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PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES VIEWS ON
SUSTAINABLE ENERGY ISSUES

This report provides the views of the presidential candidates on a range of energy policy and related environmental issues. For the most part, the candidates' views are expressed in their own words as provided in their campaign materials, media, and other public statements. Also provided are the responses received from Al Gore, Alan Keyes, Bill Bradley, and John McCain as well as third-party candidates John Hagelin, Joel Kovel, and Stephen Gaskin to a 15-question survey sponsored by the member groups of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and more than 150 other organizations nationwide, representing 35 states.

The survey was initially sent on August 19 to all the major Democratic and Republican candidates and subsequently to the candidates of the Reform, Natural Law, Green, and Taxpayer parties. Ultimately, the Bush, Forbes, Buchanan, and Trump campaigns said they were unwilling to respond to the survey; notwithstanding dozens of written, telephone, e-mail, and faxed requests, the Hatch, and Bauer campaigns have failed to provide any form of response.

GENERAL RESPONSE: When reviewing the responses received, as well as the major-party candidates' other public statements, one is left with the conclusion that as far as national energy and environmental policy issues are concerned, the view of most of the candidates is either "I don't know" or "I don't care."

CLIMATE CHANGE: The threat of global warming may offer the best example of this indifference. The storms that hit Venezuela last month left 30,000 dead while those in France destroyed at least 741,000 acres of forest. The amount of sea ice in arctic waters is shrinking, on average, by about 14,000 square miles a year. Yet, the most aggressive proposal thus far put forward -- by Gore and Bradley -- is to ratify the Kyoto Protocol which will barely make a dent in the problem. On the other hand, McCain is non-committal while Bush and Hatch actually promise to reject the treaty. Worse yet, Forbes, Bauer, and Keyes either do not believe climate change is real or - incredibly - believe it may actually be beneficial. The candidates' responses, in short, range from mediocre to atrocious.

OIL USE/ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Similarly, the United States is now importing about 52% of its petroleum and that figure is projected to increase to 54% by the end of 2000 while oil prices have more than doubled during this past year. In response, and perhaps to their credit, Gore, Bradley, McCain, and Bush have proposed various restrictions on oil drilling in offshore areas and in the Arctic. However, this will only worsen the nation's dependence on expensive oil imports. Few proposals have been put forth to actually reduce our total oil consumption. Only Bradley has even hinted at increasing fuel efficiency for automobiles while Gore wants to study the matter further, notwithstanding years of review of this issue by the Clinton-Gore administration. Bush does not even know what the term CAFE means while Keyes and probably Bauer would abolish the existing, but insufficient, auto fuel efficiency standards.

Forbes correctly criticizes Bush for having no short-term or long-term energy policy. But, ironically, Forbes' own energy policy consists primarily of abolishing the U.S. Department of Energy while expanding tax breaks for the oil industry.

ETHANOL/RENEWABLES: On the other hand, all of the major-party candidates - other than McCain and Keyes - have been tripping over one another to express their support for ethanol in Iowa. This really is the height of hypocrisy. While ethanol may warrant support, the fact is that it constitutes only a small fraction of the nation's energy mix. Other renewable energy technologies such as hydropower, biomass, geothermal, wind, and solar combined now account for almost 10% of the nation's domestic energy production. Yet Bradley and McCain have expressed just general support for those technologies without detailing specific proposals. Only Gore has suggested very modest increases funding and tax support and has expressed support for pro-renewable provisions in utility restructuring legislation. On the other hand, Keyes and Forbes would slash renewable energy funding while Bush, Bauer, and Hatch appear ignorant that other renewable energy technologies even exist.

NUCLEAR POWER: Over the next two years, the Congress and the President will have to grapple with proposals to re-license old nuclear power plants, to build a high-level radioactive waste facility, to recycle radioactive waste into consumer products, and to bail out nuclear utilities in the context of federal utility restructuring legislation. However, only Gore and Keyes have uttered even a few words in passing about any of these issues. The balance of the major-party candidates are apparently unaware of nuclear power and its many attendant problems they may have to address if elected.

CONCLUSION: Among the candidates examined in this report, only the Natural Law Party's John Hagelin and the Green Party's candidates Joel Kovel and Stephen Gaskin have expressed views on sustainable energy that could be characterized as aggressive. On the other hand, Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan is generally hostile to most sustainable energy proposals while Donald Trump has made no effort to address any aspect of national energy policy.

For the most part, though, where the nation's energy and environmental policies are concerned, the major-party candidates are playing ostrich. To the extent there are differences among those candidates, it is primarily in how deeply their heads are buried in the sand.

Written by: Sustainable Energy Coalition


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