Didn’t like the official presidential debates? Underwhelmed by the third-party debate? Fine. Here’s a report-back from another debate, this time only about energy and the environment, using high-profile surrogates for the candidates. If you aren’t happy now, you may as well resign yourself to your handcrafted “Debates 2012” playset in which you do the voices for both Obama and Romney and also the dial-testing.

Well, to clarify, you should only be happy about this in the sense that you’re getting a debate on energy and the environment. The answers to the questions posed aren’t gonna thrill you. And only happy if you like very, very brief summaries.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama during the second U.S. presidential debate
It was basically like these two arguing, except two different dudes.
Reuters / Lucas Jackson

The surrogates:
Joseph Aldy, representing Obama. Faculty at the Harvard Kennedy School, formerly served as special assistant to the president for energy and environment. Here is a story about how he climbed a mountain to say goodbye to some glaciers.
Oren Cass, representing Romney. Domestic policy director for the campaign, formerly of Bain & Co. Here is an article Cass wrote about how Obama is killing oil production (spoiler: as if), just so you get a sense of the guy.

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog did a good job pulling out the key components. Like a delicious sauce, we will reduce those key points even further, to get to the yummy essence of each campaign, to spread out over your ballot. (If you’re “one of those,” here is the full (long) transcript. I dare you to read the whole thing. Dare you.)

Climate change
Aldy: “Global climate change is an incredibly serious challenge. It’s a very tough challenge.” However! Can’t do anything without Congress, except Clean Air Act stuff, meaning the EPA.
Cass: “[T]hat’s not where Governor Romney would put his emphasis.” Also: clean coal.

Government investment
Aldy: Did you know that fracking used to get a production tax credit? True story.
Cass: Did you know Solyndra? But: sure, sometimes.

Fuel economy
Aldy: Sure.
Cass: No one wants a more expensive car! Also, the market will reduce fuel consumption, through magic.

Oil independence
Aldy: Won’t impact gas prices, because they’re set by a global market.
Cass: But let’s import from Canada anyway.

Natural gas
Aldy: Isn’t it great?
Cass: Yes, it’s great.

Coal
Aldy: “[T]he president made it very clear that he supports clean coal.” Also, he believes in the Miracle on 34th Street, probably.
Cass: Mitt Romney likes coal. Also, and I repeat! Clean coal.

Carbon tax
Aldy: A whuh?
Cass: Obama probably supports this, I bet. Let’s assume he does, OK everyone?

And that’s about the long and the short of it. A little while ago, the Times posted an overview of how the candidates have ignored climate change. Well, based on the long, earnest, direct conversation provided by their surrogates, even if they’d discussed climate change, we wouldn’t have learned much of any interest.

Politics!™