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Double-talk or nothing


Democratic vice-presidential hopeful Joe Biden would be the first to admit that he’s got a big mouth; it’s practically part of his brand. Still, the bloviating lawmaker has outdone himself in recent weeks, dissing his own side’s attack ads, asking a wheelchair-bound supporter to stand up and take a bow - and, most recently, appearing to tell a supporter that contrary to previous statements, the Democratic ticket didn’t support “clean coal”.

That’s music to the ears of many greens, who worry that “clean coal” is more an advertising slogan than a viable technology. Still, with the Appalachians in play, the McCain camp jumped on Biden’s comments, rushing out a bluegrass-tinged attack ad blasting Obama and Biden for pandering and flip-flopping. (The Obama camp quickly issued a statement claiming that Biden’s comments had been misconstrued, and reaffirming the ticket’s lamentable commitment to investing in zero-carbon coal plants.)

Of course, Joe’s not the only one who’s been making Kinsley gaffes on environmental issues. McCain has caught flak for claiming his cap-and-trade plan doesn’t include mandatory carbon caps (it does), while his running mate has been doing her best to backpedal on her earlier admission that she doesn’t believe that global warming is caused by human activity.

Then there’s McCain’s top energy adviser, Doug Holtz-Eakin, who told a panel in New York that regional efforts to cap carbon emissions are “costly and uncoordinated” schemes that will only impede federal efforts to counter climate change. “An enormous amount of regulatory infrastructure has to be cleaned up,” he said. That contradicts McCain’s earlier statements about the states’ role in tackling climate change, and worried greens in California and the other states currently pushing ahead with local emission caps.

Unfortunately, with the campaign heating up and the economy in meltdown, we’re unlikely to get much substantive talk about climate policy from either candidate in coming weeks, which means these unscripted moments may be all we have to go on. On the one hand, we’ve got a team whose gaffes hint at green aspirations they’re afraid to act upon; on the other, a ticket whose blooper reel suggests almost exactly the opposite. Sadly, neither one inspires much confidence; you pays your money, and you takes your choice.