SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Election Edition 2012
October 5, 2012
1. Climate and the 2012 Election
What they could mean to youRising temperatures have clearly played a part in the oppressive heat waves, devastating droughts, rampant wildfires and deadly storms impacting the U.S. this summer. The summer of 2012, aptly referred to as the Summer of Extremes by several experts, broke thousands of temperature, drought and natural disaster records across the country. Yet both President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney stayed fairly quiet on the issue of climate change during this campaign season until their respective conventions. By analyzing the candidates’ past actions, recent speeches and mentions of policy proposals for the next 4 years, however, it’s clearly evident that their positions on this critical issue could not be more different.President Obama and Climate
Admittedly, it seems that the Democratic candidate for president is letting his actions speak louder than words. Unlike in 2008, when then-Senator Obama spoke clearly and frequently about the need for climate legislation that limited carbon emissions, President Obama has not put much emphasis on the growing threats of climate change or the needed course of action in his stump speeches on campaign trail. On the other hand, his campaign website and recent speeches frequently tout his Administration’s investment in and commitment to clean energy and clearly connect these policies to a reduction in carbon pollution. At the Democratic National Convention, Obama included the topic in his acceptance speech: “And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet — because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future.” Furthermore, in large part because of an utter lack of leadership from Congress, the Obama Administration proposed the first ever carbon pollution rules for power plants, specifically affecting new coal-fired power plants, and twice raised the CAFE standards to cut carbon emissions from the transportation sector. It’s almost as if President Obama, who had front row seats to the train wreck that had been the 2009 climate bill, has decided to act on climate without speaking about climate.Governor Romney and Climate
Governor Romney has also avoided speaking about climate change during this campaign, though he did take the opportunity during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention to mock Obama’s long-stated position, saying that: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” Perhaps Romney has also avoided speaking about the subject because he has slowly reversed his position over the years. In sharp contrast to what he wrote in his 2010 book, No Apology, when he said, “I believe that climate change is occurring. … I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor,” Romney now publicly questions whether carbon pollution is even a threat (“I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies”) and the bulk of climate science (“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet”). Romney’s stance on climate change has done a complete 180 turn-around from his previous actions as statements as governor, when he released a climate change action plan for Massachusetts and agreed to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Even during his first run for the White House, Romney acknowledged the importance of global warming when questioned at an event in St. Petersburg, Florida in August 2007. When asked by a local resident whether the U.S.’s significant contribution to global warming pollution meant we should take the lead in promoting solutions, then-candidate Romney said, “the answer is a global solution to global warming.” He then offered a laundry list of potential solutions including wind power, solar power and more efficient vehicles — the very clean energy solutions that are all but absent from his proposed energy plan that stresses oil, natural gas and coal. Listen to Romney’s response here.
Romney’s opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s newly finalized mercury rule, as well as criticism of the proposed carbon pollution standard for new coal plants, leaves little doubt that a Romney presidency would actively seek to reverse any of the climate pollution reduction gains of the past four years. Effectively, the U.S. would be left without Congressional leadership or executive leadership on one of the most pressing issues of our time.And pressing the issue of climate change truly is: the presidential nominees need to bring the topic back into the conversation and the public eye. Future generations are counting on us to get this issue right. To do that, we need to fix America’s energy portfolio — and to do that, we need a government and a president willing to champion clean energy and tackle climate change head on. Make yourself heard this election: Vote for clean energy on November 6, and ensure our country is heading towards a brighter, cleaner future.
