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.

-Jessica Nicholson 


Yesterday, it seemed many people’s spirits were broken by the midterm elections, but we were happy to receive this uplifting email from Green America. So we decided to re-post it here, feel free to leave your comments on how you are staying hopeful!

Re-posted from Green America:

No matter what your hopes were for Tuesday’s election, one outcome that we’re all too likely to see is political gridlock.

That makes the work we do together — advancing social justice and environmental responsibility through economic action — more important than ever. Here are just a few examples:

1. By working to close the filthiest coal-fired power plants, we can work to meet our climate goals — without one new piece of legislation.

2. By creating Clean Energy Victory Bonds, we can finance the next big wave of solar and wind — without one penny of taxpayer dollars.

3. By focusing on energy efficiency, we can help every American family save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year — better than a tax break, since it will happen year after year with no Congressional vote required.

4. By accelerating the transition to clean energy, we ensure the next big wave of good jobs.

5. By going local and organic with our food, and rebuilding local food systems, we can make sure there is healthy, affordable food for all.

6. By choosing Fair Trade, we can help families around the world lift themselves out of poverty.

7. By switching to community banks and credit unions, we can take support away from the mega-banks who were at the center of the global economic crisis – and invest in our local communities.

8. By supporting green businesses, we can rebuild our Main Streets and create new jobs. Recent studies confirm what you and I have known for years: According to the Kaufman Foundation, over the past 25 years, virtually all net new jobs in the US have been created by small, local and independent businesses that are less than five years old. The Pew Charitable Trust reported that green jobs in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the overall job market in the past ten years, and suffered fewer setbacks.

9. By choosing green products and services, people can improve their health, live better and save money when they go green.

10. By using our consumer and investing power, we can make real, lasting change. Steps forward include Home Depot shifting to sustainably-harvested wood and Ben & Jerry’s committing to be 100% Fair Trade with their flavors by 2012. Let’s keep up the pressure on Hershey’s to go Fair Trade!

Americans can and do come together for clean energy and jobs, healthy food, a fair deal for all, and financing systems that rebuild our Main Streets. As we work together on strengthening local businesses and local communities, we’re also building alliances across political divides, reknitting the fabric of our country. We have powerful tools at our fingertips for accelerating the shift to a just and sustainable economy.

Thanks for all you do for a better future for all,

Alisa Gravitz
Executive Director
Green America

It is election season and as election day fast approaches, candidates are bringing out the big guns!  This is the time when the mud really gets slinging and the outrageous attack ads get double play. For myself, this is the worst time in politics and a time to shut out the chatter and focus on the issues that matter most.  With a majority Democrat Congress and a Democrat President, you would think that energy and environmental policy would take the front seat. However, this summer, environmentalists and people concerned with our current energy policy were saddened to see that no climate bills would be passed this year. Furthermore, it felt as if this might be the last chance for any sort of new environmental policy for a while, as it is projected Republicans will gain seats in Congress this November.

Even though the environment seems like a non-partisan issue, seeing as how it affects us all regardless of party lines, Republicans are notorious for lacking in real environmental change.  Making matters worse, a recent Wonk Report shows that all GOP senate candidates are not supporting environmental policy and the fact that they ALL question climate change science. Even candidates such as John McCain, who fought for climate policy during the Bush years, now fights against it.  The political climate seems to have turned it’s head to the environment. Polls are whatever you take them to be, but  a recent poll conducted in 23 states shows the majority of Americans support clean energy policy and would vote for a candidate who supports this. Yet the entire Republican party is against real climate . How can that be?

In a year where we had a six month oil spill and a few coal mines collapses, it is surprising there is less focus on sustainable energy policy. These events should be a giant distress call, however, they have been pushed to the back burner while candidates discuss talking points needed to win elections. In a normal election year, something as cataclysmic as a six month oil spill would be on every politicians tongue.  But it seems this year is proving different. The importance of our environment has taken a huge hit. If polls are suggesting right, the Republicans who question environmental destruction and who think focusing on offshore drilling will be the answer to our problem, will be flooding the House and the Senate; thus killing environmental policy. We don’t always take party sides, but we are fearful of any politician who is not willing to act on providing this country with adequate sustainable energy policy.

So, if this “takeover” occurs we are surely looking at a regression in policy when it comes to the environment. Which is incredibly unfortunate, given the issues our country and planet face in the near future. At some point, the oil will run out and if we don’t have a backup plan quickly we will continue to fall behind the rest of the world. While other countries are improving solar and wind technology and trying to decrease pollution, we are looking for ways to continue to squeeze the Earth of the last few oil reserves. This is just delaying the inevitable and when the oil finally does dry up, we will have to look to foreign powers to bail us out.

