Candidates Get Graded on Environment

Written by Meg Susong
Megaphone Staff Writer

Environmentalism being the new “in” movement (not that being “in” is a bad thing), the current bout of election candidates have been faced with tough questions on such. From being questioned by the ‘average Joe’ to the concerned snowmen on the topic of global warming, the issue has certainly been a player in this election season.

Taking a look at the five remaining candidates from both sides, it is easy to see that they have understood the highlighted position of the environment, and are certainly touting it for all it’s worth.

One environmental magazine called Obama a “bona-fide, card-carrying, bleeding-heart greenie.” While that is probably an overstatement, Obama has certainly had an environmental outlook at times. As a student at Columbia University, Obama worked for three months as an environmental activist to promote recycling in Harlem. As a community organizer, he fought against environmental racism.

He noted, “Environmentalism is not an upper-income issue, it’s not a black issue, it’s not a South or a North or an East or a West issue. It’s an issue that all of us have a stake in.”

Obama has also promoted green technologies and fuel efficiency standards. He introduced a bill requiring more pollution controls at coal plants to block Bush from rolling back the Clean Air Act in Illinois. He cosponsored a bill to require that 10 percent of electricity in the state come from renewable sources by 2012, and supported measures to increase energy efficiency codes.

When it comes to animals however, Obama falls a bit short. He scored 60 percent on Humane Society Scorecard on the issues of animal protection. Obama signed the funding letter to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. The letter was seeking funds for the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and federal animal fighting law.

Obama also co-sponsored the Animal Fighting Prohibition Act: To criminalize dog fighting and cockfighting. However, Obama did not co-sponsor the Downed Animal Protection Act to ban “downed” (unable to walk to slaughter) cattle, pigs and sheep in human food. Obama also did not co-sponsor the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (S.1915): To bar slaughtering horses for human consumption.

On the issue of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) – or factory farms in more common terms – he calls for tougher regulations to prevent air & water pollution. Though that can be looked at as underestimating the whole factory system in general, he can be applauded for addressing the issue. While the issues often run deeper than Obama seems to credit, he has at least played a role in the solution.

Hilary Clinton advocates the same general issues as Obama, such as mercury regulations, advocates a cap and trade system and stands for clean air and funding the EPA. She was rated 89 percent by the The League of Conservation Voters (LVC), indicating pro-environment votes.

For example, she voted no on confirming Gale Norton as secretary of interior. [Ms. Norton generally favors conservative or libertarian stances on the environment.] Clinton has also turned the environmental focus on children, citing to reduce air pollution is to improve children’s health and called for better tracking of kids’ products for exposures to toxic materials.

She supports green-collar job training as well, saying “I have supported a green building fund and green-collar job training with the AFL-CIO that will put a lot of people too work. And it’s important that we do this, because we can create millions of new jobs.”

In regards to animals, she scored an excellent 100 percent on Humane Society Scorecard on animal protection, saying that “Clinton took leadership on animal protection.”

Besides voting pro for everything Obama did, Clinton also co-sponsored the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act as well as the Downed Animal Protection Act, two significant acts that Obama did not.

Mike Huckabee bases his environmental views (essentially like all his other views) on his faith, stating that “My own personal faith reminds me that “the earth is the Lord’s” and that we are not its owners; merely its caretakers. From the very first pages of Genesis in the Old Testament we are reminded that God is the Creator and we are responsible for tending to that which he created; to preserve it and to protect it. We are indeed given the liberty and in fact the admonition to enjoy and utilize the resources, but use is not abuse and we have no right to pillage the planet unmercifully. We should see to it that our care for the environment enhances not only its aesthetic value but preserves the resources themselves for future generations.”

From this view, he has supported conserving Buffalo River in north Arkansas against dams, called for more state autonomy on Brownfields & Superfund cleanups, supports the reauthorization of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (the Clean Water Act), and called to maintain the water flow in Mississippi & Missouri Rivers.

Huckabee also supports a national drought policy, focusing on readiness. While not as environmentally minded as the Democrats, he has at least made some effort, though it has often placed human utilization and ease first.

John McCain takes an economic approach to the environment, stating that “the environment and environmental interests not mutually exclusive.” Rated 53 percent by the LCV, indicating a mixed record on environment. In general, he callings for preserving natural resources for future, require risk assessments of new EPA regulations, and make EPA into a Cabinet department. As well, he has called to end commercial whaling and illegal trade in whale meat. McCain sponsored a resolution for the International Whaling Commission, that wxpressed the sense of the Senate that the United States should remain firmly opposed to commercial whaling. Although, with regards to animals, McCain scored a low 40% on the Humane Society Scorecard. The sole issue he voted for was the Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. In short, McCain focused more on results, not regulation.

As for the final candidate, Ron Paul holds the opinion of property rights being the foundation of all rights. “We must stop special interests from violating property rights and literally driving families from their homes, farms and ranches. We also face another danger in regulatory takings: Through excess regulation, governments deprive property owners of significant value and use of their properties–all without paying “just compensation.” He scored a low 14% on Humane Society Scorecard on animal protection, and a mere 5% by the LCV on environmental issues.

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