By picking Joe Biden as a running mate, Barack Obama may have reassured the electorate about his lack of experience and foreign policy bona fides, according to some pundits. But the coal-state senator may have also taken a step toward shoring up his enviro cred.
The Delaware senator is as serious as a heart attack about energy policy—a point The Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Ball made this weekend.
Biden has been harping on the need for a new energy initiatives for years. When he sat on a Real Time with Bill Maher panel in the spring of 2006, he called 9/11 a "squandered opportunity" for enacting new socialized energy programs. The American public at that point, he claims, was uniquely united in acting for the greater public good.
"What would have happened if the president had gone and said right after 9/11, 'I have an energy policy. It's going to be painful. This is what it's going to take, and I expect you to do it,'" Biden said. "They would have all responded. At that moment, they would have."
When he appeared with Maher during Yahoo!'s Democratic Candidate Mashup a year ago, he cited coal-soiled air as a bigger health risk than high-fructose corn syrup—a sweetener used in soft drinks and processed foods that is linked to obesity and diabetes—and a terrorist attack.
Among the places where he has disagreed with Obama in the past: the role of clean-coal plants in aiding in America's energy independence.
Obama is a proponent of investing in clean coal technologies to free the American dependence on foreign oil. If research leads to ways to keep coal's carbon emissions out of the atmosphere, he supports building new coal plants in the U.S. In addition, Obama advocates subsidies for producers of corn ethanol—a stance that critics have attacked because he comes from a corn-producing state.
Biden believes in funding the development of strategies such as coal-liquefaction and carbon sequestration for eliminating pollution from dirty coal. But, during his presidential campaign, he suggested exporting the technology to places like China, where coal plants spring up almost daily with no end in sight.
According to a 2007 interview for Salon, he supports a role for nuclear power—after considerable spending on clearing up issues related to safety, security and recycling the waste from the plants. This is more or less in line with Obama, who wants it on the table—but not on the top of the list.
For more on Biden's science stances, check out: Scientists and Engineers for America's candidate wiki, Physics Today, an interview and fact sheet from Grist and Popular Mechanics' "Geek the Vote '08."
Related: Biden also had a brain aneurysm treated 20 years ago.
(Photo courtesy of the U.S. Government)