicted to experience a water shortage in the next decade, Obama advocates developing a national plan to help areas of high population growth better manage water-related resources. He also calls for new water-efficiency regulations in appliances as well as in landscaping and farming.

From Obama's answers to questions presented by Science Debate 08 and the Scientists & Engineers for America: "Solutions to this critical problem will require close collaboration between federal, state and local governments, and the people and businesses affected. First, prices and policies must be set in a ways that give everyone a clear incentive to use water efficiently and avoid waste. … Second, information, training, and, in some cases, economic assistance should be provided to farms and businesses that will need to shift to more efficient water practices."

McCain McCain supports renegotiating the terms of the Colorado River Compact, which provides guidelines for divvying up the river's water among California, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. Populations in this region have shifted wildly over the past 86 years since the pact was ratified in 1922, his campaign says.

From several speeches McCain gave last month in Colorado: "Hello, I'm John McCain. I'm from Arizona and I'm here to take your water."

 

Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal)

Obama Obama wants to establish a federal mandate that 10 percent of all the electricity used in America come from sustainable sources. Part of the $150 billion, 10-year expenditure—the centerpiece of his energy plan—is to develop these resources as well as shift ethanol production from corn to cellulose-based sources that do not affect the food supply. Obama has, however, also been a supporter of ethanol made primarily from corn—a prominent industry in his home state of Illinois—and recently told farmers he supports federal mandates to make nine billion gallons (34 billion liters) of ethanol to use as fuel this year.

From a speech at Michigan State University (M.S.U.) in early August: "To meet these goals, we will invest more in the clean-technology research and development that's occurring in labs and research facilities all across the country and right here at M.S.U., where you're working with farm owners to develop this state's wind potential and developing nanotechnology that will make solar cells cheaper."

McCain McCain's campaign platform is largely nonspecific with regard to renewable energy. He favors "rationalizing" existing tax incentives on renewable energy until the market becomes sustainable and does not require government support. Democrats noted that McCain missed eight votes on a renewable energy bill that finally failed to get out of the Senate in July. He supports ethanol as a biofuel, but recently urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to relax rules on the amount of ethanol produced because of its effect on food and livestock feed prices.

 

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