Muckraker: Grist on PoliticsIn honor of John McCain’s eco-week, both the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee have launched sites where folks can make personal pledges to protect the planet. The McCain campaign has also put out a line of “eco-friendly” swag — shirts, hats, tote bags, etc.

Meanwhile, McCain adviser Kevin Hassett, who is also the director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, argues in an op-ed that polar bears shouldn’t be listed as endangered because such a decision could lead to severe restrictions on fossil-fuel drilling and burning. Here’s a portion of his piece:

[T]his ruling … will likely end all Arctic exploration for oil and gas, at least in the U.S. Given surging world demand for oil, increased supply is the only thing standing between us and $200-a-barrel oil.

These restrictions will have a large cost. “The U.S. Geological Survey and the Norwegian company StatoilHydro estimate that the Arctic holds as much as one-quarter of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas deposits,” Scott Borgerson, an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs. “Some Arctic wildcatters believe this estimate could increase substantially as more is learned about the region’s geology.”

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Many biologists believe that global warming is a serious threat to the polar bear. If that leads to the polar bear being listed as threatened this week, then the world you live in will have fundamentally changed.

The deadline for the Bush administration’s ruling on whether or not to declare the polar bear an endangered species is tomorrow, but the Interior Department is actually scheduled to announce a decision today. [UPDATE: DOI did list the polar bear as threatened today.] Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne hasn’t added any animals or plants to the endangered species list since he took office two years ago.

If McCain’s advisers are already pushing for Bush-administration-style policies on issues like the polar bear, how credible are his claims this week that he’s not Bush when it comes to the environment? All the eco-swag in the world can’t make up for policies that continue to prioritize industry interests over the planet.

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