Toeing the Green Line: McCain v. Obama on Other Environmental Issues
photo: Luke Robinson
With less than a month to go in the US Presidential Election, one debate between John McCain and Barack Obama done and another scheduled for tonight, and the only debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin completed, less than 18% of US voters consider themselves undecided.
If you're one of these people and care about energy policy and the environment I hope comparing side-by-side the rhetoric of both major party candidates has proven useful. In past posts we've covered renewable energy, offshore oil drilling, nuclear power, clean coal, and global warming.
This final installment will touch upon some of the other environmental issues that the next president of the United States has spoken out about: Water, Fuel Efficiency, Electric Vehicles, Building Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Communities. Here there are again, head-to-head on other green issues:
John McCain on the Other Green Issues
Let's begin with a baseline of John McCain's past voting record. I pointed this out in the first in this series of posts, but it bears repeating: The League of Conservation Voters has given John McCain's lifetime voting record on the environment a score of 24 out of 100. The average in the Senate is somewhere in the mid 50s.
Ensuring Water Supplies
When Science Debate 2008 asked John McCain about water, specifically what policies he supported for ensure adequate water supplies in the United States, this was his response:
I believe that we must develop, manage, and use our limited water supplies wisely and with a conservation ethic to ensure that we have sufficient supplies to meet municipal, tribal, industrial, agricultural, recreational, and environmental needs. I believe that water rights must be respected, and that disputes are better resolved not in the courts but through negotiations that build consensus, and provide justly for the needs of the west's diverse interests and needs. I understand the importance of state law and local prerogatives in the allocation of water resources, and that all levels of government must work together with stakeholders to ensure that our lifeblood is protected, managed, and utilized in a wise, just, and sustainable manner. â€¨â€¨I support constructive, continuing cooperation and dialogue among the states and the water users in a manner that is fully consistent with existing compacts and agreements. This is an approach that is forward looking, and ensures cooperation in achieving implementation of water agreements among the states and the Department of the Interior and is mindful of potential technological developments that could potentially reduce water demands in certain areas.
Transportation & Fuel Efficiency
On the vitally important issue of transitioning the US transportation sector away from fossil fuels McCain's official literature has this to say (it's entirely mute on public transportation, by the way):
John McCain will issue a Clean Car Challenge to automakers of America, in the form of a single and substantial tax credit for the consumer based on the reduction of carbon emissions. He will commit a $5,000 tax credit for each and every customer who buys a zero carbon emission car, encouraging automakers to be first on the market with these cars in order to capitalize on the consumer incentives. For other vehicles, a graduated tax credit will apply so that the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.
On CAFE standards:
John McCain has long supported CAFE standards - the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers' cars must meet. Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars. John McCain believes that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel all carmakers to produce fuel-efficient vehicles.
In response to a League of Conservation Voters question on increasing CAFE standards, he elaborated on his position,
America's reliance on foreign oil poses a danger to the nation's security, our economy, and the environment. Fuel efficiency standards can play a significant role in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and improving the nation's air quality, and the production of more fuel-efficient cars may also help the America's automobile manufacturing industry to compete more successfully both at home and abroad. Energy diversity and fuel efficiency can and should be improved.
As President I will work with Congress and all stakeholders to see that achievable and appropriate standards are put into place that will optimize advances in technology, protect auto safety, meet family needs and consumer demands, promote the nation's energy security, and help our industry compete in a global economy. I believe that the use of advanced materials and other technologies including alternatively fueled vehicles, flexibly fueled vehicles, and plug-in hybrid vehicles can help us meet our objectives successfully. I have supported aggressive CAFE standards in the past and will continue to work to increase CAFE standards to a level that is practical and achievable for all new vehicles, foreign and domestic, because improved fuel economy will help our nation achieve national energy security, reduce carbon emissions, and improve local and regional air quality.
Energy Efficiency Improvements
McCain has indicated that he believes the federal government should lead in the area of energy efficient buildings,
The federal government is the largest electricity consumer on earth and occupies 3.3 billion square feet of space worldwide. It provides an enormous opportunity to lead by example. By applying a higher efficiency standard to new buildings leased or purchased or retrofitting existing buildings, we can save taxpayers substantial money in energy costs, and move the construction market in the direction of green technology. (McCain-Palin 2008)
Opposition to Agricultural Subsidies
John McCain's well known opposition to subsidies for corn ethanol are mirrored in his official statement on farm policy:
As President [I] will approach America's agriculture policy with the goal of ensuring our farm, ranch, timber and commercial fishing industries are competitive in the global marketplace. Consistent with his longstanding position, John McCain opposes subsidies, which distort markets, artificially raise prices for consumers, and interfere with America's ability to negotiate with our international trading partners to the detriment of the entire agriculture community. John McCain understands the power of American leadership in helping other countries solve their poverty problems through agricultural development. By maintaining America's long tradition of developing and sharing agricultural technology, American farmers can continue to have trading partners that buy high value US products. (McCain-Palin 2008)
How does Barack Obama compare?