How Green is Al Franken?


Photo via Parade

After one of the most grueling, most contentious Senate races in recent memory, Al Franken has emerged as Minnesota's junior senator. The Minnesota Supreme Court decided 5-0 that a previous court's ruling that Franken had won by 312 votes was valid. His opponent Norm Coleman, has conceded. And of course, there's the magic number that's on everyone's mind: 60. Franken brings the number of Democratic senators to 60, meaning they'll have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. So what does all this mean for environmental policy--and just how green is Al Franken?Is Al Franken Green?
It's a tough question to answer--Franken has no record in public office. But as a satirist, writer, and entertainer, his positions are pretty well documented. And his stated positions on green issues are encouraging, if far from definitive. He's expressed support for environmental protection, growing green jobs, and called for renewable energy development.

And he said in his victory speech that one of his goals is "To make Minnesota the epicenter of a new renewable energy economy that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil." Which, though positive, is standard boilerplate these days. To get a better idea of his policy ideas--though still by no means an absolute barometer--we can look at his campaign website. Here are a few of Al's thoughts on green issues:

Al Franken Supports Fair Trade
From Franken's campaign website:

I'm a fair trader. I'll insist that our trade agreements include enforceable labor, safety, and environmental standards.

Franken's Renewable Energy Vision
He's evidently given the future of renewable energy a good deal of thought, and he outlines his vision thus:
Today, I think we need a new "Apollo project" — this time to fundamentally change our energy policy and end our reliance on foreign oil. The natural resources we have right here in Minnesota — not just corn and soybeans and biomass and wind, but innovation and creativity and brainpower — can lead to amazing breakthroughs if we commit to this undertaking.

This "Apollo project" should provide financial support for research into new forms of renewable energy and development of currently-identified sources to make them more efficient. Of course I'm talking about corn ethanol. But I'm also talking about cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels. I'm talking about solar power. And, especially here in Minnesota, I'm talking about wind power. We live in a windy state!

Specifics are of course lacking--as they always inevitably on campaign websites--but the depth of thought and vision he presents goes a bit further than many Democrats' "green" agendas. I'm not wild about his support for corn ethanol, but he's quick to acknowledge that there are a slew of other possibilities that need exploring. And the imagined results of his plan are all general ideas that greens can get behind:
  • We'll dramatically improve our environment.

  • We'll finally be taking steps to address global warming.

  • We'll make our nation more secure and less dependent on an uncertain global fuel economy.

  • We'll revitalize our manufacturing sector. The Ford plant in St. Paul that's closing down should be making wind turbines, and we should be putting them up all over Minnesota.

  • We'll create high-tech, high-paying jobs in conservation and R&D.;

And finally, he backs renewable energy with as much gusto as I've seen:
Renewable energy is win-win-win-win-win, and we should back it not only with our words, but with our resources. We should also invest in conservation — energy efficiency, light rail, and increased CAFE standards are all part of that.

Franken Makes 60
Another thing worth mentioning is the fact that Franken does indeed make 60 Democrats in the Senate--theoretically enough to avoid a filibuster from the Republicans if every one of the Dems falls in line. Which some see as good news for the chances of, say, the contentious Democrat-led climate bill getting through the Senate. In reality, though, it's still going to be a remarkably tough battle--many Democratic Senators have already expressed doubts towards the bill, and simply having 60 Dems seated is by no means going to seal the deal.

So. Franken looks to be an ally of green causes--though we'll certainly have to wait and see how he votes and which bills he supports once he's seated, which should be as soon as Monday next week.

More on Green Politicians:
The 6 Greenest Republicans in Office
Best of Green : Business & Politics (Slideshow)
David Suzuki Slams Greenwashing Politicians

Tags: Alternative Energy | Carbon Emissions | Congress