Our world is at a tipping point on our planet, as well as, our country. Many Americans are aware of environmental issues in this country. Also, many Americans are keenly aware of the increase in energy costs. We are in an election year, pitting Republicans against Democrats, where efforts in the current administration have been hampered by overzealous EPA bureaucrats and public failure of environmental companies (i.e. Solyndra). Unfortunately, precious political capital has been squandered on half-baked environmental strategies.
Energy and environment concerns are prominent in American opinion. Candidate agendas may very well become political platforms are present in today’s political climate. This will directly impact a sustainability policy for the next four years. Let us take a look of the public opinion of energy versus the environment, review the positions of each Republican candidate based on climate change, ethanol subsidies, and reform in the EPA.
Energy versus Environment
Americans are about as likely to say production of energy supplies (47%) should be prioritized as to say environmental protection (44%) should be, a closer division than last year, when energy led by 50% to 41%. These views mark a shift compared with the early 2000s, when Americans consistently assigned a higher priority to environmental protection.
Americans now split about evenly when asked to choose between an emphasis on increased energy production and environmental protection. These preferences have varied in the past 11 years in response to changes in the health of the economy and to dramatic events such as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Politics have also played a part in Americans’ shifting preferences over the past decade, with Republicans increasingly coming down on the side of increased production of oil, gas, and coal. This likely reflects party leaders’ preference for increased oil exploration in U.S. coastal areas and on U.S. land, which was a key focus at the 2008 Republican National Convention and more recently in calls by Republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders for the government to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
But Americans as a whole show a proclivity for more environmentally friendly approaches to dealing with the energy situation, including a greater focus on energy conservation or developing alternative energy supplies, even though Republicans take the opposing view.
Romney, according to Republican Presidential Nomination poll – dated 26 March 2012, Romney retains 37.4 percent popularity.
Climate Change: At a June 3 town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., Romney was asked about climate change. He said: “I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past, but I believe we contribute to that.” Romney added that “it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”
Ethanol: But Romney, bombarded with questions following his talk at the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Presidential Forum Speaker Series, the former Massachusetts governor told the gaggle of press and fans today that he supports the production of ethanol. “I support the subsidy of ethanol,” said Romney, working his way through the Des Moines crowd, where he shook hands and doled out autographs. “I believe it’s an important part of our energy solution in this country.”
Reform EPA: Mitt Romney will eliminate the regulations promulgated in pursuit of the Obama administration’s costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda. Romney will also press Congress to reform our environmental laws and to ensure that they allow for a proper assessment of their costs. Laws that forbid cost assessment may have had some merit in the era in which they were passed. But that was a time when the environment was severely contaminated and the United States enjoyed full employment and low energy prices. Today, such laws are a costly anachronism and are in urgent need of reform. Romney will seek to amend the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to ensure that cost is taken properly into account at every stage in the regulatory process.
Santorum, according to Republican Presidential Nomination poll – dated 26 March 2012, Santorum retains 28.8 percent popularity.
Climate Change: I believe the earth gets warmer, and I also believe the earth gets cooler, and I think history points out that it does that and that the idea that man through the production of CO2 which is a trace gas in the atmosphere and the manmade part of that trace gas is itself a trace gas is somehow responsible for climate change is, I think, just patently absurd when you consider all of the other factors, El Nino, La Nina, sunspots, you know, moisture in the air. There’s a variety of factors that contribute to the earth warming and cooling, and to me this is an opportunity for the left to create — it’s a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm.
Ethanol: Eliminate all energy subsidies and tax credits. This will prevent the federal government from picking winners and losers in our effort to unleash all of America’s domestic energy sources.
Reform EPA: The EPA is not only an example of big government, but an unnecessary device that props up climate change “hoaxes.” Though they essentially have the same view, the presidential candidates’ come at it from different angles. And both are pretty nutty.
In Santorum’s perspective, he told an audience in Colorado earlier this month, God would never allow climate change to happen, because God gave humans control over the planet. “We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit,” he said.
Gingrich, according to Republican Presidential Nomination poll – dated 26 March 2012, Gingrich retains 15.2 percent popularity.
Climate Change: It’s true he’s never favored the approach taken by Democrats, but he said in 2007 that he would “strongly support” cap-and-trade if combined with “a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions.”
Furthermore, Gingrich said in House testimony in 2009 that he still might support a cap-and-trade system covering “the 2,000 most polluting places,” if packaged with incentives for nuclear power and “green coal,” among other things.
