Politics: Presidental Smackdown

Where do the leading candidates stand of environmental issues?

By Ben Whitford

Barack Obama
Climate change: Supports a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Policy wonks applauded his plan to auction off— not give away—carbon credits.

Energy: Promises $150 billion to develop biofuels and hybrids and a $50 billion venture fund for clean technologies. Says a quarter of US energy will come from renewable sources by 2025.

Introduced Senate bills targeting lead pollution and forcing nuclear plants to disclose leaks. Would make polluters pay to clean up spills.

Pledges to create new national parks. Strong on water resources, especially the Great Lakes.  

Dirty secret:
Fought for federal subsidies for filthy coal-to-liquid technology; remains cozy with Illinois coal and nuclear lobbies.

Getting personal: Drives a hybrid Ford Escape and is installing compact flourescent lights at home.

In his own words:
“I don’t believe climate change is just an issue that’s convenient to bring up during a campaign. I believe it’s one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation.”


Hillary Clinton

Climate change: Promises 80 percent emissions reductions by mid-century via a cap-and-trade system.

Energy: Pledges to cut energy demand by 20% by 2020. Would tax oil companies to raise $50 billion for clean energy.

Pollution: Promotes a science-led strategy, with new biomonitoring programs to track chemical levels in our bodies.

Conservation: Supports increased funding for national parks.

Dirty secret: Pressured New York government to let a paper mill burn shredded tires; the project produced so much toxic waste it was abandoned after three days.

Getting personal:
Installed motion-sensor and energy-saving lights at home.

In her own words:
“I do not want to be part of the first generation to leave America and the world in worse shape than when we found them. It will not happen on my watch.”

John McCain
Climate change: Cosponsored first Senate bill seeking mandatory greenhouse gas cuts. Says climate change would be a top priority and proposes a cap-and-trade system to cut emissions 65% by 2050.  

Opposed renewable-energy bills in 2003 and 2005, and supports coal and nuclear power. Critical of ethanol subsidies.

Pollution: Opposed Bush’s plan to weaken rules requiring companies to report toxic leaks.

Would revoke rules preventing timber companies from logging in federal reserves. Says he’s against oil drilling in Alaska, but his voting record is inconsistent.

Dirty secret:
Claims he’s opposed to energy subsidies on principle, but his climate plan allots a $3.7 billion
payoff for new nuclear.

Getting personal: One of his homes has solar panels.

In his own words: “The wise and sustainable stewardship of natural resources will continue to be an increasingly crucial factor in protecting the nation’s environmental, economic, and physical security ... addressing these issues will be a high priority for me.”

—Ben Whitford

Issue 25

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