McCain v. Obama on the environment

Environmentalists have generally come out in favour of Obama, and while  there is much similarity between the two presidential candidates on the environmental, with these issues, the details really matter.

Before I get to the differences, here’s a brief overview of their similarities. It’s worth a mention, because there have been a number of articles that talk about the real change that is going to happen in Washington with either candidate (probably because it would hard to be more obstructionist on the  environment than the Bush presidency).

First, both support a cap and trade system, a system that sets a ceiling on emissions, and offers permits for companies that meet those targets.

Both support offshore drilling, but oppose it in the arctic refuge. Both candidates said they would grant California a long-sought
waiver under the Clean Air Act so the state could set its own limits on automobile emissions of carbon dioxide. (This is big, since the California market is seen as too large to ignore, so it can bring in a change of standards for North America at large).

However, while the  McCain’s cap and trade plan gives out the carbon permits, rather than selling them in an auction. That makes environmentalists a little nervous because when the EU gave out the permits, their price collapsed, and ultimately the amount of greenhouse gases increased.

McCain’s emission cap is not mandatory, so greenhouse gases could actually increase, as occurred with the EU. In contrast, Obama’s would reduce emissions by 80 percent from their 1990 levels by 2050.

While Obama says he will use the he will channel between $30 billion and $50 billion a year into clean energy technology and creating green jobs, McCain doesn’t mention any investment figures on his web site. Instead, he talks about clean coal, which some environmentalists view as an oxymoron: clean coal is cleaner than regular coal, but it’s still spewing out carbon emissions.

Perhaps most tellingly, McCain has a history of voting against climate change measures while a senator. He voted against tax credits for clean energy R&D in 2001, against clean energy incentives in 2005, and against an increase in clean energy R&D funding that same year. In February 2008, he missed the vote on clean energy incentives, as he had done on a motion on fuel economy standards in December 2007. In fact, both Environment America and the League of Conservation Voters have strongly criticized his voting record over the past decade.

With this record, his commitment to action on climate change and alternative energy is often seen as disingenuous at best.

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