PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ON ENERGY LINKS/CLIMATE CHANGE
"Let us set as our national goal, in the spirit of Apollo and with the determination of the Manhattan Project, that by the end of this decade, we will have developed the potential to meet our own energy needs without depending on any foreign energy sources ."
Obama? McCain? Gore? Carter? The speaker could be any of the above; however, President Richard Nixon--that pillar of all things green-uttered these words and the decade that he hoped would end in America's energy independence was the 1970s.
Our transition from petroleum dependence, sputtering and haphazard, began in this era and reached an important apogee when President George W. Bush used his 2006 State of the Union to tell Americans that we are addicted to oil. The next President is poised for a decisive moment in determining our energy future. This is not, however, simply an issue of supply and market.
In 2008, we live in an era of energy consciousness that prohibits presidential candidates from not organizing a comprehensive strategy for contending with some of the more complicated issues connected to energy use. In 2008, for instance, neither candidate can offer public doubt, as did Bush in 2000, that climate change is a genuine concern that must be factored into any national energy policy. Instead, their strategies must contend not only with issues of supply but also with related concerns, including how emissions from energy production influence the global climate.
The information that each candidate makes available on his web site states that human-caused climate change is a real problem demanding urgent attention. They concur that, as President, they would sharply diverge from President Bush's course and would introduce an era of legislative proposals requiring sharp cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury. In the McCain/Palin campaign, it should be pointed out that there is a divergence of opinion on this issue because Governor Sarah Palin has stated previously that she is unconvinced about the origins of climate change and, therefore, on what solutions should be pursued. McCain, however, emphasizes his longtime focus on the issue, including his co-authorship of the legislation seeking mandatory greenhouse-gas limits in 2003.
For each campaign, the focus of its legislative initiative is a "cap and trade" mechanism that sets a ceiling on emissions that declines over time, thereby forcing industries to steadily decreases carbon emissions. The permits in such a policy are auctioned to create revenue. A focal point of the Obama/Biden plan is to use $150 billion of the revenue over 10 years to help improve nonpolluting vehicles, clean energy technologies, and the technology for capturing emissions from power plants. In addition, a portion of the fund would be used to lessen costs facing industries affected by the transition to a low-carbon economy. McCain's plan is unspecific and offers neither a timetable for implementation nor details regarding revenues from the sale of permits.
Obviously, we are at a moment when any candidate to be a leader of the U.S. must confront the issues related to energy, including that of climate change. Most observers believe that regardless of who is elected, initiatives will move forward on climate legislation, technology for nonpolluting energy sources will be expanded, and the U.S. will assume a leadership role in global talks to fashion a new climate treaty.
Brian Black, Penn State Altoona
-- Brian C. Black, Ph. D Associate Professor of History and Environmental Studies Co-Coordinator, Environmental Studies _____________________________________________________________________________
Penn State Altoona
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