Decision 2008: The Candidates on Energy and the Environment

Jess Vogt

The Wisconsin Presidential primary is only a few days away. Feb. 19, 2008 marks the day on which Wisconsinites — and Lawrentians — will have their first say in the nation’s dialogue of who will be the next President of the United States. Climate change and the nation’s energy security dominate environmental discussions on all campaign trails, but what are these candidates actually saying? Apart from the commonality that all four of the top candidates affirm global warming and support a mandatory cap-and-trade system to help reduce carbon emissions, each candidate has a unique take on environmental issues. As a quantitative measure of each candidate’s environmental record, I have chosen to use scores developed by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV; The LCV’s mission is to advocate for environmentally beneficial policies and policy-makers, and to do so, they use a scoring system to rate policy-makers, called the National Environmental Scorecard and Presidential Report Card. These scores are calculated using the policy-maker’s voting record (absences count as negative votes) on environmental legislation.
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D): The Clinton position on the environment centers on public health-related initiatives, such as pollution controls and clean up, and health and safety standards — things that affect the health of the nation’s children, according to an interview on the LCV Web site. These ideas draw from Clinton’s past work for children and health care. Her voting record in the Senate illustrates a commitment to efforts to reduce carbon emissions, including co-sponsorship of the “Global Warming Pollution Reduction” and “Climate Stewardship and Innovation” Acts of 2007. Clinton also supports creation of an energy fund to focus on research of global warming solutions. If elected, she stated in the LCV interview that the environment would be one of her top priorities in office. Lifetime LCV score (based on voting record; out of a possible 100): 90Mike Huckabee (R): Huckabee’s position on the environment focuses on energy independence and “energy sources that don’t have a greenhouse effect,” according to the New York Times and the official Huckabee website. He believes the environment and stewardship of the Earth is a spiritual issue, regardless of the science behind it. Unfortunately, the official Huckabee Web site provides little insight into his policies for the environment, having only a section on energy independence and agriculture. Huckabee supports continued agricultural subsidies, particularly for crops that can be used as biofuel, an alternative energy. As of press time, the Huckabee campaign had not answered the LCV questionnaire. No LCV score was available for this candidate because as governor he has no voting record on environmental legislation.

John McCain (R): The McCain campaign puts its environmental focus on energy security. As McCain views national security as the nation’s first and foremost top priority, he believes that “the wise and sustainable stewardship of natural resources will continue to be an increasingly crucial factor in protecting the nation’s environmental, economic and physical security,” according to an LCV interview. McCain’s environmental promises in this interview read like a broken record: cap-and-trade emissions and market solutions. McCain does not support renewable energies but rather believes in the power of market solutions at the national level, leaving renewable energy policies and funding responsibilities to state and local governments. McCain supports the current U.S. policy to not sign the Kyoto Protocol, but only to consider joining on our own terms if China and India join as well. LCV score: 26

Barack Obama (D): Obama and Clinton share many of the same ideas and goals regarding the environment — classic Democratic environmental ideals. The Obama campaign environmental initiative focuses on the reintroduction of science to political decisions about climate change and EPA standard-setting. He champions the merits of community activism, a belief stemming from Obama’s own past experiences as a Chicago community organizer. Obama cites global warming and the environmental ills it causes as one of the greatest challenges of any kind and believes that environmental problems are at the root of many other political and social problems. Because of this, he stated that the environment and energy would be his top priority in office. LCV score: 96