Now that both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions have been completed and we are headed into a heated 90 day battle between the big choice of two candidates, it’s time to start comparing them. Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment, neither are looking so hot (unlike our planet….but that’s another story).  Sure, one is  lesser of the two evils when it comes to energy policy, but it would be nice if we had a few more people to choose from (once again…that’s another story).  And since there are no third-party candidates who are likely to take any votes from these two, let’s just look at them!

Let’s start with the newcomer, Mitt Romney. AP and Romney share an interesting history, as he was once the governor of our founding state: Massachusetts.  Now you might wonder how such a progressive state would vote in a conservative, well he ran on a different platform back then (yet again…that’s another story). If we were talking about Romney from 6 years ago, this would be a different story. In fact, some of his environmental moves have inspired some of Obama’s.

However, let’s talk Romney running today. He does have some interesting ties to Big Oil and has accepted campaign donations from them. In return, he has stated that he will expand drilling for both gas and oil in the United States. He also plans on extending the Big Oil tax cuts and subsidies, yet at the same time, opposes any tax incentives to alternative energy production within the US. And on that note, he is also against raising standards for energy efficiency in general. He seems to oppose any environmental technology advances, even making the statements: “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it,” and “[fuel efficiency standards are] disadvantageous for domestic manufacturers.” Even further frustrating is his stance on public lands. He has supported the Paul Ryan budget that calls for the selling of 3.3 million acres of public lands to private industry. And don’t even get me started on Global Warming, although once stating that humans were speeding up the production of carbon emissions, he now mocks that idea.

If this future seems a little bleak, we do have a little better news coming from the blue camp. During the 2008 election, Obama spoke a LOT about the environment, clean energy, and green jobs. However, his track record as President hasn’t actually put these ideas into motion. He has mentioned in State of the Union addresses and taken a pledge  that the Federal government should cut oil subsidies and use them to invest in alternative energy.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened in the last four years. Perhaps it something for the future four years? He has also mentioned  investing Federal funds in alternative energies, however, he lists “clean” coal and nuclear as sources of renewable energy. In a bit of good news, he has put into place some energy efficiency standards that will bring commercial facilities to be more efficient by 2025, initiated new rules on emissions from coal power plants that will save lives, and set a goal of 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2025.

We are pleased with some of these initiatives, but disappointed in his track record. He does support green jobs and promised 5 million, however, we haven’t really seen that plan come to fruition. He’s also increased offshore drilling and done little in the way of ending fracking. He also has spoken for fighting Global Warming in the past, but has failed to mention it in this campaign or done little to work on this issue over the past four years. However, it should be noted the State Department under his administration is working on international pollution regulations. That being said, he has a pretty inconsistent record on environmental policy. 

So there you have it, a quick rundown of both main candidates views on the environment. It’s looking like we have a choice of a C or F student. So take your pick! Personally, we will have to go with the lesser of two evils on the environmental front. Here’s to hoping over the next few months the campaign focuses on these environmental issue a little more!

No one I’ve talked to since January 1st can believe it’s 2012! My how time flies and with this year brings jitters of environmental disasters. With the coming of 2012, people are talking about the impact of climate change on our world. But it’s not just 2012 that brings these thoughts. Environmental issues have been upon us for a long time and regardless of what doomsday prediction you believe in or don’t, they have impacted your life. We figured since it is a new year, we would take this moment to reflect on the worst environmental moments of 2011. It’s always a good idea to review before going forward. Hopefully we can learn from these events and change how they impact our future. So here they are and here’s to hoping 2012’s good events outweigh the bad.

Worst Environmental Events of 2011: 

1) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster. By far the worst environmental event to occur in 2011. Following an 8.9 earthquake off the coast of Japan and the subsequent disastrous tsunami, the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant exploded and continued to meltdown. This was the single worse nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The event, which happened only months after Obama spoke of “clean nuclear power” in his State of the Union address, triggered countries throughout the world to review their own nuclear plants. It even sparked Germany end their nuclear programs. The radiation spread through Japan and was even picked up in Hawaii and California. It will be decades before we know the real impact of this disaster on our environment, our bodies, and the way we view nuclear energy.

2) Drought in East Africa:  Due to weather patterns and government issues, the people of the Horn of Africa suffered a severe drought in the Summer of 2011. Millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia were literally facing starvation. Refugee camps surged with hundreds of thousands and tens of thousands of children starved to death. The drought and it’s effects continue on for these countries. With little resources, humanitarian aid is still needed to combat these issues.

