As the sound-bites and gotchas from the earliest presidential debates have been repeated over and over by the media in this election cycle, many critical and complex topics have gotten at best cursory treatment. One such topic is the environment: the crises we’re facing, the accomplishments of the candidates, and the plans that they have put forward on issues like green energy, global warming, pollution, and wildlife conservation.
Hillary Clinton has stressed repeatedly, and in detail, a vision for green energy and a new green economy. She has championed this approach in the senate with a Strategic Energy Fund proposal. As a part of her presidential campaign she released early-on an ambitious green energy plan that would create jobs, move the U.S. toward independence from foreign oil, and address the climate crisis. The full plan is remarkably detailed and does more than just provide a set of bullet points or a top-down executive strategy; rather it puts forward a vision of how all of the participants in our energy strategy, from government to oil and coal companies to communities and individuals, must adopt mutually-reinforcing paradigm shifts. It is a policy document not based on a few token legislative or executive actions but on a comprehensive and realistic view of what it will take to transform this bedrock of our social behavior and infrastructure – our energy. It can work, and she has repeatedly called it an “Apollo mission” of her Presidency.
Hillary has also been active on air and water quality, preventing and cleaning up hazardous waste, environmental health issues, and protecting public lands. She has strongly supported the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Senate and co-sponsored the Roadless Area Conservation Act to protect the remaining pristine areas of national forests. She is the senior Democratic Senator on the Fisheries, Wildlife and Water subcommittee. She links concern about pollution with concern about public health, and has introduced the Coordinated Environmental Public Health Network Act which would link medical data about chronic diseases with environmental data about pollution.
It is worth also looking at what others say about Senator Clinton’s environmental record and agenda. Hillary has a 90% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, and this year she is ranked highest among the competing candidates – higher than Barack Obama, and naturally much higher than John McCain (who earned a 0% rating).
Hillary’s introduction of the Zero Emissions Building Act a year ago earned her a great review from treehugger.com:
Here is a politician doing something about climate change. Hillary Clinton has introduced the Zero-Emissions Building Act of 2007 which directs federal agencies to immediately require that all new federal buildings or major renovations reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 percent as compared to a 2003 baseline. In 2010, and every five years after that, the emissions reduction level would increase by 10 percent, until new federal buildings become “zero-emissions” buildings in 2030. The legislation would also apply to major renovations of existing federal buildings.
Hillary’s green jobs agenda was praised by Google CEO Eric Schmidt;
“By emphasizing the connection between promoting a green efficient economy and job creation, Senator Clinton’s plan seeks to harness the power of technology and innovation to address one of our most pressing global challenges. The ‘energy innovation’ market looks to have the kind of job generation potential that microprocessor did just 35 years ago. The goal of producing 5 million new jobs can be achieved by private sector investment and bipartisan support for increased research and development in efficiency and clean energy.”
Senator Obama’s website touts his commitment to the environment as well, but on substance as well as on consistency I do not believe Obama’s record or platform shows the level of commitment to a greener America that Hillary demonstrates. Unlike Senator Clinton, Senator Obama voted to approve the Bush/Cheney Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was described by the Union of Concerned Scientists as following “a 19th century fossil-fueled past instead of crafting an energy bill for the 21st century that would lead us to a clean energy future.”
As a state Senator, Obama did not oppose the creation of a national nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain when he had the opportunity. (He has been consistently – and conveniently – against it this year however, particularly while campaigning in Nevada.)
Senator Obama watered down an environmental public safety initiative demanded by his constituents. He bragged on the campaign trail that he had pushed legislation to force nuclear plant owners to notify the public even of small radioactive leaks after the public discovered that Illinois-based Exelon had undisclosed leaks of radioactive waste. While he did initially introduce such a bill, he did not manage the kind of non-partisan success that he claims is possible. As reported in the New York Times,
Mr. Obama eventually rewrote it to reflect changes sought by Senate Republicans, Exelon and nuclear regulators. The new bill removed language mandating prompt reporting and simply offered guidance to regulators, whom it charged with addressing the issue of unreported leaks.
Those revisions propelled the bill through a crucial committee. But, contrary to Mr. Obama’s comments in Iowa, it ultimately died amid parliamentary wrangling in the full Senate.
Exelon has been a source of major campaign contributions to Senator Obama, and Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod worked as an Exelon consultant.
Conclusion: Hillary is our green candidate
Hillary Clinton did not suddenly become an environmental champion in 2007 while running for President. Her long-standing concerns about environmental issues are why the Sierra Club endorsed her 2000 Senate campaign. She unflinchingly argued for action on climate change on the Senate floor in 2003, well before Al Gore’s movie and nobel prize made it politically imperative. And she led the way this year with a vision for a greener America, which is why she is the environmental choice for President in 2008 and beyond.
Cross-posted at Pan Metron