2. Are You Ready for November 6th?
Voting for clean energy in 2012Fall isn’t the only thing in the air this season; a steady onslaught of political discussions, debates, attack ads and campaigning have been blowing in the wind lately as well. Though it may seem like the last elections were held just yesterday, we are once again counting down the days to the next federal election. November 6th is getting ever closer; early voting has already begun in several states, and with so much at stake for energy policy both on a national and regional level, the importance of casting your vote cannot be over-stated. Here are some ways you can make sure you’re ready to head to the polls this election and cast your vote for clean energy. Step 1) Register to vote, or check your voter registration and make sure it’s up-to-date. You may have registered in the past, but make sure you are registered to vote at your current address. Remember that you can sign up to vote by mail if you prefer. Make sure to do this ASAP, so that you don’t miss your state’s registration deadline. Step 2) Find out your state’s policies on Early Voting and No-Excuse Absentee Voting. Consider casting your vote early this year and avoiding potential bad weather and long lines. Step 3) Educate yourself about the candidates and their positions on those issues most important to you. Use a variety of tools from candidate endorsements to issue-based candidate summaries; from newspaper profiles to annual issue-based scorecards to help you determine which candidates will best support and promote clean energy policies if they get the job. President Obama and Governor Romney will also be squaring off in a series of debates that started on October 3. Tune in, and hear for yourself what your candidates are – and are not – saying about their plans for America’s energy future. And don’t forget to follow the money and find out what financial influences our candidates aren’t discussing openly. Dirtyenergymoney.com is a great source for this, helping track the flow and influence of fossil fuel money in US politics. As our leaders debate America’s energy portfolio and the world’s most pressing challenge – confronting and solving global warming – we must ensure that they are listening to their constituents and not oil and coal lobbyists. Step 4) Make sure those around you are ready to vote and informed on the issues as well.NonprofitVOTE.org is a comprehensive, one-stop resource for all voters, energy-minded or not, with state specific pages that help you check your registration status, look up polling locations and much more. Share this page with your networks both online and in your everyday life, and help ensure that everyone has the opportunity to cast their vote in this election!Step 5) If you haven’t already voted early, round up like-minded friends, family members and neighbors and head to your designated polling station November 6th! Organize a carpool to cut back on your footprint for the day and make sure everyone has the opportunity to cast his or her vote. Don’t think your vote doesn’t count; it does, and America’s energy future is counting on you to take a stand this year. We need to elect leaders who will turn their rhetoric into reality, tackle climate change and harness America’s clean energy potential. Vote for clean energy on November 6th!
3. Our Candidates: Where They Stand on Energy
SACE takes a look at each candidates’ energy positionsWith the election less than a month away, it’s time for voters to take a hard look at the candidates and their past actions, current viewpoints and future agendas on energy issues and climate change. In addition to evaluating the beliefs of third party candidates, SACE offers a close examination of the energy positions of the two major candidates for President – former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, and current President, Barack Obama – to help you make an informed decision at the polls on November 6.Governor Romney and Energy
Governor Romney officially accepted the Republican Party nomination in August, at a convention where almost every speaker conspicuously left out any reference to energy issues or climate change. Romney’s acceptance speech – with the exception of a disparaging comment on Obama’s concern for planetary health – was no exception. He did release an official energy plan prior to the convention; however, in what feels like a déjà vu moment from four years ago, the Romney energy plan is heavy on ‘drill baby drill’ but light on mentions of fast-growing, clean energy technologies. Indeed, the Twitter-friendly version of the 21 page Romney-Ryan energy plan is this: more states’ rights, less red tape, more oil, coal, and tar sands.Indeed, our country must prioritize domestic energy sources that can simultaneously promote energy independence, reduce energy costs and create jobs that cannot be outsourced. However, Governor Romney’s plan cannot fully achieve these goals largely because at least two of his favored energy resources – coal and oil – are global commodities traded in global energy markets. The word cloud graphic to the right (click to enlarge), generated from his official energy plan, conveys with simple clarity where the Romney energy plan’s priorities are: oil, oil and gas.President Obama and Energy
An incumbent president enables us to evaluate a current term in office in addition to current speeches and campaign pledges. The last three years have been a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to energy policy as Obama has directed significant financial backing to both high risk and clean energy options. Through statements and executive actions over the last few years, Obama has lent support for tapping nearly every major energy option – firmly positioning himself as an “all of the above” candidate when it comes to energy policy. However, Obama’s support for high risk energy options such as nuclear reactors and offshore drilling may have profound implications here in the Southeast from thermal polluted waters to impacted coastlines. The graphic to the left (click to enlarge) represents a ‘word cloud’ generated from an energy-focused speech delivered in March, 2011 and provides insight into the energy priorities and positions which have characterized his administration. In particular, the words ‘clean’ ‘energy’ and ‘America’ dominate the field, followed by the concepts ‘solar’ ‘wind’ and ‘nuclear.’ Notably absent from both Obama‘s and Romney‘s energy word cloud is the word ‘efficiency.’ Of course, positions on something as complex as an energy policy cannot be summed up in a single article, and this election – perhaps more than those in the recent past – will help determine whether our economy remains harnessed to the powerful-yet-antiquated fossil fuel industries that grew the 20th century or whether it hitches a ride with the fast growing clean energy technology sector. For more information about the energy positions of these two candidates, as well as the positions of third party candidates Governor Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein, read our blog series on energy and America’s 2012 presidential candidates.