Debate: Countdown to the US Elections what are the green issues?

With three months today to go until the crucial US elections, lets have a look at the environmental challenges we’re up against.

Many environmentalists have criticized Obama for his green credentials as even though he backs action on climate change, he so far has very little to show for it. During his tenure as a president America have extracted more oil than they did under Bush, and he has opened up more and more drilling licenses. He has also refused to rule out the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. Though on the other hand he also advocates the great possibilities that lies in clean energy, and has even started talking about the controversial issue of ending fossil fuel subsidies.

His main rival Republican Mitt Romney, has even though he previously have believed in climate change now  decided he does not believe in it. He wants to end subsidies for renewable energy and limit the power the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has.

I believe the biggest environmental challenges that the US will face the next four years will be, growing a green economy, reduce the need for fossil fuels while at the same time protect American jobs and reduce unemployment rates. This is a tough challenge that lies ahead, and based on that I have split the issues into five questions. What do you think? Do you agree?

1) Would Mitt Romney as President end the possibility on a green economy in the US and action on Climate Change?

2) Were Obama to become president, would we finally get significant movement in the green sector and would he move to phase out fossil fuel subsidies?

3) If Obama does not deliver any green election pledges, will the green voters flee and vote for Jill Stein the Green candidate and thereby damage his chances of winning?

4) No matter who the President will be is it inevitable that we see an approval of the Keystone XL pipeline?

5) As someone who has previously shown an interest for environmental protection in Clint Eastwood, recently endorsing Romney, what does this mean for you and what do you make of this?

UPDATE 14:00 (GMT)
BBC’s Richard Black tweeted earlier ”Three years ago, Barack Obama pledged ‘global leadership’ on  climate change. Now this” This was in response to revelations that the US believes that below 2 degrees should be dropped.
This brings us back to somewhere between question 2 & 3, will Obama start bring forward action on climate change, Abigail Mortimer think no, saying: If Obama is reelected no, I don’t think we would get significant headway, not without some big change. It has been suggested that the US needs a ‘Pearl Harbour’ moment to really get them going on climate change. This might be true, it certainly doesn’t seem like Obama can do it on his own. He’s in such a difficult situation politically, in a country where a vast proportion don’t accept the science. He needs the people on his side and less political resistance. It’s not just a matter of getting reelected”. Charlotte Patton says: I think that Obama will continue to drive change forward, undoubtedly at snail-pace though!”
This doesn’t make things any easier, should we hope for an Obama loss and therefore give Americans a wake up call thinking about the news today that America are officially starting to scale their efforts back, or should we keep faith in him and hope they will see sense and maybe hope they will start making a link toward the extreme weather they’re seeing currently?

Seems like the US are backtrafficking amongst critisism of moving away from the 2 degrees target. About the 2 degree goal, US Climate Change benvoy Todd Stern says: ”The U.S. continues to support this goal. We have not changed our policy”.

UPDATE 10/08
There is more from Obama’s green ambitions. He is fast tracking several renewable energy projects. Five utility scale solar projects and one wind farm with a combined generating capacity of 5GW and which could power up to 1.5 million homes.
It’s all part of Obama’s plan to make the US less dependent on energy from abroad and produce more renewable energy and there is no doubt he sees a big future in the US clean sector. This could also signal one of the elections battles as Mitt Romney wants to end renewable energy subsidies. 

UPDATE 16/08
Obama is again speaking up about the benefit on wind energy, at his campaign tour in Iowa, while Romney in Ohio speaking to coal miners slamming Obama’s environmental regulations that he said affected domestic coal production. 

According to Obama the wind industry in Iowa supports 7.000 jobs and provides a fifth’s of the states energy. Talking about Romney Obama said: “If he wants to learn something about wind, all he has got to do is pay attention to what you’ve been doing here in Iowa”  

UPDATE 24/08
Romney releasing an energy plan that is outright devastating and critical of the green economy. Claiming that environmental regulations and renewable energy will harm economic growth. He would also open up new offshore drilling licenses in the Gulf of Mexico and would immediately approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline saying that this is necessary for America to become energy independent. 

Earlier in the week Obama approved ground making efficiency and CO2 emissions standards, groundbreaking for the US anyway. By 2025 the fuel economy standard will be 54.5 MPG (mile per gallon). That measure will double the efficiency standards compared to the cars on the US road today. Those efforts though are still weaker than those currently being proposed by the EU. 

UPDATE 11/10
We’re now under a month away from the election and as expected there has not been much talk about Climate Change and clean energy and in the first TV debate the subject were left almost untouched. Environmentalists keep speculating will he mention it? In his address to Colorado after the TV debate he made more of an issue about it again speaking up for the wind industry and how many jobs it create and yesterday Obama tweeted: “Climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to your future.” Which ponder the question will he mention it in the next TV debate? 

With less than a week to go until the election everything seems to have turned on a plate. The US were hit by a mega storm this week also dubbed Frankenstorm, spiralling in damages totalling $20 billion plus on the US east. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo have in the wake of the devastation saying that our weather has changed and we have to start preparing for events like these. Bill Clinton who has stepped in for Obama after he was forced to cancel days of campaigning due to the disaster have come out attacking the Republicans stance on climate change. Suddenly it’s being argued that climate change might play an important role in the remaining US election campaign.


Join the debate and let me know your views either the comment section below, on twitter @alorenzen or at agreenerlifeagreenerworld@gmail.com, they might be featured in this blog which will be updated during the day.

