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Three climate and energy debate questions for Mitt Romney and Barack Obama

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In the 2008 presidential debates, moderators Tom Brokaw (second debate) and Bob Schieffer (third debate) asked presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain about climate change and reducing American dependence on oil. Both candidates vigorously supported reductions in carbon pollution, though the means to that end differed.

Since that election, the scientific evidence that climate change is real and human-caused has only grown. The health impact and economic costs of the extreme weather events and record temperatures of 2010, 2011, and 2012 are a 10-alarm warning that climate change poses a real threat to Americans and the world. And unlike in 2008, there is a clear difference between the candidates on whether to slow this looming disaster, let alone how to solve it.

The first 2012 presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3 is scheduled to cover domestic policy, with a focus on the economy. Our energy future and response to climate change are as relevant to jobs, taxes, spending, and deficits as any other questions. A coalition of environmental groups just delivered 160,000 signatures to the first debate moderator, Jim Lehrer, “urging him to ask President Obama and Governor Romney about climate change during the first presidential debate next week.” Hopefully Lehrer will respond to this public view by asking at least one question related to climate change and clean energy.

Since the candidates have very different positions on the issues, Lehrer should pose different questions to them. Below are some suggestions, along with some background information on them.

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Everything you need to know about where Obama and Romney stand on energy policy

President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Reuters

Clean energy is an important part of the economy of Colorado, which is the location of the first presidential debate on Oct. 3.

Colorado’s robust wind industry and 70,000 jobs in green goods and services could suffer if the Production Tax Credit for wind isn’t extended by the end of 2012. The presidential candidates differ on this, as well as other energy issues. Hopefully the Denver debate, scheduled to focus on the economy, will also address energy policies so vital to Colorado and the nation.

The United States is in the midst of significant changes in our energy outlook. We are producing and burning more natural gas for electricity, while reducing coal use. Domestic oil production is at a 15-year high while oil imports are at a 15-year low. Renewable electricity doubled over the past four years, while worldwide carbon pollution and the impacts of climate change grow. The next president will face these and other serious challenges posed by a changing energy world.

President Barack Obama’s first term featured the adoption of essential toxic and carbon pollution reduction measures to protect public health. In addition, he modernized fuel-economy standards for the first time in two decades, which also helped the auto industry; invested in energy efficiency and renewable electricity; and created tens of thousands of jobs.

Gov. Mitt Romney’s energy agenda couldn’t be more different. He would undo new safeguards from mercury, carcinogens, soot, and smog from industrial sources. He opposes the improved fuel-economy standards, and would continue and expand tax breaks for big oil companies, while openly disparaging clean energy and investments in wind power.

In short, there are stark differences between the two presidential candidates that must be discussed on Oct. 3 so Americans have a clear view of the energy path each candidate would lead us down.

Below is a more detailed direct comparison of their positions on the most visible energy challenges facing the nation. Following this chart is documentation on the candidates’ positions:

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Paul Ryan’s budget plan is very nice to Big Oil

Mitt Romney & Paul Ryan at rallyBig up for Big Oil! (Photo by monkeyz uncle.)

Mitt Romney has turbo-charged his support for Big Oil by selecting Paul Ryan as his running mate. The House-passed Ryan budget would retain $40 billion in tax breaks over a decade for Big Oil while demanding huge cuts in the budget for innovation and clean energy. In addition, the Romney-Ryan budget would provide $2.3 billion in new tax breaks for the five largest oil companies. Here's a reprint of a 2011 post that ran after Ryan first introduced his radical plan.

House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) proposed fiscal year 2012 budget resolution [PDF] is a backward-looking plan that would benefit Big Oil companies at the expense of middle-class Americans. It retains $40 billion in Big Oil tax loopholes while completely eliminating investments in the clean energy technologies of the future that are essential for long-term economic growth.

This budget would lock Americans into paying high, volatile energy prices. It would ensure that millions of clean energy jobs are created overseas -- not here in the United States. It is a path backward to Bush-Cheney Big Oil energy policies that cost jobs and harm American competitiveness. In short, the Ryan plan ensures that we lose the high-stakes competition for the $2 trillion worldwide cleantech market.

