September 2, 2012

This Week in Green Politics: Republicans Convene, Chair Debates on Stage

It's time again for the Week in Green Politics, and what a week! Imaginary presidents, imaginary facts… and a hurricane.

I will admit that I did not watch much of the Republican National Convention, as I found my calculus homework more tasteful (and this coming from a writer). But I did find time to look up the climate and energy highlights (you're welcome). It turns out there weren't many. Actual policy of any kind was scarce and overshadowed by Clint Eastwood's chair routine.

The only reference to climate was Mitt Romney's joke, which has been suitably skewered by our own Rick Herron. Despite having their convention delayed by extreme weather, Romney and his audience seemed to find the idea of environmental chaos quite amusing:

President Obama promised to slow the rise of the oceans — [pauses for audience laughter] — and to heal the planet. MY promise is to help you and your family.

Meanwhile, solar energy made a brief appearance in Paul Ryan's speech. The VP nomiinee made another jab at Solynda, the ill-fated exception to a largely successful loan guarantee program. Most other energy talk was of the "drill, baby, drill" variety.

The official Republican platform, gives some more insight into the Romney-Ryan energy policy. Here are some key points:

  • "We deplore the Supreme Court's… decision, allowing local governments to seize a person's home or land… for transfer to private developers." However, "We are committed to approving the Keystone XL Pipeline and to streamlining permitting for the development of other… pipelines."
  • In general, the platform praises oil, gas, fracking, and nuclear. Renewables are fine, but nowhere near as exciting.
  • "Reining in the EPA" gets its own section. What's more, "no peril justifies the regulatory impact of.. the EPA's overreaching regulation agenda."
  • Also fiercely opposed: Rio Earth Summit agreements, Agenda 21, the Law of the Sea Treaty, and high-speed rail.

This current platform represents a dramatic departure from the last election's version. As hard as it is to believe, Obama and McCain in 2008 had fairly similar energy policies. At that time, the Republican Party was down for market-based solutions to climate change, and saw energy efficiency as a smart idea, not a socialist plot. John McCain even spoke up for cap-and-trade during his campaign, an act that would be unthinkable for a 2012 Republican.

Obama has been charting a different course on climate and energy. Although usually silent of global warming, he recently told a crowd of college students, "Denying climate change won't make it stop." And his Administration has just finalized its new fuel economy standards for cars.

Between the convention and the GOP platform, Romney's stance on climate is clearer than ever. It will be interesting to see whether Obama keeps climate on the backburner, or uses the issue to further contrast himself with his Republican challenger. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a chair to debate with.