Obama-Biden: a green dream ticket?

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Barack Obama’s decision to tap Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate; he’s got a notoriously big mouth, a dodgy record on the Iraq war and on civil liberties, and has made more than a couple of racially insensitive comments in his time. But on the environment, at least, Biden looks like a fine choice: with an 84-percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters - just two percentage points behind Obama - Biden has been a staunch ally of the environmental movement over the years. 

Way back in 1986, Biden introduced the first legislation designed to limit global warming pollution; more recently, he cosponsored the Boxer-Sanders bill, the most far-reaching climate legislation in the Senate. He’s proposed environmental reforms that mirror Obama’s platform, but also has good ideas of his own; he’s sponsored legislation designed to promote fluorescent light bulbs and spur the development of plug-in electric autos, and wants to ban all federal construction projects that don’t meet green standards.

Biden might also provide a counterweight to some of Obama’s biggest environmental weaknesses. Where Obama has drawn criticism for his cozy relationship with the Illinois nuclear lobby, Biden has made a point of refusing handouts from the nuclear industry. He’s also taken a more nuanced line on coal than Obama: “Clean-coal technology is not the route to go in the United States, because we have other, cleaner alternatives,” he said last year. Instead, Biden wants the US to develop clean-coal technologies for export, in a bid to minimize the damage being done by developing-world power plants.

Even more importantly, Biden brings a deep understanding of the degree to which global warming and geopolitics are interconnected. As chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, he’s held hearings on the national security implications of climate change, and understands as well as anyone that America must lead by example if she wants to convince China and India to rein in their emissions.

Combined with his blue-collar background - suddenly being the poorest senator on the Hill is something to brag about! - that leaves Biden uniquely well-placed to convince wavering voters that Obama’s environmental platform isn’t a threat to their pocketbook, and in fact dovetails with many of the economic and security issues they care most about. Obama already has well-off progressives in the bag; if the Delaware senator can sell his boss’s energy and environment platform to both blue-collar Democrats and security-minded moderates, Obama-Biden really could turn out to be a green dream ticket.

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