Environmental issues have been framed mostly as economic issues during this election campaign: How can we bring down gas prices? Can we create jobs with a new oil pipeline? Does the Environmental Protection Agency cost jobs? But these issues impact both our bank accounts and the environment. Here's some highlights of their records so far.
Candidate: President Obama
Is global warming real? Yes.
Is it caused by people? Yes.
Green policy: Obama pushed for subsidies for alternative energy in the stimulus package, but it's gotten him into a bit of trouble. In 2009, Solyndra got a huge $535 million loan guarantee the solar energy tech got from the government, and went bankrupt in 2011. It's fueled conservatives' critique of the policy that the government shouldn't try to encourage clean energy because it shouldn't "pick winners" and let the market be free. The president supports fracking to as a safe way to increase domestic production of natural gas, but as Bloomberg reports, environmentalists say the process pollutes ground water. (This can been seen to dramatic effect in the documentary Gasland, in which water from a tap catches on fire.) During the 2008 election, he backed "clean coal," which most of his supporters would say is an oxymoron. And that is why the EPA's proposed new rules to regulate carbon dioxide emissions of power plants "effectively prohibit" new coal plants from being built, Bloomberg reports. The State Department has blocked the creation of the Keystone XL pipeline that would have moved oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, passing through the Nebraska aquifer.
Candidate: Mitt Romney
Is global warming real? Yes.
Is it caused by people? Yes in part in 2010; maybe in 2011.
Green policy: In his 2010 book No Apology, Romney wrote, "I believe that climate change is occurring — the reduction in the size of global ice caps is hard to ignore. I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor." In October 2011, as Grist points out, Romney said, "My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us." Romney thinks the EPA shouldn't regulate carbon emissions, Grist notes, and does not think the government should subsidize alternative energy. Romney supports the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking, The Wall Street Journal reports, and argues Obama has slowed oil and natural gas production with EPA regulations.
Candidate: Newt Gingrich
Is global warming real? It was in 2008; now not so much.
Is it caused by people? Maybe?
Green policy: Gingrich was once in favor of government action to cut pollution, but has has changed his mind. Grist has a nice run down on how Gingrich has evolved on the issue: for cap-and-trade as a way to cut carbon emissions in 2007, now against. For working with Democrats on climate change in 2008; now he says the ad he cut with Nancy Pelosi advocating that position was "dumbest single thing I’ve done in the last few years." He now wants to abolish the EPA and replace it with an "Environmental Solutions Agency" to "incentivize the use of newer technologies" -- which doesn't sound all that inconsistent with cap-and-trade. Gingrich argues that Obama's clean-energy policies are too pie-in-the-sky. He told Fox News recently, "Green energy has to ultimately be commercially competitive. The president recently said drilling wasn't the answer for gasoline. He proposed algae… We went out and talked to the experts. They think it's at least 10 years away, and they think the equivalent cost is between $140 and $800 a barrel. Now, that's not economically competitive.."
Candidate: Rick Santorum
Is global warming real? No.
Is it caused by people? No.
Green policy: Santorum has not hedged like his rivals. "There is no such thing as global warming," he said last year. Santorum says it's a hoax to control people. He opposes energy subsidies, Grist reports. Nine years ago he supported a rule to allow coal plants to renovate without cutting back on how much they pollute -- coal plants were frozen in time then, unable to modernize their plants without cutting back on pollution. Coal is important to Santorum -- he kicked off his campaign in a town near the coal fields of Pennsylvania. When the EPA imposed new mercury restrictions on coal plants this year, he said the agency's motto was, "We hate carbon, we hate fossil fuels, we hate blue-collar Americans who work in those areas." He supports drilling in Alaska's wildlife refuge. He said the Keystone XL pipeline is "absolutely essential." He said on Face the Nation, "The idea that man is here to serve the Earth as opposed to be stewards of the Earth… is a phony ideal. Man is here to use the resources and use them wisely."
Candidate: Ron Paul
Is global warming real? Maybe. Paul says "something is afoot."
Is it caused by people? Doesn't think so.
Green policy: Ron Paul is a libertarian, but he's not above letting the government subsidize energy just a little bit. As Mother Nature Network notes, Paul co-sponsored a bill to give tax breaks for facilities using clean energy, sponsored one to give tax credits to solar energy companies, and sponsored legislation to give tax credits to homes using biomass fuel. He backed legislation that would give tax credits to bike riders. They did not pass. He wants a tax deduction for people using public transportation. Paul opposes subsidies for oil companies, saying that if oil rose to its "natural price" there would be more incentive to develop and cheapen clean energy. He opposes ethanol subsidies. He opposes regulating fracking. He opposes raising the fuel economy standards on American vehicles. He told Grist that global warming is not a major problem in 2007.