How green is your candidate? Info on the 2008 presidential contenders
Forget boxers or briefs. You want to know about the presidential candidates’ stances on energy and the environment, right? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Compare the candidates’ green positions using our handy chart. Get a quick rundown on each candidate below, where you’ll also find links to interviews with them, fact sheets on their records, and more. (And at the bottom of the page are links to info on candidates who’ve dropped out of the race.)
Descriptions of candidates and their positions are not and should not be perceived as endorsements. Grist does not endorse political candidates.
Photo: Conrad Erb PhotographyIn the early months of Barack Obama‘s presidential campaign, enviros were skeptical of his (now heavily qualified) support for coal-to-liquids technology and unvarnished enthusiasm for ethanol, but he earned their respect with his aggressive climate and energy plan. The plan centers on a cap-and-trade system that aims for 80 percent emission reductions from 1990 levels by 2050 and calls for auctioning 100 percent of the pollution permits. It also includes a $150 billion investment to boost clean energy and create green jobs, along with fine-grained proposals to boost efficiency, build a smart electricity grid, and encourage public transportation. Enviros have also applauded Obama’s refusal to endorse a gas-tax holiday and his now somewhat qualified opposition to offshore oil drilling. Obama earned an 86 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his first three years representing Illinois in the U.S. Senate (a lower score than might have been because he missed some votes while campaigning for president).
- Read Grist’s interview with Obama.
- Read an interview with Obama adviser Jason Grumet.
- Check out a fact sheet on Obama.
- Listen to an audio clip from Grist’s interview with Obama:
Photo: hatch1921John McCain has a mixed record on the environment, but he’s long been outspoken about global warming. He introduced the first major bill in the Senate to address it: the Climate Stewardship Act of 2003, cosponsored with Joe Lieberman. In May 2008, he unveiled a new plan for tackling the problem, a cap-and-trade system with a series of targets for gradually reducing carbon emissions to 60 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. The plan would give away many pollution credits instead of auctioning them off, and would give polluting entities expansive leeway to buy carbon offsets instead of reducing their own emissions. McCain used to oppose ethanol subsidies, but upon launching his current presidential campaign, he has changed his tune. He also changed his position on offshore drilling (but he still opposes drilling in the Arctic Refuge). McCain wants to build 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030 and spend big on “clean coal” technology; he also expresses support for wind, solar, and other renewables, but doesn’t believe they need government assistance. The League of Conservation Voters endorsed McCain in his 2004 Senate campaign, despite the fact that he’s gotten low voting scores from the group over the years (including a zero for 2007); McCain’s lifetime LCV score is 24 percent. (This year, LCV endorsed Obama.)
- Read Grist’s interview with McCain.
- Read an interview with McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin.
- Check out a fact sheet on McCain.
- Listen to an audio clip from Grist’s interview with McCain:
Though Ralph Nader is running as an independent and not under the Green Party banner this time around, he still has some serious small-G green cred (at least among those not still livid over his alleged role in Gore’s 2000 presidential defeat). In the heyday of his consumer advocacy, he and the groups he formed helped get landmark environmental and consumer-protection laws passed, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. He has also spent decades fighting nuclear power. These days, Nader regularly decries corporate influence in government and argues against subsidies to nuclear, oil, coal, electric, and biofuels interests. Instead, he calls for heavy investment in solar, wind, and other renewables, as well as in energy efficiency. Nader also advocates for a carbon tax as a way to fight climate change.
The path to the presidency is littered with losers, some more sore than others. If you’re wondering what might have been, check out our info on the ex-candidates’ environmental views:
Stories in this series:
Update: Mike Huckabee dropped out of the presidential race on Mar. 4, 2008. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who served as governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, touts energy independence as one of his top priorities. He dodges the issue of whether humans are responsible for global warming, saying we don’t know for sure, but argues that we should still act to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Whenever he’s asked about climate change or the environment, he wraps in religion, saying we have a spiritual obligation to protect God’s creation. Read an interview with Mike Huckabee by Grist and Outside. Key …
This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside. Update: Sam Brownback dropped out of the presidential race on Oct. 19, 2007. Sam Brownback. Photo: IowaPolitics.com “America is on the verge of an energy crisis,” Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) warns on his presidential campaign website, blaming “years of neglect and shortsighted domestic policies.” His solution? Incentivize the marketplace to develop more nuclear power, more renewables, plug-in hybrids, better biofuels, and other homegrown energy sources and technologies. Brownback has been a big advocate of ethanol and other biofuels throughout the decade he’s spent …
Update: Brownback dropped out of the presidential race on Oct. 19, 2007. Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback, who has represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate since 1996, calls for the U.S. to be “energy secure” so it won’t have to depend on unfriendly countries for oil — and touts ethanol as a homegrown solution to the problem. He calls for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, even though he’s not convinced that humans are responsible for global warming. His lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters is 14 percent. Read an interview with Sam Brownback by Grist and Outside. Key …