Gingrich has wrestled for years with climate change, in books, debates, speeches and other forums. The former House speaker has said there’s enough scientific evidence to warrant government action, and has never stood with those conservatives who dismiss evidence of human causation as a “hoax.”
But at times he’s hedged his stand on the evidence. He’s said that the evidence is “sufficient” to warrant acting “urgently” and that there is a “wealth of scientific data” that warming is taking place. But at other times he’s said that global warming is “probably” happening and that there’s no “conclusive” proof of it, or that humans cause it. He’s even suggested that the Earth may be about to move “into a long cooling period.” And he’s also gone from voicing strong — though conditional — support for a cap-and-trade approach to his current position focused entirely on encouraging development of new technologies, with no mention of capping emissions.
Ethanol: If the subsidy expires, it will not have a dramatic impact, as long as we keep the renewable fuel standard and as long as we’re moving towards flex fuels cars and flex fuel stations, which are the keys we need. Because the truth is when you get to a certain price in oil, the production of ethanol and the production of corn have improved so much in the last 25 years that we are actually very competitive with oil, as long as – it has to be carried.I mean the problem we have – this is what some our friends don’t understand about the development of biofuels. Big oil would like to have nothing to do with it because Big Oil would like to sell nothing but oil. Okay?
I am for every America source of energy, because I think it is a national security issue, and if you watched last week when the Iranians were practicing closing the Straights of Hormuth, and you say to yourself, “How big would the industrial depression be if the Persian Gulf was cut off?” We should be pretty deeply committed to getting to American sufficiency in energy and ethanol’s a part of that.
Reform EPA: Replace the Environmental Protection Agency, which has become a job-killing regulatory engine of higher energy prices, with an Environmental Solutions Agency that would use incentives and work cooperatively with local government and industry to achieve better environmental outcomes while considering the impact of federal environmental policies on job creation and the cost of energy.
Paul, according to Republican Presidential Nomination poll – dated 26 March 2012, Paul retains 10.0 percent popularity.
Climate Change: “I try to look at global warming the same way I look at all other serious issues: as objectively and open-minded as possible. There is clear evidence that the temperatures in some parts of the globe are rising, but temperatures are cooling in other parts. The average surface temperature had risen for several decades, but it fell back substantially in the past few years.
Clearly there is something afoot. The question is: Is the upward fluctuation in temperature man-made or part of a natural phenomenon. Geological records indicate that in the 12th century, Earth experienced a warming period during which Greenland was literally green and served as rich farmland for Nordic peoples. There was then a mini ice age, the polar ice caps grew, and the once-thriving population of Greenland was virtually wiped out. It is clear that the earth experiences natural cycles in temperature. However, science shows that human activity probably does play a role in stimulating the current fluctuations.
Ethanol: Government cannot invest, it can only redistribute resources. Just look at the mess government created with ethanol. Congress decided that we needed more biofuels, and the best choice was ethanol from corn. So we subsidized corn farmers at the expense of others, and investment in other types of renewables was crowded out.
Now it turns out that corn ethanol is inefficient, and it actually takes more energy to produce the fuel than you get when you burn it. The most efficient ethanol may come from hemp, but hemp production is illegal and there has been little progress on hemp ethanol. And on top of that, corn is now going into our gas tanks instead of onto our tables or feeding our livestock or dairy cows; so food prices have been driven up. This is what happens when we allow government to make choices instead of the market; I hope we avoid those mistakes moving forward.”
Reform EPA: Paul also made that claim last month when he wrote about how the EPA deemed Idaho couple Mike and Chantell Sackett’s private property protected wetlands. They sued, and their case is currently pending a Supreme Court ruling.
Of the controversy, Paul declared, “Unless Congress acts, EPA bureaucrats will continue to inflict potentially devastating economic consequences on communities like Matagorda County and people like the Sacketts. Destroying the economy is no way to save the environment. A thriving economy and a fair judicial system that respects property rights and the Constitution provide the best protection of the environment.”
Take Aways … People and Politicians
Energy And Environment: We’re in a transition, from a carbon-based society to a multi-option energy society, that must align business demands with energy resources. We are in a point in our nation that we must reconcile sustainable energy production within the constraints of environmental protection. The importance of sustainability, providing prudent decisions and resource conservation, it is already a significant trend in our economy. Since 2007, carbon base energy usage has continued to decline. Eventually, petroleum products will be depleted.Today, the United States produces the largest amount of wind generated electricity. We will be moving away from a carbon-based economy towards a new economy that will be producing electricity from a variety of alternative resources. So, we are in a transition from an energy versus environment perspective to an energy and environment perspective.
