Contrary to published reports, the presidential election won’t happen until Nov. 4. Those hundreds of thousands of robo-calls, the blizzard of TV ads, or other unforeseen events could propel a Republican team to the White House, leaving President-elect John McCain to assemble a Cabinet to run the government.
The global economic crisis, for the moment, is dominating the headlines, but there is no doubt the next president will have to grapple with daunting energy and environmental issues fairly quickly once in office. For starters, fuel prices could careen upward again, and a post-Kyoto summit between 189 countries to hash out new greenhouse-gas reduction targets is set for Copenhagen in late 2009. McCain would need to decide quickly whom he would trust to navigate his climate, energy, and conservation policies through the tricky shoals of environmental groups, powerful Democrats in Congress, conservative Republicans, and industry barons. Not to mention the leaders of rapidly developing China and India …
So who would staff a McCain administration’s environmental posts? GOP insiders, industry lobbyists, and think tankers talked to Grist about names being mentioned for a McCain government.
(Also check out Barack Obama’s possible cabinet picks.)
Right-wingers who still challenge global warming, or at least linking it to human activities, say they don’t have a glacier’s chance in hell of being heard in a McCain administration on energy. But if they did, they’d pick Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) to lead the Department of Energy. Domenici, New Mexico’s retiring elder statesman, is a backer of nuclear power who’s a favorite among conservatives and industry groups, but they acknowledge he probably wouldn’t get the nod. Politically, Domenici’s tangential involvement in the U.S. attorneys firings wouldn’t help him win confirmation, but more practically, he announced last year that he’s suffering from a degenerative brain disease.
Another New Mexican who gets mentioned is Rep. Heather Wilson (R), a Domenici protégé who lost the GOP primary this year to run for Domenici’s seat. McCain, who is pushing construction of nuclear power plants, might find Wilson hard to dismiss. Women and minorities are often traditionally picked for Cabinet posts. A former Rhodes Scholar, she has served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where she supported nuclear energy, and on the Select Committee on Intelligence, which monitors nuclear weapons. Her district is home to the Sandia National Laboratories, and she is an Air Force veteran. “From her background in national security, she knows the nuclear issues that make up much of Energy’s jurisdiction,” said Jack Pitney, politics professor at Claremont McKenna College.
But environmentalists and others might fight her appointment. Wilson voted to scrap critical habitat for endangered species, and against a multimillion conservation fund that New Mexico farmers backed. The League of Conservation Voters put her on its “Dirty Dozen” list in 2002, citing her support for uranium industry practices that contaminate groundwater, and for mining company polluters.
Under their breath, industry groups invoke Sen. Jim Inhofe‘s (R-Okla.) name for this post. But it’s hard to see an expanded Democratic Senate majority voting to confirm one of the most outspoken climate-change skeptics.
(Additional possibilities for energy secretary include names mentioned for climate czar — see page 5.)