With the 2012 election fast approaching and the possibility of a party change in the White House becoming more real every day, we decided to take a closer look at the four Republican candidates and their views on the environment. As global climate change becomes a more imminent threat every day, it is crucial to put all candidates under a microscope. An overall understanding of how Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum have voted on and vocalized environmental policy in the past will reveal the potential outcomes for the future – and help shed light on the possible changes, adoptions, and dangers we may face through 2012 and beyond.
In a nutshell, here are the environmental policies of the 2012 Republican Candidates.
Mitt Romney is relatively moderate amongst some of his fellow GOP candidates. Although he acknowledges climate change as scientific fact, Romney is apparently confused about whether or not it’s human-related issue. He declared in June that he “believes the world is getting warmer” and that “humans contribute to that.” Yet in August, he said that he “didn’t know” if the “world getting hotter… is mostly caused by humans.” Unlike his fellow running mates, Romney has avoided bashing and demonizing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At the same time, as Massachusetts governor, Romney rejected cap-and-trade emissions programs, believing they would “rocket energy prices.” He seeks to reduce “the regulatory burden” on industry and energy producers. And in the 2007 Supreme Court case Massachusetts vs. EPA, Romney was against supporting EPA regulation of greenhouse gases. Romney does, however, support drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Western lands, the outer continental shelves, Alaska, and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He also supports to the use of fracking to obtain shale gas. Romney is critical of Obama’s handling of Solyndra, yet, as governor, selectively invested in alterative energy – overall favoring private investment in solar, wind, and nuclear energy.
Newt Gingrich, like Romney, has expressed varying opinions on the cause and origins of climate change, both accepting and denying the human role in it. Hailed by many environmentalists for his involvement in Al Gore’s much-circulated 2008 “We Can Solve It” campaign, Gingrich stated that the US “must take action to address global climate change.” However, three years later in a Fox interview, Gingrich deftly commented that the ad was “the dumbest thing [he’s] done in recent years.” Gingrich believes that the EPA is “job killing” and seeks to replace it with what he calls the “Environmental Solutions Agency” devoted to research, “more energy, more jobs, and a better environment simultaneously.” Like Romney, he opposes cap-and-trade regulations. Gingrich has flip-flopped in his support of carbon emission regulations and potential incentives for carbon-sequestering technology development, but overall appears to stand in support of some sort of CO2 regulation. Gingrich hopes to maximize oil, gas, and “clean coal” production, allowing oil/natural gas industries to drill offshore reserves blocked for development through federal royalties.With oil and gas royalties, Gingrich has promised to fund clean energy research, being primarily in support of nuclear and wind energies.
Ron Paul’s stance on environmental policy may be one of the most misunderstood and confusing topics on the agenda. The main reason why? He says that global warming is “the greatest hoax I think that has been around for many, many years.” Ultimately Paul seeks to eliminate all environmental protections. As a libertarian, he believes that anyone who suffers personal or property damage from pollution should attack the company responsible, answering “directly to property owners in court for the damages, not Washington.” We all know that it is neither this simple nor this easy, and his plan to dismantle the EPA would likely have irreparable individual and large-scale damages with no one to clean up after them. Paul, like his fellow candidates, has voted against cap-and-trade, being both against regulations and of the belief that such regulations would destroy American jobs. Among the stranger elements of Paul’s environmental agenda is the plan to repeal the federal tax on gasoline, creating a major gap in funding for roads and infrastructure (as well as ultimately serving to perpetuate American reliance on oil). He also hopes to lift “government roadblocks” on nuclear power development, favoring tax incentives over subsidies for alternative energy purchase/production. Paul aims to remove federal restrictions and regulations on drilling and coal, prompting what would likely turn out to be a corporate free-for-all on domestic drilling.
Rick Santorum may just out-extreme Ron Paul. He has called the research linking humans to global warming “junk science” that is “patently absurd.” He once eloquently said that climate change is “a beautifully concocted scheme” that is “just an excuse for more government control of your life.” Santorum also plans to abolish the EPA and its “job-killing radical regulatory approaches,” subsequently repealing all Obama-era EPA regulations. He has stated that he wants to “refocus [the EPA’s] mission on safe and clean water and air and commonsense conservation.” However, Santorum has consistently voted against an increase in renewable energy and regulations for cleaner air. Santorum has also supported a limit increase on mercury emissions from power plants, pushing heavily for nuclear energy. He has stated his hope to “put aside our dreams of ‘green jobs,” believing that we should instead focus on the “great domestic resources at our disposal.” Santorum plans to eliminate all agriculture and energy subsidies within four years, thereby cutting subsidies for solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources. He wants an “all of the above” energy policy, calling on the pursuit of oil, coal, natural gas, and anything else we can get our hands on – this would include drilling in his preferred location, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Santorum has, however, proposed scaling back on all “oppressive regulation” that prohibits drilling in other locations.
Hopefully this summary has made navigating the complicated views of the Republican candidates a little more simple. Environmental policy itself is not a simple thing, regardless of party lines. Fortunately it appears to be at the forefront of 2012’s election (or, at least,not on the back burner). While public discussion of these complicated issues is in itself a positive sign of progression toward federal policy, we cannot lose sight of the embedded danger in some of these words and policies. This election falls at a critical juncture for the planet, with the proverbial clock ticking: The next president of the United States will have some major environmental decisions to make, ones that will forever change the safety, serenity, and sanity of our Earth. Inform yourself as the election nears.
Ask yourself if any of the above candidates seem prepared to take on these enormous challenges. Educate yourself, educate others, and make sure to vote in November 2012 – not just for a president, but for the planet, as well. Tell us your take on the Republican candidates and the environment.