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Obama, Romney, and Nature

Obama, Romney, and Nature

For idealists who expect national leaders to focus on the country’s big, hard problems, the 2012 Presidential campaign has been a disappointment. There is compelling evidence that human activity, particularly burning lots of coal, oil and natural gas, has caused the entire planet to heat up, and that further climate changes loom ahead and are dangerous. That science is being ignored in the public competition for the Oval Office.

The leading candidates, President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Romney, have banished any talk about needs to slow carbon consumption, preferring instead to talk about lowering gasoline prices now. Obama’s four speeches on his energy tour (during March’s record-setting heat wave) touted his success in slowing oil imports and called for more domestic drilling and production. Obama was silent about the United States’s taking 20 percent of the world’s total hydrocarbon consumption, and gave no hint that such high consumption might add momentum for a world train wreck.

Romney trumps Obama as a climate change denier. He wants federal actions that would increase hydrocarbon production and consumption, and he attacks Obama for not approving immediate construction of the complete Keystone XL pipeline. That pipeline would transport dirty oil from Canada’s tar sands across the Midwest to our Gulf Coast refineries and help service our oil addiction. Romney noted in his book “No Apology” that “higher energy prices would encourage energy efficiency,” a truth which is both obvious and outside each candidate’s campaign messaging. A friend of mine summarized his reasons for supporting Romney succinctly: “He’s intelligent and unprincipled.” That combination sparks hope that a President Romney would be a pragmatic, incisive and careful leader, unburdened by the ideological orthodoxies which shape his campaign speeches, and that he would listen to environmental scientists.

Both candidates have sophisticated polls, and they know that millions of voters ignore, or dismiss, evidence that mining, then burning, huge amounts of fossil fuels is changing our world. It’s very human to discount the future heavily, to give little importance or thought to bad things that may happen 20 years after this year’s elections. But great Presidents have worked for the longterm and invested in the country’s future. Sometimes that means telling voters inconvenient truths and then leading them to conquer those mountains. Barry Goldwater’s acceptance speech as a 1964 Presidential nominee had a call to action I modify for today’s needs: “Moderation in pursuit of sustainability is no virtue, aggression in protecting nature’s balance is no vice.”

That’s my advice for whoever wins the Presidency and wants to be on Mount Rushmore.

Image by author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Comments (2)

  1. klem Wednesday - 18 / 04 / 2012
    "Support Grier's proposal for a carbon tax on gasoline." I like the idea of a gas carbon tax. It would drive up the cost of gas and force poor people with their rusted cars to get off the road. They're poor, they should take the bus. Only guys like me who make a good living should be allowed to drive. A carbon tax would help reduce congestion and allow me to get to work faster with less hassle, I'd make more money. This tax will have no effect on me or anyone else who makes a good living, we'll still drive our big beautuful SUVs. And if it gets really expensive someday, we just get a raise and everything is back to normal. Not sure what you lefty's have against poor people, but a carbon tax woul be welcome from my standpoint. Bring it on. cheers
  2. Donnel Wednesday - 18 / 04 / 2012
    Most of the poor ride public transport now. I personally think a carbon tax should be levied on homes with more than 2800 square feet.

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