Climate Change: Romney, Gingrich, and Paul all agree that there is clear evidence of temperature change that will support Climate Change scenarios. However, Santorum believes that Climate Change is a hoax.
Personally, it is reassuring that most of the Republican candidates perceive climate change and therefore, potentially recognize the profound effects that it could have on our environment, economy and society. Conversely, witnessing anyone in a national leadership role who is ill-informed or close minded is inexcusable. Should Romney, Gingrich, and Paul become the new president, one would clearly understand and possibly support a Sustainability policy or initiative.
Ethanol: Romney and Gingrich view ethanol as a component of a long-term energy policy. Both Santorum and Paul believe that ethanol subsidy should be eliminated.
Romney supports the current ethanol policies and encourages a pro-American energy production, which ethanol will be a part of. Santorum, believes that all energy subsidies and tax credits should be eliminated. That would also include ethanol subsidies. Gingrich views ethanol as a component of an overall energy policy (and may have been influenced by the subsidies from the special interest groups supporting ethanol). Paul’s opinion is clear. The use of corn to produce ethanol may not have been the best choice, nor should with the nation continue to make such mistakes. This point of taking food from the table and make an energy out of it, is not the most prudent.
Reform EPA: Romney sees the EPA as an area for reform. His platform is to propose changes that would include cost assessment. That additional visibility would aid decision makers with cost impact. in EPA assessments. Santorum said; “The EPA is not only an example of big government, but an unnecessary device that props up climate change ‘hoaxes.’” Gingrich sees the EPA as a “job killing regulatory engine” that directly produces higher energy prices. He sees the EPA as a counter productive agency that does not work cooperatively with local governments and industry. EPA’s application of regulations do not consider the impact on job creation or employment. Paul sees the EPA bureaucrats overstepping their legitimate governance when it treads on property rights and destroying the economy with litigious regulation.
Sustainability Concerns: The election of a Republican president will probably provide a climate that will either be moderately to cautiously receptive to Sustainability issues, policies, and laws. The environmental policies, implemented by the Obama administration, will be targets for repeal or modification. The behavior of the EPA and its ramrod approach to environmental protection, will also be a target for repeal or modification. An ultraconservative Republican president would probably set back environmental policies and practices for the last five decades.
Sustainability Commitment: For long-term commitment to Sustainability, a Republican presidency is an opportunity to truly lay the foundations for greater success in the 21st century. First, it can address the inequalities and “unfairness” of environmental regulations by considering economic and social impact, as well as, environmental. Second, It will be an opportunity to trim and reorganize “big government” to better focus efforts and technology to preserve our national economic, social, and environmental interests. Third, the reorganization and trimming of the EPA is necessary for the 21st-century. A Department of Sustainability, governing the EPA, while promoting Sustainability policy and best practices for national transition to sustainable business processes. These three pillars could very well be the driving force for economic recovery and continued economic leadership in the 21st century.
 Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup, Americans Split on Energy vs. Environment Trade-Off, March 23, 2012, Retrieved: March 23, 2012
 Z. Byron Wolf,ABC NEWS: the Note, Mitt Romney Supports Ethanol Subsidies, Opposes Tim Pawlenty’s ‘Hard Truth’; May 27, 2011, Retrieved: 26 March 2012
 Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth , Page 60, Retrieved: 26 March 2012
 Unleashing America’s Domestic Energy, Rick Santorum for President web site; Retrieved: 26 March 2012
 Andrew Belonsky, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum: two sides to the anti-EPA coin, http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com; Retrieved 26 March 2012
 The FactCheck Wire, Gingrich On Climate Change, December 5, 2011, Retrieved: March 23, 2012
 http://newtgingrich360.com/?gclid=CJzqlLXmhK8CFcVdTAodQE4ZUA; Retrived 26 March 2012
 Andrew Belonsky, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum: two sides to the anti-EPA coin, http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com; Retrieved 26 March 2012
- Rick Santorum on Climate Change: Talk to the Plants! (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- What Failed GOP Presidential Candidates think about Climate Change (solarfeeds.com)
- The Environmental Gospel according to Rick Santorum (lezgetreal.com)