This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside. Update: Tom Tancredo dropped out of the presidential race on Dec. 20, 2007. Tom Tancredo. Photo: VictoryNH Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo — best known for his zealous opposition to illegal immigration — bills himself on his campaign website as “a solid pro-life, pro-gun, small government Republican.” What’s not mentioned on his site is anything about the environment or energy issues. (Considering that he’s got a lifetime approval rating of 11 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, perhaps that’s no surprise.) But when …
Update: Tom Tancredo dropped out of the presidential race on Dec. 20, 2007. Environmental and energy issues don’t seem to be top priorities for Republican presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo. He rarely mentions them on the stump and he doesn’t highlight them on his campaign website. When he does talk about his vision for America’s energy system, he calls for reliance on the free market rather than regulation, and — like everyone else — stresses the importance of reducing U.S. consumption of foreign oil. His lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters is 11 percent. Read an interview with …
This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates produced jointly by Grist and Outside. Update: Ron Paul dropped out of the presidential race on June 12, 2008. Ron Paul. Photo: MyTwistedLens Enviros may roll their eyes at a candidate who dismisses the U.S. EPA as feckless and disposable, who believes all public lands should be privately owned, and whose remedy for an ailing planet is “a free-market system and a lot less government.” But Ron Paul, the quixotic libertarian U.S. rep from Texas, has a bigger cult following online than any other presidential candidate*, and has won …
Update: Ron Paul dropped out of the presidential race on June 12, 2008. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul doesn’t spend much time talking about the environment; when he does address the issue, it’s usually to say that our land, air, and water would be in better shape if the government butted out and let the free-market, private-property system run its course. Paul has represented Texas’s 14th district in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past decade, and he represented the 22nd district for about seven years in the ’70s and ’80s. In 1988, he ran for president as the …
Rudy Giuliani. Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who served as mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001, talks up energy independence as a critical component of national security. He acknowledges that climate change is happening and that humans contribute to it at least to some extent, but he doesn’t often address the issue or other environmental concerns. Key Points Recognizes climate change as a problem, but opposes mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions. Calls for an “intense focus” on energy independence, saying he would make it a priority to wean the U.S. off foreign oil within 10 to 15 …
Update: Mitt Romney dropped out of the presidential race on Feb. 7, 2008. Key PointsRepublican presidential candidate Mitt Romney isn’t convinced humans are a big contributor to climate change, but he supports efforts that would cut greenhouse-gas emissions while pushing America toward energy independence. As governor of Massachusetts from January 2003 to January 2007, he got off to a promising start on a green issues, but then repeatedly angered the state’s environmental community [PDF]. Acknowledges that climate change seems to be happening, but says it’s unclear how much humans have contributed to the problem. Calls for policies that would boost …
Update: Duncan Hunter dropped out of the presidential race on Jan. 19, 2008. Republican presidential candidate Duncan Hunter has served in the U.S. House since 1981 as a representative of California’s 52nd district, which encompasses areas east of San Diego. Hunter has earned a lifetime voting score of 9 percent from the League of Conservation Voters. Environment and energy issues are not mentioned on his campaign website and are not a priority in his presidential campaign. Key Points Acknowledges that global warming has occurred, but says it’s not clear how much human activity has contributed to the problem. Calls for …
Update: Fred Thompson dropped out of the presidential race on Jan. 22, 2008. Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1994 to 2003, filling a seat previously held by Al Gore — but he hasn’t followed Gore’s lead on green issues. Thompson got a lifetime voting score of 12 percent from the League of Conservation Voters, and he is not yet convinced about what’s driving climate change or what should be done about it. Thompson doesn’t talk about the environment much on the campaign trail. Key Points Says it’s unclear how or why climate change …
He brought you the seat belt. He launched a consumer advocacy empire. He got over 2 million votes in the 2000. We interview with Ralph Nader about his presidential platform.
Updated 22 Aug 2008 Ralph Nader. Though Ralph Nader is running as an independent and not under the Green Party banner this time around, he still has some serious small-G green cred (at least among those not still livid over his alleged role in Gore’s 2000 presidential defeat). In the heyday of his consumer advocacy, he and the groups he formed helped get landmark environmental and consumer-protection laws passed, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. He has also spent decades fighting nuclear power. These days, Nader regularly decries corporate influence in government and argues against subsidies …
Cynthia McKinney. Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney sums up her energy policy with a simple, memorable rhyme: “Leave the oil in the soil.” “Right now we’ve got two energy policies in this country,” McKinney told Grist. “One is war, the other is drilling. And neither one of them works.” It’s a message she hopes will win over voters who have tired of both the Democratic and Republican parties. McKinney was a Democrat herself for years, representing Georgia’s 4th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2003, and again from 2005 to 2007. She was the first …
Bob Barr. Photo: Bob Barr for President In July, Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate for president, attended a big climate-change speech by Al Gore and found himself being praised by the former vice president for paying serious attention to the issue. After the speech, Barr issued a statement commending Gore for his “efforts and leadership” on global warming. But in an appearance on the Glenn Beck show just six days earlier, Barr argued that “global warming is a myth” being foisted upon the country by “internationalists” and “environmental folks.” So is Barr a climate activist or a climate skeptic? “We …