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6 replies »

  1. Hey Anders,

    Thanks for the interesting blog. Here's my take on your first 4 questions, I'm not too sure about number 5 so won't comment.

    1) I think Romney could end the push for green jobs etc in the US. My understanding of American politics isn't great, but as I understand it, there's a great deal of anti-environmentalism in the Senate. I listened to a speech recently by Robert Kennedy Jnr who, I believe, advises Obama on environmental issues. He certainly believes, and I'm inclined to go along with him, that Obama has had huge ideas about pushing environmentalism but has been blocked at every turn. So, although things are slow moving in politics, and a lot of states have initiated their own green agendas independent of national politics, I think not having someone at the helm who has a commitment to these issues would probably mean the end the possibility of action on climate change in the US.

    It might, however, encourage more public action – and maybe that's what we really need. I think there is a back-seat attitude to green issues – a 'we'll vote for Obama so he can sort everything out for us' kind of complacency that has been evident globally. In the same way art and culture moved left in the UK during Thatcher's reign, maybe a social movement would have more power in the US if they had a common enemy…

    2) If Obama is reelected no, I don't think we would get significant headway, not without some big change. It has been suggested that the US needs a 'Pearl Harbour' moment to really get them going on climate change. This might be true, it certainly doesn't seem like Obama can do it on his own. He's in such a difficult situation politically, in a country where a vast proportion don't accept the science. He needs the people on his side and less political resistance. It's not just a matter of getting reelected.

    3) Scary thought. This is why I supported AV in the UK, to lessen the need to vote tactically. If I was an American I know I would feel I had to vote for Obama, despite the lack of follow through on his environmental promises, because I'd be too scared of letting the republicans back in…

    4) Inevitable? I hope not. But keeping it vetoed so far has taken a great deal of effort from campaigners, citizens and people like 350.org. Really, it shouldn't be this hard. The Keystone pipeline is clearly NOT in the interest of the American people, or the people of the globe. But the fact that fight has been so tough so far really shows that that's not all this decision is about. It's about money, and as we keep on being reminded, money is power.

    Looking forward to seeing the debate unfurl… 🙂


  2. 1) I think Romney would reverse any little good that Obama might have achieved – US green economy would be massively in danger.
    2)I think that Obama will continue to drive change forward, undoubtedly at snail-pace though!
    3)I think although there may be green voters – more voters will base their decisions on other issues as well as green issues. I think Green voters are still a small margin.
    4)I hope that its not inevitable – I'm trying not to lose faith!
    5)Sometimes I wonder wonder whether mainstream politicians merely use green issues to further their own agendas, rather than genuinely caring.


  3. Hey Abi,thanks for your very thorough analysis:
    1)Yes there is no doubt that Romney will try to kill the Green economy but it could easily backfire with criticism from his won party. In republican dominated Texas and the home of big oil but it's also that state in the US with the most installed wind, which have benefited them a lot, if Romney would remove the subsidies for wind it would surely not go down well. Also Texas farmers are protesting about the Keystone XL pipeline crossing their land.

    2) I believe that the US are now seeing their Pearl Harbour moment with record extreme weather mainly in the form of heatwaves which are affecting the Americans in crop failures and thereby higher food prices. Though some Americans Politicians are doing their best to make the people believe that is has nothing do with Climate Change but is an act of God.

    3) I totally agree with you, it's a big dilemma.

    4) The main issues about Keystone XL is that the Republicans are trying to claim that it will create more job than is reality and Obama saying that Canada will sell the oil regardless of if the pipeline is being built or not. For sure if we are going to succeed keeping the pipeline out we everyone to keep up the pressure.


  4. Yes he will, but the issues are will he also drive forward investment in fossil fuels as he is doing at the moment? There is no doubt that the number one issues in the US is the economy. If more jobs are being created in the fossil fuel industry then people will support that, though if on the other hand the economy is significantly growing in the green economy, then we could see a revolution. Another issue is the damage caused by Climate Change, if this is significant which all signs are pointing towards at the moment that could be crucial.


  5. Hi Anders and Charlotte,

    I think the point about Texas is a very good one – like you say, it the state that has invested the most in solar etc, which really demonstrates the fact that moving to a green economy creates more jobs. It would be interesting to see a republican state putting up a fight for the continuation of renewable subsidies if Romney attacked them.

    I hope you're right about this being the Pearl Harbour moment, but I'm not holding my breath. I was reading McKibben's End of Nature not too long ago and it sounded like a summer that preceded that (1988?) had had a similar devastating heatwave which had really made the public think – yet that was over two decades ago and the environment has continuously slipped further from the American agenda as far as I can see.

    You've also got an interesting point there about the XL pipeline. Although people want jobs, a pipeline should get enough non-environmentalists up in arms just because of the NIMBY effect. In my home county we would make an up roar about an oil pipeline being built, everyone would be up in arms – I'm sure people in the states feel exactly the same way. But we have to keep an eye on home affairs in regards to the pipeline as well. I know suggestions have been made that the oil from the tar sands would be refined in Texas but then shipped to Europe, so we need to keep a close eye on changing regulations over here.

    Interesting debate…


  6. Yes that's true. I think Keystone XL is a a subject5 that everyone got an opinion on and it's great that nnon environmentalists join this debate and are against the pipeline that's how it can be strong.

    I think one thing is for sure the next 3 months could be quite interesting and it's everyones guess how it will unfold.


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