A question environmentalists and environmental campaigners have been asking themselves is – would Obama mention climate change in any of the three US Election live TV debates?
It did not happen in the first TV debate, nor in the second which took place this Tuesday. The closest he came was when he endorsed clean energy, saying ‘’We have to control our own energy. Not only oil and gas which we have been investing in, but we have to make sure we build the energy of the future. That’s why we’re investing in wind, solar, biofuel and energy efficiency.“
But he also showcased his somewhat contradictory ‘all of the above’ energy policy stance, proudly stating that he has in fact approved more oil drilling than was approved under the Bush administration, and reiterating how important it is for the US to become energy independent, pretty much at any cost. As he put it, ‘’We’re drilling for more oil and gas than we have done for decades, coal production and employment is going up. But we can’t just rely on traditional forms of energy, as I have also said we have to build the energy of the future. That’s why I have doubled fuel efficiency in cars, which means that your car will go twice as far on the gallon. That’s why we have doubled clean energy like wind, solar and biofuels. All these things have contributed to us lowering our oil imports to the lowest levels in 16 years. Yes we are drilling for more oil and gas, but we can do that in an environmentally sound way. But we have got to have efficient energy because that’s how we reduce demand.”
Additionally, he could not resist taking a swipe at Romney’s energy plans, saying ‘’We can’t let the energy companies write our energy policies. He (Romney) gets the oil and gas part but not the clean energy part’’.
Environmentalists and green businesses will undoubtedly be pleased that Obama is endorsing clean energy, but are likely to be deeply concerned that he sees the continued extraction of fossil fuels as viable and his sentiment that this can be done in an environmentally sound way. Environmental campaigners who have campaigned against Shell drilling in the Arctic for example, (with drilling licenses granted by the Obama administration) would find it hard to agree that there are any environmentally sound drilling methods in the Arctic at all.
Climate Silence, an organization that is pushing to end the silence around climate issues in political debates (and created a petition to get climate change discussed in the first TV debate), have pointed out that both the presidential candidates in 2008 (Obama and McCain), openly discussed action on climate change at the time, but that in 2012 things appear the be moving in the opposite direction, despite a recent poll showing that more Americans are worried by the impact of climate change.
So we’re all left guessing whether Obama is warming up to introduce the topic of climate change in the last TV debate on the 22nd of October, or whether is he too fearful that it would not go down well with voters more concerned about the job and economic crisis, and is not willing to take that risk.