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An Eco-View of the Dem Contenders

Do Barack and Hillary differ significantly on eco-issues? Before I started research for this post, I thought not – but the data changed my mind. What’s important here, however, is what you decide, not what I decide. Here’s some info as you make your own decisions about the Senators as eco-candidates.

The next American President (the First Anthropocene President) will be one of many chosen for their promises about hot air, but the first to admit it during the camapign – at least in public.

Both Sen Clinton and Sen Obama have released detailed positions on energy and climate. Even the likely Repug nominee Sen McCain (R- Napalm Family Values Explosive Personality Disorder) has plans to mitigate climate change.

Yay us! We greenie progressives finally won – right?

EarthFirst! and RAN can take down the tree sits, the Sierra Club can unplug their phone banks, the Mountain Justice Summer coalition has saved Appalachia, Greenpeace can climb off the smokestacks, Sea Shepherd stopped Japan’s whale slaughter, the PANNA people can break bread free of pesticides, the direct action folks can cancel Recreate ’68 and the RNC Welcoming Committee, the OCA can celebrate GMO-free fields, the BFC and Yellowstone’s buffalo are safe….all is good with Gaia – right?

Well, a Gaian can hope.

Actually, with either Clinton or Obama’s policies, the living world still loses – as do our families and children. With McCain’s policies, we and the rest of the biosphere perish even sooner.

[Of course the above assumes the votes cast determine who wins. Four more years of the Shrub/Darth coup kills the biosphere – and us – even sooner.]

As a McCain presidency – elected or Diebolded – is too hideous to contemplate, I’ll just focus on the two Dems.

Gee – comparing the two candidates’ eco-positions…aren’t you a little late, Kirk?

After all, the League of Conservation Voters compares the Clinton/Obama eco/energy policies (see voter guide) as well as C‘s & O‘s voting records.

Grist compares Obama and Clinton on the environment, reviews Hillary’s and Barak’s detailed energy plans, and also has a nifty voter guide.

Alternet draws on these and other sources to make a very helpful comparison of all the (active) candiates’ words and votes on carbon emissions, fuel efficiency, energy/consumption/renewables, and coal, biofules, and nuclear energy.

So – uh – what’s left to say?

All the sources cited above have done careful, detailed work, and I’ve gratefully drawn on all them for this post. Yet – perhaps because i’m a shrink – I keep one ear open for what isn’t in the room.

Or maybe I’m just listening for voices.

As many others have observed, save for the one (Grist-sponsored) Pres debate on global warming, the MSM debates have been a "dead zone" for eco-issues; the questions almost wholly excluded enviro topics.

The MSM’s pathetically narrow Pres debate eco-coverage both reflects and maintains the exclusion of all but the most "investor-friendly" environmental topics from nearly all US broadcast media…as well as from nearly all Congressional debate.

Whole lotta voices don’t get heard.

In the race for First Anthropocene President, I focus on:

  • Climate change/energy
  • Toxic subsidies
  • Toxic substances/Precautionary Principle
  • Toxic mutants (GMO foods/crops)

I) Climate change / Energy:

– both reduce carbon gases by 80% as of 2050

– Clinton better on fuel economy than Obama

– both (now) support auctioned carbon caps (inferior to carbon tax)

– both support coal-to-liquid fuel (a nightmare), but only if impossible conditions are met

– both punted on carbon tax

Yep. They both punted on the carbon tax. You saw that right – they did wrong. Big planet cooking wrong. Sadly for them – tragically for the biosphere – both Dem candidates rolled over for Big Energy…by surrendering our most powerful tool to stop carbon gases: the carbon tax.

Pathetic. Lethal. Opportunistic. Craven.

(and we’re not even half way to spelling "politician". Give me an "A" – ambitious. Give me an "N" – narcissist. Give me a "T" – tendentious. Give me an "I"….)

These wanna-be Leaders of The Free World are too weak to even begin the policy fight with demands for the carbon taxthe tool we must have to pry the coal monkey off our back.

II) Toxic Subsidies:

Let’s look at subsidies/give-aways for: Big Ag, Big Energy / Carbon, and Big Minerals

On Big Ag / Farm Bill

Both subsidize 60 billion gallons of biofules (ethanol) by 2030: a terrible, deadly mistake.

On Energy:

With Big Ethanol both sell out – Obama far more quickly, and hence more consistently. Obama appears to have been more of a sell-out to the Carbon Lords than Clinton – and is the clear winner in selling out to Big Coal.

Obama sold out to the Ethanol Party and the Carbon Lords on the Rethugs’ 2005 energy bill.

Clinton and Obama differed most famously on the 2005 energy bill that helped pad the profits of oil and gas companies while expanding ethanol use. … Clinton adopted the consensus liberal stance against that bill, which Obama backed….

In the January debate, Clinton slammed Obama’s sell-out to Big Ag and the Coal Lords.

