Take Back America: Dem. Candidates Speak out on Global Warming

Several NWF staff attended the Take Back America Conference today.  Keynote speakers included Presidential candidates Bill Richardson, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Mike Gravel.  I took notes during the speeches on what the candidates said regarding global warming and climate change.

First up was former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel.  Although Gravel spoke passionately about the war in Iraq, he was the only one of the four candidates speaking today who didn’t manage to mention global warming whatsoever.

Next up was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.  He segued into the global warming portion of his speech by saying that he was “proud to be the Governor of the clean energy state.”  He then went on to lay out, in some detail, his plan for a 50 mile per gallon fuel efficiency standard and 50% renewable energy nationwide by 2040.  The strongest point in his speech was the following quote:  “Maybe President Bush doesn’t follow the Kyoto treaty, but my state does.”  One point I think Richardson missed the mark on was with regards to our overall dependence on oil.  He said, “We have to sacrifice for the common good.  We have to get rid of our dependence on Middle-East oil.  Now perhaps it was just a slip of the tongue.  Or perhaps he threw in the ‘Middle-East’ to exploit voter prejudice.  But the real message of what he was saying seems to be that our dependence on oil is just fine, as long as it is not Middle-East oil.  I’m sure this isn’t his position but he should probably be more careful when he is speaking to well-informed activist groups such as the one at this conference.

At noon we heard from Illinois Senator Barack Obama.  Obama gave a fiery speech, according to some one of his best yet.  He seemed unafraid to go after the auto industry, something that other candidates seem to shy away from for fear of losing votes in Michigan.

“It is time to tell the oil and auto industries they must act, because the planet is at stake,” he said slowly and deliberately.  Regarding a “low carbon fuel standard” he said “We have the technology to do it, and it is time to do it.”  He specifically mentioned that this wasn’t popular in Detroit and said that it “doesn’t matter because it is the right thing to do.”  He closed his remarks on the topic by saying that it is time to tell the world “we want to work with you, not against you, on climate change.”

Last but not least, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards took the stage.  As did Richardson, Edwards came out swinging on the issue and devoted a good portion of his time to energy policy and global warming.  He led off with a broad-sweeping statement that reminded me of those made by others:  “We have a crisis and that crisis is global warming.”  Like Richardson before him, he also suggested we reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.  Edwards showed his commitment to funding research by suggesting we put at least one billion dollars into funding the creation of carbon capture technologies.  He also made it clear that he did not want to see any more coal-fired power plants.

After these specific examples of policy ideas, he got a bit more abstract, and began to lose me (as well as some of the crowd.)  He said his policies would “transform America, create at least one million ‘green collar’ jobs.”  I like that term and I think it is a wise choice of words.  He then went on to explain that on climate change we could lead the world by example and transform the middle east.  “If America leads everyone follows.  Think about the consequences, America gets off its addiction to oil and millions of African children are lifted out of poverty.”  A lofty ideal without a doubt, but he didn’t draw the connection clearly enough and left a lot of us wondering what exactly he was talking about.