Friday, August 22, 2008

Green Crystal Ball: Previewing the VP Contenders

UPDATE: It's Biden.

Rumor has it Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama will announce his vice presidential pick today or tomorrow. Greenpeace has a
roundup of the climate, energy, and environmental records of the leading contenders.

The candidates are clearly divided into two tiers. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Delaware Sen. Joe Biden have solid environmental resumes. Gov. Sebelius took a bold stand against new coal-fired power plants. Sen. Biden has an exceptionally strong record on clean energy and climate change issues in the Senate.

Meanhile, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh have been marginal at best -- and at worst, outright climate action foot-draggers.

When judging Democrats on the environment, it's critical to go beyond rhetoric. At this point all Democrats (and many Republicans) agree global warming is happening, man-made emissions are to blame, and we need to take action. But some Democrats like Kaine and Bayh shy away when it comes to setting targets. Here's Kaine at a recent the Southern Governors' Association meeting:
[I]n an acknowledgement of the political climate and the difficulties in building consensus, Kaine's initiative did not take the bigger step of proposing timetables and goals for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, or phasing in new technology or conservation regulation in the energy industry.

"I don't think you start with a goal," the governor said in an interview. "I think you start with a process in which you come up with goals and strategies to meet the goals.

"I would very much hope that goals would emerge, measurable goals, targets that we're going to try to hit," Kaine said.
We don't need process. We don't need discussion. We need action. And action doesn't mean more mushy talk about some future breakthrough that might make less-dirty coal not only technologically feasible but affordable. I invite Bayh and Kaine to start holding their breath.

Over on the GOP side, I'm guessing Greenpeace will release their look at leading VP contenders closer to Friday the 29th, when Republican nominee John McCain is expected to announce his running mate. But that doesn't mean The Green Miles can't take his own sneak peek now:

  • Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman has been one of the nation's leading champions of strong climate action, most recently serving as lead co-sponsor of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (PDF). Whatever you think of his politics or personality, if Al Gore wants you to be his running mate, it means you're as strong as it gets on real climate solutions.

  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has signed legislation setting a 25% renewable energy standard for his state by 2025. He introduced a carbon emissions reduction proposal before the National Governors Association, but Robert Novak and Tim Carney reported it "was shot down by bipartisan opposition from the coal-oil bloc of governors."

  • It's hard to get a read on former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge. He supported voluntary efforts to confront climate change, but then again, left the governor's mansion before global warming became front-and-center in the national debate.

  • Then there's Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Jindal opposes climate action, but it's nothing personal -- if you think the Bush administration is waging war on science, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Jindal is perhaps best known for signing a bill allowing local school boards to teach non-science theories on a wide range of scientific issues, from evolution to global warming. While serving in the U.S. House, Jindal garnered a dismal seven percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters and received some of the lowest scores in Congress from Republicans for Environmental Protection. Given McCain's moderate positions on science issues, I can't imagine him selecting Batshit Insane Bobby.
Who would you like to see Obama and McCain select?
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