Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Fate of Our World in their Hands?

By Jocelyn Perez

In the midst of this chaotic election season, I have sought to find answers to questions on how the candidates will deal with our environmental crisis. With only weeks to go, I began to research their policy outlines religiously and the worries many voters may be facing. I have narrowed down the spectrum of my research to answer the main question I have been confronted with: What will the candidates do to confront global warming caused by carbon emissions and energy deficiency?

First, both candidates have accepted that global warming is a reality, and the fact that we are experiencing fluctuations in climate directly associated with the effects of global warming is a positive turn in the discussion of environmental issues. Secondly, they have drafted environmental policies outlining their plans to address the issue in the most effective manner possible. However, their proposals vary in terms of priority and elaboration.

For example, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama believes that we have a moral responsibility to our environment and to the safety of its inhabitants. In order to reduce air pollution, he has proposed a “cap-and-trade” system in which there would be an established and controlled rate of emissions. That is, each company or factory would have a designated “allowance” of emissions. In this proposal, there is regulation of air pollutants and a restraint on how much is released into the air at a given time. For example, if I have a car-manufacturing company, I could have an allowance of two tons of emissions per year. Let us say I manage to only use up one ton; therefore, I have the ability to sell my share to another company who needs it. The funds I earn will allow me to advance my company, buy allowances from others, or implement the use of alternative energy sources.

Another important contributing factor to poor air quality is the automobile. Obama states that funding in the form of loans and grants will be provided during his presidency to support American car companies in building advanced and fuel efficient cars, as well as hybrid models. This will bring more revenue into our economy and end the need to buy foreign cars. Senator Obama will redirect funding toward areas of mass transportation, in order to make the option feasible and improve the current standards.

Livestock facilities will also face changes in their standards of operation. Studies have revealed that emissions released from these facilities are actually at higher levels than those of automobiles. Our love for meat is leading to the devastation around us! The ranchers would be required to enforce cleaner forms of waste and water disposal. Senator Obama asserts that by following his plans to reduce carbon emissions and energy waste by 2050 our emissions will be reduced eighty percent, the levels they were in 1990.
Similarly, John McCain, the republican presidential candidate, also proposes the cap-and-trade system, but suggests that emissions will only be reduced to sixty percent by 2050. Senator McCain also outlines incentives and adaptation plans to aid in the transition from free-flowing to regulated emissions. But he elaborates more on how the system will work, and how trading or selling will affect the economy and aid in a company’s advancement. His proposal is “auctioning emissions permits” to support a variety of areas of interest such as helping low income families as well as researching and developing new and cleaner forms of energy in an effort to support innovations in the “green” movement. However, he does not mention automobiles until his oil policy or his take on livestock management until his agricultural reform incentives. This leaves a very vague impression on how he will tackle such a serious issue like air pollution.

It is time for round two and the question of energy efficiency and conservation sits in at the forefront of the issues. Energy can be supplied from a variety of different sources, but how it is supplied affects the amount of emissions released into the air. Under Obama’s administration we would see a double in funding for research and development of “cleaner energy projects” and investments in training programs that will aid in transition and the increase in production efficiency. Further investments will be made in alternative forms of energy such as wind, solar and geothermal, establishing a standard for the United States to follow as well as the rest of the world. The public will have the information and tools needed in order to lessen their energy use, and be educated about the negative effects their emissions have on their surroundings. All new buildings, especially federal, will have to be built to fit new guidelines and will release zero emissions. Finally, farmers and ranchers will be encouraged to use “methane digesters” and renewable energy to run their facilities not only to reduce their carbon output but also to maintain the soil on their property “sustainable.” According to Sen. Obama’s proposal, if the policy is enacted, by 2025 twenty five percent of our energy should come from renewable energy sources.

By contrast, Sen. McCain starts off his policy stating that we need stop depending on foreign energy sources and begin exploring our own resources for energy options. He calls for domestic oil drilling and expanding the use of natural gas for heating homes. He says that under his administration he will invest in clean energy sources like renewable resources and alcohol-based fuels. His funds will advocate for the creation of cleaner coal technologies and export with transitioning countries like India and China. He also hopes to set the construction of one hundred nuclear power plants into motion, which will provide new employment opportunities as well as a zero emissions energy source.

Sen. McCain, like Sen. Obama, believes in fuel efficient cars but proposes a “Clean Car Challenge to the Automakers of America” promising $5,000 tax credit for those who buy a car that emits zero emissions and a $300 million dollar prize for anyone who can invent the most efficient plug-in electric or hybrid vehicle that will be adequate in cost and size for the average American consumer. These plans will increase economic activity in different sectors and maintain the flow of money within the United States.

I have to admit that both sides have some attractive policy objectives but after reviewing all of the data I feel that Sen. Obama has a plan that addresses the issues I feel are a priority. Educating the public, enhancing building regulations, and striving for the largest decrease of carbon emissions possible are necessary, if changes are to be made. However, I am only addressing a fraction of their environmental policy in order to answer the question at hand. For instance, Obama’s policy as a whole includes funding for our national parks, restoration of our wetlands and great lakes, preservation of forestland and restrictions on lumbering in South America. This are issues McCain fails to outline or even make the slightest mention of. Our president cannot just think of how our economy can benefit from renewable energy, and then mislead the public into using it. Our president must think of how he can use his leadership to benefit the environment in its time of need, which in turn will benefit the people with clean air, water, and a better world.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your detailed break down of Sen McCain's and Sen. Obama's environmental policy proposals.

  2. Obama is using energy policy to redistribute wealth. Basically he wants to ban as much drilling as possible. Raise oil prices, in turn will increase oil company profits. These profits then will be taxed as a new source of revenue to redistribute while claiming it's to save the world.

    Higher taxes on emissions, another source of valuable income to the Obama policy of redistributing wealth.

    He doesn't address China, as they have become the leading emissions factory. India is catching up as well as far as increased emissions. The fate of the world is not in their hands, it's just bad policy.


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