Update: Fred Thompson dropped out of the presidential race on Jan. 22, 2008.

Fred Thompson

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 is happening, but says the federal government should conduct R&D into technologies that could reduce CO2 and take other steps to cut emissions if they won’t harm the economy.
  • Calls for boosting “energy security” by increasing domestic supplies, reducing demand for oil and gas, and promoting alternative and renewable energy.
  • Supports “clean coal.”
  • Supports expansion of nuclear power.
  • Wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling (and in 2002, voted to do so).
  • Opposed ethanol subsidies when he was in the Senate, but now supports them.


Watch Thompson answer a question about climate change at a New Hampshire campaign stop on Sept. 9, 2007:

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Watch Thompson talk about energy independence at a New Hampshire campaign stop on Sept. 9, 2007:

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Watch Thompson answer a question about fuel economy on the campaign trail in Iowa on Aug. 17, 2007:

Listen to Thompson editorialize on the science of climate change on Paul Harvey’s radio show in April 2007

Quotable Quotes

  • “[W]hile we don’t know for certain how or why climate change is occurring, it makes sense to take reasonable steps to reduce CO2 emissions without harming our economy.”


  • “Climate change is real. We have to take it seriously. We don’t know the extent of the change and we don’t know what the significance is going to be to us … Lots of things we don’t know yet. We need to find out the answers to those things and do what’s necessary … The United States alone cannot solve this problem.”
    — Sept. 9, 2007, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire


  • “Energy independence? Let’s be honest about that. We’re not gonna be energy independent overnight, it’s gonna be some time. We’ve not been doing things very smart for a long time. You don’t change those things overnight. … We’ve got to use the resources we’ve got here at home. We can do ANWR without doing any environmental damage; I’ve looked at it, I’m convinced of it.”
    — Sept. 9, 2007, on the campaign trail in New Hampshire


  • “Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto. NASA says the Martian South Pole’s “ice cap” has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto. This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non-signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle. Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets, and moons in our solar system have in common. Hmm. Solar system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus. Ask Galileo.”
    — April 2007, speaking about climate change on Paul Harvey’s radio show

Platform & Record In-Depth

  • Worked as a lobbyist in D.C. for more than 20 years, representing, among other clients, a failed nuclear energy project that cost taxpayers $1.7 billion, and a British reinsurance company that wanted to limit its liability from asbestos lawsuits.
  • In 2002, voted against raising corporate average fuel economy standards.
  • In 2002, voted to renew the Price-Anderson Act, which caps liability and the amount of money nuclear-power facilities would have to pay in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. (The act was eventually renewed as part of the 2005 energy bill, extending liability protection to the nuke industry until the end of 2025.)
  • In 2001, cosponsored an unsuccessful bill that would have provided financial incentives to retrofit coal plants with “clean coal” technology, supported coal research and development programs, and exempted some coal plants from the Clean Air Act new-source review rules requiring new or significantly renovated power plants to use the best available technology to limit their air pollution.
  • In 2001, cosponsored an unsuccessful bill to give a variety of financial and other incentives to nuclear power plants and nuclear-plant operators.
  • In 1998, sponsored the unsuccessful Sportsmen’s Memorial Act to authorize a monument to sportsmen in or near Washington, D.C.

Still Haven’t Gotten Enough?

What did we miss? Tell us below in comments. We’ll update this page as the presidential campaign continues.

Todd Hymas Samkara and Kate Sheppard contributed to this fact sheet.

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