Thursday, September 4, 2008
As we emerge from Labor Day, college students are gathering back on campuses not only to start the fall semester, but also, in some cases, to vote for the first time in a presidential election. There is no bigger issue on campuses these days than environment/energy. Going into this election, I thought that — for the first time — we would have a choice between two “green” candidates. That view is no longer operative — and college students (and everyone else) need to understand that.
With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.
Given the fact that Senator McCain deliberately avoided voting on all eight attempts to pass a bill extending the vital tax credits and production subsidies to expand our wind and solar industries, and given his support for lowering the gasoline tax in a reckless giveaway that would only promote more gasoline consumption and intensify our addiction to oil, and given his desire to make more oil-drilling, not innovation around renewable energy, the centerpiece of his energy policy — in an effort to mislead voters that support for drilling today would translate into lower prices at the pump today — McCain has forfeited any claim to be a green candidate.
So please, students, when McCain comes to your campus and flashes a few posters of wind turbines and solar panels, ask him why he has been AWOL when it came to Congress supporting these new technologies.
“Back in June, the Republican Party had a round-up,” said Carl Pope, the executive director of the Sierra Club. “One of the unbranded cattle — a wizened old maverick name John McCain — finally got roped. Then they branded him with a big ‘Lazy O’ — George Bush’s brand, where the O stands for oil. No more maverick.
“One of McCain’s last independent policies putting him at odds with Bush was his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” added Pope, “yet he has now picked a running mate who has opposed holding big oil accountable and been dismissive of alternative energy while focusing her work on more oil drilling in a wildlife refuge and off of our coasts. While the northern edge of her state literally falls into the rising Arctic Ocean, Sarah Palin says, ‘The jury is still out on global warming.’ She’s the one hanging the jury — and John McCain is going to let her.”
Indeed, Palin’s much ballyhooed confrontations with the oil industry have all been about who should get more of the windfall profits, not how to end our addiction.
Barack Obama should be doing more to promote his green agenda, but at least he had the courage, in the heat of a Democratic primary, not to pander to voters by calling for a lifting of the gasoline tax. And while he has come out for a limited expansion of offshore drilling, he has refrained from misleading voters that this is in any way a solution to our energy problems.
I am not against a limited expansion of off-shore drilling now. But it is a complete sideshow. By constantly pounding into voters that his energy focus is to “drill, drill, drill,” McCain is diverting attention from what should be one of the central issues in this election: who has the better plan to promote massive innovation around clean power technologies and energy efficiency.
Why? Because renewable energy technologies — what I call “E.T.” — are going to constitute the next great global industry. They will rival and probably surpass “I.T.” — information technology. The country that spawns the most E.T. companies will enjoy more economic power, strategic advantage and rising standards of living. We need to make sure that is America. Big oil and OPEC want to make sure it is not.
Palin’s nomination for vice president and her desire to allow drilling in the Alaskan wilderness “reminded me of a lunch I had three and half years ago with one of the Russian trade attachés,” global trade consultant Edward Goldberg said to me. “After much wine, this gentleman told me that his country was very pleased that the Bush administration wanted to drill in the Alaskan wilderness. In his opinion, the amount of product one could actually derive from there was negligible in terms of needs. However, it signified that the Bush administration was not planning to do anything to create alternative energy, which of course would threaten the economic growth of Russia.”
So, college students, don’t let anyone tell you that on the issue of green, this election is not important. It is vitally important, and the alternatives could not be more black and white.
More Articles in Opinion » A version of this article appeared in print on September 3, 2008, on page A25 of the New York edition. Sphere: Related Content
Posted by Katherine "Kay" Slaughter at Thursday, September 04, 2008