Presidential Candidates Shun Climate Change Debate

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August 25, 2012 by Nash Riggins

Regardless of one’s stance surrounding global warming, 2012 is undeniably a year for green investment – the United Nations has launched a $100 billion Green Climate Fund from Geneva, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in the UK is anticipating the launch of its Green Bank in Edinburgh and all over the world, democratic bodies and dictators alike are establishing firm legislative commitments in order to combat their peoples’ impact upon the environment. Yet as the battle to tackle climate change has – at long last – begun to intensify, the prospective leaders of the world’s biggest economy are treating the topic as taboo.

Hardly four years after Barack Obama won his Presidency based upon a platform that prioritised a series of intense legislative answers to climate change, the discussion of global warming has become vilified almost to the point of being utterly forgotten. True enough, President Obama has done his best in order to introduce the American people to green, renewable energy – whilst simultaneously attempting to establish enforceable caps on domestic carbon emissions; however, Mr Obama has also subtly allowed for America’s carbon emissions to spike elsewhere.

Although the Obama administration has justifiably refused to adopt Sarah Palin’s ever-wise “drill, Baby, drill” mantra, it has indeed opened up several new federal lands for the use of oil production – in fact, the administration even appears set on allowing Shell to soon begin prospecting off of the once-revered northern coast of Alaska. Furthermore, the administration has done little in order to stop a rampant increase in fracking – a new method of natural gas extraction – which has left environmentalists seething; however, the immediate economic benefits of said concessions are difficult to ignore.

Indeed, the domestic oil industry has shockingly increased its output by an impressive 15% within the past five years alone. In addition, the fracking of natural gas has allowed the United States to emerge as the world’s foremost supplier of the resource, with output increasing by over 24% since 2006. Amidst such impressive statistics, it’s hardly surprising that critics from both sides of the spectrum have refused to question whether the current administration has failed to account for the environmental cost of America’s exponential increase in domestic fossil fuels.

That said, the Obama administration and its firm commitment towards reducing America’s rampant carbon emissions – the most of any developed nation – cannot be ignored. The President is currently making ambitious plans in order to double the standard fuel economy of American cars by 2025, and has broken ground with regards to reducing the amount of red tape surrounding the energy industry. It is the latter which has allowed for a drastic increase in the number of foreign investments being made within the American energy industry, and is also why the renewable energy sector can expect to triple in size within the next few years assuming that Mr Obama wins re-election.

In short, the President has actively pursued his renewable energy goals throughout the past two years with varied success – which, with regards to climate change, is more than can be said of any other US President.  Yet for whatever trivial reasons – including a series of misguided Conservative attacks surrounding incorrectly cited examples of renewable energy ‘outsourcing’, as well as commercial failures of the Solyndra variety – Mr Obama has been forced to distance himself from these honourable strides forward. The American people should be embarrassed that their efforts in order to join the rest of the world in the fight against climate change have been so miniscule – yet for whatever reason, they are apparently more embarrassed by the fact that one of their leaders would make any effort whatsoever. Barack Obama cares about the environment, whether his handlers will allow him to discuss it or not; meanwhile, what would a prospective President Mitt Romney do in order to match the world’s leaders and their efforts towards tackling climate change?

With no remarks to combat, Mr Romney has been forced to make very few comments with regards to his environmental prowess; however, he did recently proclaim that, if elected president, the American people could expect to be “energy independent” by 2020 – how? For starters, Romney plans on eliminating most offshore drilling restrictions and allowing for an unprecedented forfeit of federal lands in the name of oil production (on a side note, it should hardly surprise anyone to know that Mr Romney made this announcement immediately after leaving a Texas-fundraiser in which he collected a cool $7 million from America’s oil barons).

In contrast, Mitt Romney has announced virtually no prospective effort with regards to the continuation of the current administration’s push towards green and renewable energy projects.  In fact, he has gone so far as to call for an end to all renewable energy incentives and subsidies currently on offer by the government – apparently having learned little on his recent trip to London, where government subsidies towards renewable energy projects are expected to produce over £25 billion in investments throughout the British economy in the next 2 years alone.

Yet instead of taking on some of these economy-boosting ideas, Romney has foolishly chosen to disregard this example of a way in which an oil-producing democratic nation can have its cake and eat it too. Indeed, Mr Romney is fully prepared to turn his back on America’s progressive allies by calling for a repeal of the Clean Air Act (without proposing an alternative) and withdrawing the Obama administration’s progressive environmental standards. The latter was unquestionably solidified in Romney’s head after a string of fundraisers sponsored by the Texas Republican Party, who is this year openly calling for the abolishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act.

In effect, Mitt Romney has yet to run based upon his own moral principles, and is instead choosing to run based solely upon the principles of finance – not the finance of his future Treasury, but the finance of his current presidential campaign. If elected, Mr Romney will be forced to make a series of tough decisions with regards to which contradictory promises he will discard and which he will keep; however, all of these decisions will pose a detrimental impact upon the environment.

Regardless of which candidate ultimately wins the vote of the American people on November 6, said vote is being cast in the name of energy independence. On the one hand, Barack Obama has made undeniable yet sluggish progress towards the latter via decisions that have both sharpened the stick and softened the blow – while on the other hand, Mitt Romney is prepared to deflate any and all efforts towards sustainable energy that the American people could ever hope to muster while under his wing. Indeed, it truly is a shame that neither candidate feels obligated in order to bring these issues closer to the forefront of the election, because when paired together, both stances on climate change have the potential to make the decision for voters a frustratingly simple one.

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