Muckraker: Grist on Politics

Eleven days after their first matchup, John McCain and Barack Obama will meet again in Nashville, Tenn., on Tuesday night for a “townhall format” debate.

NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw will be the moderator, but it will be crowd members asking the questions, all of whom are supposedly undecided voters. There will be between 80 and 120 of these undecided voters in the audience; Brokaw will select about 15 of them to ask their questions. Chances are slim that any global warming-hating snowmen will make the cut.

At their last debate, there were no questions about energy or climate change from moderator Jim Lehrer, but the candidates brought up the issues several times of their own accord. Energy, of course, was a hot topic, and the two sparred over the 2005 energy bill, nuclear power, and bear DNA.

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They also traded words on supporting renewable energy. Obama pointed out, “Over 26 years, Sen. McCain voted 23 times against alternative energy, like solar, and wind, and biodiesel.” McCain responded, “No one from Arizona is against solar,” adding later, “I have voted for alternate fuel all of my time.”

Dan Weiss, director of climate strategy for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, would like to see someone ask McCain about this: “Given his record of voting against renewable electricity standards, and opposition to extension of the tax incentives for renewable energy and efficiency, how can Sen. McCain credibly say that ‘No one from Arizona is against solar’ or that he has voted for alternate fuel ‘all of [his] time’ in the Senate?”

Grist talked to some others in the environmental community about what they’d ask the candidates if given the chance. Here are a few:

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Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “The U.S. produces a quarter of our global-warming pollution from cars and trucks on our roads. What would you do to reduce global-warming pollution from cars and trucks beyond the measures adopted by Congress last December?”

Jamie Henn, co-coordinator of “Raise your hand if you will commit, right now, to attend the next U.N. climate meetings in Poland this December. They are the first major international meetings after the election and an essential step to renegotiating an international climate treaty. Stay or go?”

Eric Orff, wildlife biologist and New Hampshire outreach consultant for the National Wildlife Federation: “Biologists and others concerned about climate change want to see the 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Where do you stand on that?”

Representatives from 1Sky: “In light of the recent energy crisis, the phrase ‘energy efficiency’ has been conspicuously absent from the debate. Energy efficiency saves consumers money, and creates more jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuels, like oil. What will your administration do to tap into our nation’s vast energy-efficiency reserves and create green jobs?”

“This August, two dirty coal-fired power plants in Colorado were voluntarily scheduled for closure due to the financial risk associated with their global warming pollution. Given high coal prices, and lower investment interest in old coal technology, would you support policies that phase out dirty coal plants, and discourage new coal plants from being built?

What do you want to hear the candidates answer? Weigh in below.

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