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The ‘war on coal’ is a myth

Photo by Nick Humphries.

A version of this post originally appeared on Climate Progress.

Big polluters and their congressional allies have created a new straw man to knock down with the invention of the so-called “war on coal.” It is a multimillion-dollar disinformation campaign funded by Big Coal polluters to protect their profits and distract Americans from the deadly effects of air pollution on public health.

However, with the number of coal jobs in key coal states actually on the rise since 2009, it’s more like peacetime prosperity than war in coal country. The War on Coal is nothing more than a new shiny object, designed by big polluters to distract Americans from the real war -- the polluters’ attacks on their health -- and the truth.

Coal companies and dirty utilities claim that long-overdue requirements to reduce mercury, arsenic, smog, acid rain, and carbon pollution from power plants will kill jobs. In West Virginia, however, coal mining employment was higher in 2011 than at any time over the last 17 years. Federal jobs statistics also show modest coal mining job growth in coal states like Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Read more: Coal

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Senators take emergency oil reserve hostage to force Keystone approval

Will the GOP ever stop pushing Keystone XL? (Photo by truthout.)

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

Republican congressional leaders have failed to force President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. But that’s not stopping them from trying over and over again, taking hostages in the process.

First they used the payroll tax cut extension as a vehicle to force a decision on the pipeline in 60 days, even before the final route was identified. Obama was forced to reject the permit because there was no time to assess its potential pollution.

This week, several senators took a different hostage: our emergency oil supply. On Feb. 13, Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), John Hoevan (R-N.D.), and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced the Strategic Petroleum Supplies Act, S. 2100, that would prevent Obama from selling oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) unless Keystone is approved:

Read more: Oil, Politics

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Time for an oil change: Americans strongly oppose fossil fuel subsidies

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

As part of the fiscal year 2013 budget [PDF] released on Feb. 13, President Obama proposed to eliminate $40 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas producers over the next 10 years. Yesterday, the Yale Project on Climate Change reiterated its recent finding that Americans of all political stripes oppose subsidies for “coal, oil, and natural gas companies.” They oppose these subsidies by 70 percent to 30 percent -- better than two to one. Republicans oppose these subsidies by 67 percent to 34 percent (reflects rounding of percentages).

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11 important clean energy provisions in Obama’s budget proposal

Nice work on this one, Barack. (Photo by the White House.)

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget invests in clean energy to help power the engine of economic growth. The budget would direct funds to efficiency and renewable electricity technologies to create jobs and boost domestic manufacturing, and would also make manufacturing more efficient. The cleaner energy that will result from these investments will reduce pollution and protect public health. In addition, the budget would make taxes fairer by eliminating $40 billion in unnecessary breaks for big oil companies, which made record profits in 2011.

This clean energy vision would benefit middle-class Americans and the rest of the 99%. It is a stark contrast to the “drill, baby, drill” policies promoted by the American Petroleum Institute and other Big Oil allies.

Here are 11 important clean energy provisions in the president’s proposed 2013 budget:

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Big Oil’s banner year: Higher prices, record profits, less oil

Cross-posted from the Center for American Progress. This post was coauthored by Jackie Weidman and Rebecca Leber.

General economic theory holds that companies will produce more of a good if its price is higher, or if it receives subsidies. Funny that these rules didn’t seem to apply to Big Oil in 2011, when the highest oil price since 1864 and $2 billion in subsidies to the five largest oil companies -- BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell -- yielded lower oil production than in 2010. But these five oil companies combined made a record-high $137 billion in profits in 2011 -- up 75 percent from 2010 -- and have made more than $1 trillion in profits from 2001 through 2011.[1] This exceeds the previous record of $136 billion in profits in 2008.

Read more: Oil

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Obama proposes new emissions standards on eve of U.N. meeting

New vehicle emissions standards: Good call, Obama.Photo: The White HouseCross-posted from Climate Progress. This is a revision of an earlier article to reflect the evolving international climate negotiations. This post was coauthored by Andrew Light and Jackie Weidman. The 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) begins today in Durban, South Africa. In advance of the meeting, some nations have legitimately criticized the United States for its lack of leadership in the development of a climate agreement that puts the world on the path to reducing the carbon and other pollution responsible for …

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