3) Fracking: Both the US Geological Society and a British Fracking Firm published studies stating that fracking does indeed cause earthquakes. Many earthquakes experienced in places such as Oklahoma and Ohio were shown to be directly connected to fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of the Earth to extract natural gases and petroleum. Not only was it proven to create earthquakes, but the EPA acknowledged the process has leaked toxins into Wyoming drinking water as well are re-issued a report from the 1980’s showing water contamination in West Virginia. Despite these studies, fracking continues to occur in the US as well as abroad. We are hoping these reports change our perspective on the practice in 2012.

4) More Oil Spills: Even though no oil spill on the magnitude of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon  occurred during 2011, last year still brought too many spills for our standards. In fact there was a smaller oil sick in the Gulf caused by a Shell pipeline, causing more damage to the barely recovered region. New Zealand and China also experienced decent sized oil spills, including one in China that was hidden from the media for almost a month. And just to add insult to injury, the villain of Deepwater Horizon, BP, experienced another spill. This time the victims were the arctic tundra as the Alaskan pipeline began to leak.  It will take decades to understand the effects of these oil spills and continues to raise eyebrows on our dependency on oil. Hopefully, these spills will fuel, pun intended, the alternative energy field.

5) Politicians Being, Well, Politicians: It’s no surprise that Washington is dragging their feet on real environmental policy. Well, technically it is a bit of a surprise that Obama, who ran on an environmental and clean energy bill is, but that’s besides the point. Our politicians are busy making deals with fat cats and oil executives and ignoring any real chance at making a difference. Here are just a few of 2011’s let-downs. Obama failed to tighten smog limits, even though we know carbon levels are rising. He has even been quiet on the Keystone Pipeline, with many analysts expecting him to approve it. Meanwhile, the Republicans continue to push for fewer environmental regulations. And with the 2012 elections fast approaching, candidates will do anything to please voters. Republican candidates have all vocalized their disgust with the EPA, with some promising to close its doors and end environmental regulation all together. No one knows how the election will turn out, but let’s hope for our Earth’s sake, the politicians wake up and stop worrying about getting re-elected for a change.

Ok, ok. So we know, it is the State of the Union, not the environment. But as environmentalists ourselves, we couldn’t help but respond to Obama’s State of the Union speech. Obama mentioned the environment several different times throughout his speech. Since his campaign, Obama has pushed that he will increase federal funding for green energy. However, 2010 saw the Clean Energy Bill crash and burn and with a Republican controlled House the outlook was not so great. But there may be a light at the end of the tunnel, as there were a few encouraging items the President covered in his speech.

To keep with Obama’s theme, one of the “biggest things” we were excited about was his new plan to push America into energy efficiency. Not only did he set a new goal of 80% clean energy by 2035, but he directly mentioned moving funds from subsidizing oil companies and investing them in what he called clean energy. Now, we, of course, totally back such a move, seeing as how investing in energy efficiency and new green technology is smart in this age. What we did not like was that the President lumped natural gas, nuclear power, and even “clean” coal in with real green energy such as solar and wind. We were very disappointed by this since investing in those types of energy is no better than investing in oil. Not to mention there is no such thing as “clean” coal.

Another piece of the speech we appreciated was his historical reference to the Space Race and Sputnik. Being history nerds and all, we are always game for historical parallels that can shed light on contemporary issues.  The President mentioned that the US is falling behind China and several other nations in solar and wind technology. He referred to this as “our Sputnik moment,” meaning we should use this early failure to push us into developing our own renewable energy. These are all positive and encouraging ideas for the future of our country. Within his speech he also mentioned increasing the number of electric cars on the road and developing high speed rail systems.

All of these goals are exciting and we are happy he mentioned them. However, as many have pointed out, he failed to mention Climate Change as something we should address, albeit he did imply the problem by suggesting we invest in green technologies. Still, many environmentalists expected him to at least mention the issue, especially as the weather in 2010 was all over the place and it turned out to be the hottest year on record.

We are guessing his failure to mention this issue had to do with his attempt at “reaching across the aisle,” as they say. It is no secret that many in the Republican party question Climate Change and have been fighting any legislation on it. Since this is such a controversial topic, he might have chose to exclude it. Still, this is no excuse. In the State of the Union speech, he is speaking to the people as well as his political partners and foes.

Overall, we applaud the President for his efforts to bring this nation up to speed in green industry, renewable energy, and alternative transportation. Even with his incorrect “renewable” references and his failure to mention impending Climate Change, we still find this a positive speech, environmentally speaking.  Now, let’s see it get into action! Don’t forget to write your local congress representatives and let them know you want to meet these goals and more!

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