Presidential Candidates Weigh in on Energy Policy

The League of Conservation Voters has published a comparison of the energy policy positions of the 2008 presidential candidates, which range from environmentally responsible to business-as-usual. What is startling about the comparison, however, is that some of the candidates officially hold no articulated position on a subject on which some other presidential hopefuls have gone to the wall.

On carbon caps and targets, for example, where six of the sixteen candidates support emissions reductions of at least 80% by 2050, five have not formulated any position whatsoever on the issue. Nor have these five — Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson — offered any considered opinion on subjects such as minimum standards for automobile fuel efficiency, renewable electricity, or even energy efficiency (although most are on record as having opposed a modest increase in auto mileage standards in years past).

On the contentious subject of liquid coal, none of the five have anything to say except for Giuliani, who joins Mitt Romney in giving the new technology unqualified support without even the caveat of carbon sequestration.

The Washington-based League of Conservation Voters, a non-profit organization describing itself as “the independent political voice for the environment,” has praised candidate Barack Obama’s record on environmental issues in the past.

Yet Governor Bill Richardson’s stated positions from the beginning of his campaign were pitched incrementally higher than Obama’s in all categories: 10% higher on emissions reductions and standards for renewable electricity and energy efficiency, and 50mpg fleet fuel efficiency over Obama’s 40mpg. Like Obama, Richardson opposes giving clean coal a free ride, but, where the Illinois senator is seeking to hold the technology to a 10% reduction in carbon emissions, the New Mexico governor wants nothing less than complete capture and storage of emissions.

As if in acknowledgement of the importance of the issue, Obama has been inching his position nearer Richardson’s of late; he now espouses the same auto mileage standard (50mpg fleetwide), a higher renewable electricity standard and energy efficiency targets that would leave Richardson’s in the dust.

At this point, it’s not possible to calculate whether either candidate’s targets are achievable, any more than one can characterize Richardson’s targets as having been developed to “one-up” (or “ten-up”) Obama’s.

What can be said is that both men are unequivocally pointing the way to the sort of commitment that the nation must make in the next forty years, if the threat of sustained climate change is to be countered. Their positions, and those of candidates like Joe Biden, Hilary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich and John McCain, are light-years ahead of most of the positions espoused by the opponents already mentioned.

In the case of these opponents, it’s to be wondered which is worse: a (now former) candidate like Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who has actively opposed environmental legislation since at least 2002, or one who simply has no public position on such issues, suggesting that they’ve not even given the health of the planet any serious thought.

Read the League of Conservation Voters’ comparison chart here.

Chris Stimpson is the executive campaigner and activist for the Solar Nation advocacy group solar-nation.org. Solar Nation is the nationwide campaign where citizens rally and convince their leaders to make America a true Solar Power. As the locus of grassroots American activism in support of legislation and regulation of solar energy issues, Solar Nation seeks to positively affect state and federal policy, enabling solar power to become a significant part of America’s energy future. Visit or join Solar Nation at www.solar-nation.org.

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