What can we do? When you are choosing a candidate next week, make sure you know their stance on the environment and do not vote for someone who does not support environmental policy.  After the election, continue to pressure your local representatives and senators to act on the environment and encourage them to support sustainable policy. And if we cannot get our government to act on these major issues, consider volunteering or donating to non profits who will take action on our environment. We have the power to change the future of our environment, so make informed decisions and get active!

-Gina Williams

Regardless of whether or not you are an ardent fan of President Obama or among his harshest critics, you would be hard pressed to deny this man’s undeniable gifts as an orator. Last night’s State of the Union Address saw Obama doing what he does best, making an eloquent speech that not only outlined numerous policies but included a  firm scolding of both  the Democrats and Republicans seated before him. The President even squeezed in a few well-placed zingers to punctuate certain points and to take the wind out of the sails of certain naysayers,  stating, “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.” as he addressed Environmental issues during his State of the Union Address.

Even with a peppering of comic relief, Obama’s discussing of his future approach towards clean energy left many environmentalist without a smile on their face. The State of the Environmental Union was a mixed bag at best. Here are the highlights, lowlights and “What?“ lights of the President’s speech, from an environmental perspective.

The Good:

“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities–and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient–which supports clean energy jobs.” 

“…it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year,. And this year I am eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.” 

President Obama smartly outlined  the importance of green energy through the lens of economic recovery. Touting Green Energy as an industry that could create jobs, and therefore an industry that should be encouraged,  Obama touches on how these changes could be implemented through tactics such as rebates to encourage energy efficiency among American Citizens. Obama’s praise of congress for passing the Clean Energy and Security Act in 2009 and gentle encouragement of both parties in the Senate to follow suit, highlights actual action that is being taken towards this environmentally responsible behavior. While the bill, which focuses on a cap and trade system wherein limits are set for greenhouse emissions, is supported by many environmentalists, it also has its fair share of critics, ranging from those who claim that the bill is not radical enough to those who believe that it is too radical. 

 I believe that at the very least, this shows that this administration is being proactive when it comes to addressing environmental issues, but what has myself and others worried is the amount of concessions that seem to be filtering into these policies under the guise of promoting bipartisan politics. Which brings us to…

The Not So Good:

“But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives” 

So far so good, I can get behind incentives and jobs and green energy, continue, Mr. President.

“And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means  making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.”

(Record screeching)… “Say what!?”, me.

(Enthusiastic applause)- Congress.

What happened to harnessing the awesome power of the wind? Nuclear power  has never been so directly addressed by President Obama as a viable option for renewable energy as it was last night.  There is much debate over the nuclear power’s qualifications as a renewable energy source, with critics pointing out that from the harnessing of uranium to the construction of nuclear power sites, that this form of energy is hardly carbon neutral. This mention coupled with the shout out to offshore drilling seem to paint a picture of a President willing to make concessions in order to encourage bipartisan participation on the creation of a economically beneficial green economy. 

Whether or not these concessions will result in an end that justifies the means remains to be seen. President Obama, in one short statement ,seems to have leaned even further towards the middle. These compromises may backfire-alienating eco-minded individuals wondering if the environment is really the best area to make compromises on and could also lead  republicans to believe that  they can make Obama bend to their insistences as fast as they can utter, “Tea Party!”

Despite the bitter sweetness of President Obama’s State of the Green Union, one can only hope that he knows what he is doing and that his gamble will pay off. Hopefully, the Green economy the President foresees will become a reality throughout the remainder of his term as Commander-in-Chief.. As he said, “The nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. American must be that nation.”  The economy and the environment are both suffering and perhaps the president is correct, their futures are intertwined and the only way either can flourish is with the help of the other. As sad as it may be, if Green energy is not profitable it will not be embraced by the majority of American citizens or its politicians. 

-Meghan Hurley

MoBikeFed retreat in West Plains Photo By MoBikeFedA great awakening is occurring in regard to making a positive impact on humanity and specifically the environment. People have begun to realize that little things we can do in our daily life can make a difference. Shopping locally, purchasing Fair Trade and union made goods, supporting local organic farmers, making conscious decisions about the food we eat, volunteering, riding bicycles more frequently, even carrying your own reusable totes to the grocery store. All of these are important and empowering tools in our quest to leave the world a little better than it was left us. However, beneath all of that important work done on the individual level, there are also a strong desires amongst us new age environmentalists for all-encompassing, worldwide solutions.

