On Energy & The Environment Joe Biden and Sarah Palin Probably Have to Agree to Disagree

In case you missed it last night, embedded above is the entire debate between vice-presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. As I did with the presidential nomination acceptance speeches of Obama and McCain, for those without the time or inclination to watch the entire thing, here are the relevant passages in regards to environmental and energy issues with some brief remarks about the positions of the candidates. Without further ado, Joe Biden and Sarah Palin head to head:

Palin: Energy Independence Key to America's Future

When we talk about energy, we have to consider the need to do all that we can to allow this nation to become energy independent.

It's a nonsensical position that we are in when we have domestic supplies of energy all over this great land. And East Coast politicians who don't allow energy-producing states like Alaska to produce these, to tap into them, and instead we're relying on foreign countries to produce for us.

We're circulating about $700 billion a year into foreign countries, some who do not like America --they certainly don't have our best interests at heart--instead of those dollars circulating here, creating tens of thousands of jobs and allowing domestic supplies of energy to be tapped into and start flowing into these very, very hungry markets.

Energy independence is the key to this nation's future, to our economic future, and to our national security. So when we talk about energy plans, it's not just about who got a tax break and who didn't. And we're not giving oil companies tax breaks, but it's about a heck of a lot more than that.

Energy independence is the key to America's future.


Palin clearly enjoys talking about energy policy, but her energy policy doesn't seem to extend beyond the notion that tapping into more domestic fossil fuel sources as the answer to all of the country's energy problems.

The fact of the matter is that, at current levels of fossil fuel consumption, there is simply no way at all that the United States will ever be free from oil imports. We simply consume too much and produce too little from reserves which are depleting.

As I've said many times, there is simply no way for virtually any nation, other than those which are major producers of oil, to be energy independent when fossil fuels form the dominant part of the nation's energy mix. It is simply an impossibility. The only road to true and lasting energy independence is through reducing energy demand and expanding production of non-exportable renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Palin: Global Warming Not Man-Made
When asked about the causes of global warming and how to deal with them, Palin had this to say:

Alaska feels and sees impacts of climate change more so than any other state. And we know that it's real.

I'm not one to attribute [...] activity of man to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man's activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet.

But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don't want to argue about the causes.

What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?

We have got to clean up this planet. We have got to encourage other nations also to come along with us with the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that.

As governor, I was the first governor to form a climate change sub-cabinet to start dealing with the impacts. We've got to reduce emissions. John McCain is right there with an "all of the above" approach to deal with climate change impacts.

We've got to become energy independent for that reason. Also as we rely more and more on other countries that don't care as much about the climate as we do, we're allowing them to produce and to emit and even pollute more than America would ever stand for. So even in dealing with climate change, it's all the more reason that we have an "all of the above" approach, tapping into alternative sources of energy and conserving fuel, conserving our petroleum products and our hydrocarbons so that we can clean up this planet and deal with climate change.


At least Palin says we have to reduce carbon emissions...But beyond that I find in inconceivable that she doesn't think that debating the causes of climate change is important when differences in those causes directly impact the best courses of action to take.

In regards to other nations not caring about the climate as much as the United States: Although I've never seen a quantitative scale of climate caring, it could easily be argued that a great number of nations (both great and small) have enacted tougher climate change policy that the US has heretofore. And while there are other nations which have much higher levels of air and water pollution, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and natural resource consumption the US pretty much leads the pack on natural resource consumption per capita and is second only to China in overall greenhouse gas emissions and second to Australia in per-capita emissions.

Biden: Global Warming Is Definitely Man-Made, US Can't Drill To Independence

Well, I think [climate change] is manmade. I think it's clearly manmade. [...]
If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That's the cause. That's why the polar icecap is melting.

Now, let's look at the facts. We have 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. We consume 25 percent of the oil in the world. John McCain has voted 20 times in the last decade-and-a-half against funding alternative energy sources, clean energy sources, wind, solar, biofuels.

The way in which we can stop the greenhouse gases from emitting. We believe--Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it.

China is building one to three new coal-fired plants burning dirty coal per week. It's polluting not only the atmosphere but the West Coast of the United States. We should export the technology by investing in clean coal technology.

We should be creating jobs. John McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources and thinks, I guess, the only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must, but it will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that are going to begun to be drilled.
In the meantime, we're all going to be in real trouble.


Biden's pretty much dead-on in his entire rebuttal of Palin's positions on drilling to energy independence and on climate change causes mattering. That's the good news; the bad news is that he keeps using the words 'clean coal'. In previous statements, as in this one, he says that the US should be developing technologies to make coal burning less polluting so that they can be exported to countries such as China.

Cleantech transfer is certainly a good thing, but when it comes to coal, the type of cleantech that will deal with the carbon emissions of coal burning has a long way to go before being scalable to the levels needed. If done as anything other than a sideline to massive (more massive than either candidate proposes) investment in renewable energy, focusing on developing carbon capture technology is a distraction from focusing on the imperative of getting away from coal as quickly as possible.

Palin: "Green" Natural Gas?
I have to admit that I involuntarily screamed when I heard this next part, the emphasis is mine:

...people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into. They know that even in my own energy-producing state we have billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas. And we're building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline which is North America's largest and most you expensive infrastructure project ever to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets.

Let's get one thing straight. Compared to petroleum and coal I suppose one could call natural gas clean and green, it does have lower carbon dioxide emissions. But compared to renewable energy sources such as wind or solar, natural gas is in no way clean nor green. It may be a part of our energy mix for a while as the shift to greater renewable usage continues, but Palin's statement on the green cred of natural gas is simply greenwashing.


Want a complete blow by blow account? Read the :: full Biden-Palin debate transcript.



More on the Energy & Environmental Policy Statements of the Candidates
In case you missed them, you can check out how the energy and environment policy prescriptions on Barack Obama and John McCain compare in a series of posts I've been doing of the past few weeks:
My Bottom Line is Green: McCain v. Obama on Renewable Energy
Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel: McCain v. Obama on Offshore Oil Drilling & ANWR
The Nuclear Option: McCain v. Obama on Nuclear Power
It's Still a Dirty Business: McCain v. Obama on Clean Coal
It's Still a Dirty Business: McCain v. Obama on Clean Coal
Too Little, Too Late? McCain v. Obama on Global Warming
2008 Elections
Note to Sarah Palin: The Cause of Global Warming Does Matter
Five Questions You Should Ask the Presidential Candidates
What Green Words Are Obama and McCain Really Saying? Ask SpeechWars

Tags: 2008 Elections | Carbon Emissions | Energy | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Causes | Global Warming Solutions | Natural Gas | Oil | Renewable Energy | United States

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