You know, the energy bill that passed in 2005 was larded with all kinds of special interest breaks, giveaways to the oil companies. Senator Obama voted for it. I did not because I knew that it was going to be an absolute nightmare. Now we’re all out on the campaign trail talking about taking the tax subsidies away from the oil companies, some of which were in that 2005 energy bill.

Yet only a few months earlier, Clinton herself turned around and embraced ethanol subsidies… in time for the Iowa caucuses.

So in the January debate, Obama then slammed her….for having opposed ethanol subsidies before she came over to his (shameful, opportunistic) "stance" on the issue.

America. What a country! … for the corporatists.

On Mining:

Obama keeps hope alive for Big Mining – opposes reform of the 1872 Mining Act. Shows the audacity of a real preservatonist – the Mining Act has protected Big Metals since 1872. And keeps on protecting – stopping the revision allows Big Mining to keep avoiding clean-up responsibility…and avoiding royalty payments.

In opposing the revision, Obama supports continuing huge passive subsides (by not collecting royalties and by "externalizing" costs of clean-up/pollution through dumping them on locals and taxpayers). Who gets this big prize? The folks rich enough to own gold, silver, and uranium mines (and all other non-coal mines) on public lands.

Sen Clinton is merely vague and non-committal on Mining Act reform. Hardly reassuring….simply not definitively awful.

I’m not going to prejudge it.

Wow – what statesmanship. What steely resolve.


III) Toxic Substances/Precautionary Principle

Obama sold out the nation – and his state – on leaks from nuke plants. Clinton sold out the rural Northeast – and enviros – by pushing to allow mega logging corp International Paper to fire up an incinerator for a "test" burn. Nuclear contamination is effectively forever. The incinerator burned tires – generating awful persistant organic pollutants. POP’s hang around the world for decades; once in our bodies, they stay for life – unless we pass them on through breastfeeding. Nuke wastes can hang around for millenia; once in our bodies, radioactive heavy metals tend to stay until we die.

In the two cases above, both Dems caved in to the corporatists and their money: Obama’s sell-out is far more dangerous than Clinton’s.

In the bigger eco-picture, both candidates fail to put Americans first – neither candidate restores to us the rights taken from us by the chemical industries. At this time, Big Chemistry hides deadly compounds behind body counts: their beloved little products are treated as though molecules have rights. We living people have to suffer and die before a toxic chemical is pulled from the market. The precautionary principle reverses this: the pp demands that chemicals/technologies be shown to be safe before they are ever released into the world – and into our bodies.

I can’t find any legislation either has intoduced to make the precautionary principle the basis to protect us and our communities from toxic substances. As championing the pp will attract a lot of industry flack, I guess I’m beyond surprise that both major Dem candidates fail at this. Yet I’m still disappointed.

IV) Toxic mutants (GMO foods/crops)

Once again, both candidates fail the precautionary principle here. GMO’s are released into the environment based on a decree from Dan Qualyle asserting that GMO’s are the same as natural organisms. This is faith, not science. In the biological world, the GMO soy, corn and potatoes already released onto the market cause sickness and death in lab animals. No one has measured what they do to us.

Neither candidate has demanded that GMO’s stay in the lab unless they can be shown not to harm us. Obama has stated he favors labelliing GMO foods – but has not introduced legislation to accomplish that. Clinton hasn’t even stated she favors labelling GMO foods.

Neither candidate appears to have taken any actual steps as legislators to protect us from GMO’s: no longer surprisiing, but still sad.


Both candiates moved to adopt the positions on global warming and carbon gases Sen Edwards put forth. Both candidates failed to call for the carbon tax Sen Dodd supported. Both caved to ethanol subisides. Obama still looks for money for a mega "clean coal" demo project in his state; Clinton is not seeking such subsidies. Both caved to megapolluters: Clinton’s sell-out on an incinerator test appears less lethal than Obama gutting Federal legislation establishing standards for reporting "leaks" of nuclear material. Both candidates are AWOL (absent without legislation) on the precautionary principle and on GMO’s.

So what’s an eco-voter to do?

When I started this review, I didn’t expect I would end up finding either candidate seemed better than the other on eco-issues. Regular FDL readers have good reason to know I’m not fond of either Obama or Clinton; over a dozen years working on enviro issues has left me with little love (and less respect) for most Federal politicians. Regular FDL readers – like all other sentient beings – also know either candidate will be infinitely better for the biosphere and us than would any of the Rethug Prez candidates.

But – for what it’s worth – after days of reviewing their eco-policies, I’m convinced Hillary Clinton is the better candidate on environmental issues.

Of course, YMMV. Bon appetit!

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Kirk Murphy

Kirk Murphy

terrestrial obligate aerobe with endoskeleton (bony) and bilateral symmetry.

chordate, bipedal, warm-blooded, mammalian, placental (origin), opposable thumbs.

not (yet) extinct.

indigenous habitat: California Live Oak.

current habitat: Central California Coast (most northerly aspect).... 'northwest of the new world, east of the sea'

potential habitats: all potential habitats critically endangered (due to global climate change).

ailurophilic - hence allergic rhinitic.