08 Storm Brisbane Photo By Burning ImageEnter Cap and Trade. The Cap and Trade scheme has been put forth in the climate of disaster and doom and want for real change. There is only one problem. It won’t change anything. In fact it will make our problems worse. The two creators of the Cap and Trade concept stated in a recent interview that their original intentions weren’t global in nature at all, but rather solutions to specific local pollution scenarios. David Morris of the Institute for Local Self Reliance wrote an amazing article for Alternet in 2007, laying out the conflict between local and global solutions. This helps explain the differences between both points. 

Shelbyville Smoke Stacks Photo By Paul J EverettIt is easy to see how carbon trading legislation would only serve to enhance globalization, thus moving more industries to countries that have zero labor and environmental laws. The end result of this course will be not only disastrous for the rights of workers in these countries, ultimately leading to the building of more sweatshops for our goods.  Ironically, the environment will also suffer. It is already estimated that 50% of the mercury falling on North America is from Chinese power plants. This corresponds with other major industrial airborne pollutants. The results of more industry moving to China would not only raise carbon dioxide emissions, but more deadly and dangerous chemicals ending up back on the U.S. 

Stack of Money - Scraped from the Net Photo By purpleslogHowever, even in the United States, under cap and trade the major polluters will be able to operate business as usual. By simply buying the cheapest carbon credits, they can continue to to run dirty operations. Basically, the bigger the corporation, the more credits can be bought. There is no provision that requires local or regional offsets, so credits can be purchased anywhere in the world, while the actual costs are passed on to the consumer the worker and the communities down wind and down stream from the factories and power plants. This is a major reason why, many environmental groups actually oppose the idea of carbon trading.  

A national and international carbon trading scheme is also ripe for corruption and has the opportunity (almost the guarantee) to create an economic bubble the world has never seen. One commentator called this the “white collar crime wave of the future.” In that vein, it is telling who some of the proponents of cap and trade legislation are. An Enron executive said carbon trading, “will do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring of the energy and natural-gas industries in Europe and the United States.” It must also be noted that Goldman Sachs and the rest of Wall Street financial firms are chomping at the bit for any mandatory cap and trade system.

San Sebastian Open Air Market Photo By topgoldSo is Cap and Trade really helpful? It doesn’t seem that it is an actual solution to a serious pollution and environmental problem. If anything it seems to be the same solution America has used for past issues, a way to make money. It is also important to note that hope does not always equal reality. It is nearly impossible to be a proponent of Fair Trade and of real environmentalism and still support Cap and Trade. What is important, however is to continue doing whatever you can locally to improve the environment of your community and your region. We can not only accomplish more on the local and regional level through our actions, we can truly affect the world in a positive way. 

As a follow up to the ongoing debates and the VP Green Report we published last week, we want to examine presidential candidates views on the environment. We figured since we covered the vice presidential candidates we would give the main attractions some lip service. Both Obama and McCain have very different plans for our country on a number of issues. Here at Autonomie, we wanted to highlight their ideas and history on both the environment and energy policies. So here we go:

As we mentioned before, here at Autonomie Project we are not endorsing a particular candidate but will be voting with the ticket that best meets our values as individuals and as a company.

John McCain:

  • Co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007, which caps pollution to 2004 levels by 2012, although only in utilities, industry, and transportation.
  • He has proposed a Cap and Trade Policy that would set a limit of greenhouse production and create a market where ability to emit pollution would be traded. Believing that the lower cost energy production would succeed. The reduction for the cap are set to the following: reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Barack Obama:

  • Obama has stated he intends to keep the federal ban in place on offshore drilling, as well as drilling in Alaska. However, during the course of the campaign he has said he will consider it; stating “…we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage — I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.”
  • He also believes a cap and trade system is the key to cutting emissions. His plan calls to reduce emissions 80 percent below 1990 rates by 2050 and emission permits would be up for sale, causing polluters to pay for the amount of greenhouse gases they emit.
  • Obama has been a strong supporter of developing new types of alternative energy and has introduced his New Energy for America plan which would not only fund new research for alternative energy, but also provide short term releif for middle America.
  • He has called for the creation and funding for hybrid and new cleaner car emissions research and devolopment. In fact, to fund this he introduced the Heath Care for Hybrids Act, this asks the American auto industry to produce and devlop more efficient hybrids in exchange for the government taking care of retired auto workers heath insurance. He is proposing to get 1 million Plug-In Hybrids on the road by 2015.
  • Cosponsored the Coal to Liquid Fuel Production Act of 2007 which used high energy to convert coal into liqued fuel, which is quite damaging to the environment. Many environmentalists opposesed this bill. However, Obama has since stated that he will only support coal energy if it emits 20 percent less carbon than traditional fuels.

So there you have it: a quick rundown of the key issues both Obama and McCain support regarding the environment. Now its up to you to decide who has a better plan for the environment, energy, and the future of our nation!! The choice is yours.

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