Presidential Candidates Poles Apart on Energy Issues

WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - The Sustainable Energy Coalition has polled presidential candidates from both major parties and the third parties on a variety of energy and clean air issues to establish their positions in advance of the November election. The candidates' policies are compared to public opinion polls conducted for the Coalition on the same issues.

The Sustainable Energy Coalition is a Washington, DC based association of 34 national business, environmental, consumer, and energy policy organizations. It was founded in 1992 to promote increased use of energy-efficient and renewable energy technologies. The surveys were conducted jointly with 185 organizations nationwide as part of the Coalition's contribution to planning for Earth Day 2000.

The issues surveyed are:


Democratic candidates Vice President Al Gore and former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley agree that climate change is a matter of major concern. Gore says, "there is overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to global warming ... which can lead to serious public health consequences ... and extreme weather." Bradley says it is a "serious problem" that "we need to confront ... without further delay."


Al Gore (Photo courtesy Gore campaign)
Republican candidates are more skeptical. Texas Governor George W. Bush says that while he "believe[s] there is global warming ... both the causes and the impact of this slight warming are uncertain." Arizona Senator John McCain acknowledged that "a growing number of scientists believe that global climate change is a real phenomenon" but views the issue as a "scientific question, not a political question." Utah Senator Orrin Hatch merely acknowledges that he "appreciate[s] the global challenges we face in protecting our environment."

Publisher Steve Forbes dismisses the issue altogether saying that "the catastrophic claims about global warming are deeply flawed ... there is no real evidence that the world is heading into an age of super-heated temperatures." Former domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan, Gary Bauer believes "the scientific evidence supporting the theory of global warming is ambiguous and inconclusive" while Alan Keyes, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Social and Economic Council, criticizes climate change forecasts as being "hubris of high order."

Reform Party candidate columnist Pat Buchanan doubts the "apocalyptic forecasts" noting that "Earth's temperature has risen only half a degree Celsius since 1870." Physicist Dr. John Hagelin, co-founder of the Natural Law Party accepts climate change as being "the consensus of the vast majority of atmospheric, geological, and environmental scientists."

Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol, an add-on to the United Nations climate change treaty that limits the greenhouse gas emissions of 39 industrialized nations including the United States, has been signed but not yet ratified by the U.S. Senate. It will not come into effect until 55 percent of the nations emitting at least 55 percent of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming ratify the agreement signed in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. The emissions of developing nations will be negotiated in future talks.


Bill Bradley (Photo courtesy Bradley campaign)
Both Bradley and Gore support Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

None of the Republican candidates has expressed support for the Kyoto Protocol with most coming out in opposition. Bush calls it "ineffective, inadequate, and ... a bad deal for America and Americans" while McCain expresses "serious concerns about the Kyoto treaty because it fails to include the cooperation of countries such as China and India."

Republicans Forbes, Bauer, Hatch and Keyes criticize the Protocol as having a negative impact on American jobs and possibly causing higher prices.

Among third party candidates, Hagelin sees the Kyoto Protocol as "a first step" but Buchanan says it "would devastate American industry and obligate our country to onerous environmental regulations that do not apply to other nations."

Action Now

Both Bradley and Gore have endorsed providing incentives to corporations for taking voluntary action to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.


George W. Bush (Photo courtesy Bush campaign)
McCain proposes that "we should encourage energy efficiency and focus research and development on technologies that will help meet the environmental needs of the next century," while Bush says that "America must work with businesses ... to develop new technologies to reduce harmful emissions." None of the other Republican candidates have yet outlined proposed solutions. Hagelin, though, advocates "researching and implementing large-scale, clean, renewable energy alternatives such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydrogen fuel cells."

Public Opinion

A public opinion survey of 1,000+ registered voters conducted in September 1998 for the Sustainable Energy Coalition by Research/Strategy/Management of Rockville, Maryland found that 76% of respondents said that "a candidate's position on the environmental and global warming" would make "a real difference" or at least "some difference" in how they vote. Furthermore 57% believed that climate change was already contributing to changes in their local weather and 55% said "we should act now to reduce its impact on us." More than 90% also favored increased use of renewable energy, energy-efficient technologies, and natural gas "for dealing with the pollution that cause climate change."


Today, more than 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol are produced annually from corn, other grains, and food and beverage wastes. Ethanol, which is blended into about 12% of the gasoline used to power the nation's automobiles, will soon be converted from cellulosic biomass feedstock, including agriculture and forest residues, as well as the non-recyclable paper component of municipal solid waste. About one-quarter of the annual production of ethanol now comes from Iowa which is holding the first presidential caucuses.

Gore says, "I have a consistent record of shoring up the farm safety net." Gore as vice president cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate in 1994 against a proposal sponsored by then Senator Bill Bradley to cut tax incentives for ethanol fuel.

Bradley says he has altered his views on ethanol. "When I was in the Senate, I represented my state [and had] very specific New Jersey-based reasons" for opposing federal tax breaks for ethanol. Now he believes "for farmers in the Midwest, ethanol makes sense" and has vowed "no raids on ethanol."

Among the Republicans, Bush says that he "supports tax incentives for use of ethanol [because] not only is it good for the farmer, it is good for the quality of air all across America." Hatch and Bauer agree.


John McCain (Photo courtesy McCain campaign )
On the other hand, McCain has derided ethanol tax incentives as "simply an outdated subsidy for corn producers [and] an example of the influence of special interests in Washington." He would eliminate the subsidy to help pay for a school voucher program for disadvantaged children.

Forbes would support ethanol tax breaks for about seven more years while preparing the industry to live without them. Keyes has offered no definitive positions.

The Reform Party's Buchanan supports ethanol production as "integral to a policy of national energy independence." Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin says he opposes continuation of the federal tax incentives for ethanol. He would support research on biofuels as a transition technology but prefers fuels and technologies "without carbon emissions and other forms of pollution."

Public Opinion

The public opinion survey of 1,000+ registered voters conducted in September 1998 for the Sustainable Energy Coalition by Research/Strategy/Management of Rockville, Maryland found that 80% of respondents strongly, or at least somewhat, favor "increasing the use of renewable transportation fuels such as ethanol." An similar survey conducted in November 1996 by the same polling firm for the Renewable Fuels Association found that 83% of voters favored "redirecting tax breaks [from fossil fuels] to renewable fuels to reduce dependency on foreign oil" while 72% said they favor "continuing the federal tax exemption for ethanol-blended gasoline."


Democrat Bradley Natural Law Party candidate Hagelin are the only candidates supporting stronger Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency (CAFE) standards that would mandate vehicles that get more miles to the gallon than most vehicles do today.

Gore has resisted calls by the environmental community to press for stricter CAFE standards opting instead to "join with the Big Three automakers to create the Public/Private Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles [designed] to help industry efforts to triple the fuel-efficiency of today's vehicles."

Even though the Houston area this year has experienced more severe smog problems than Los Angeles, recording eight of the ten highest ozone pollution peaks in the country, Texas Governor Bush has opted to sidestep the question of CAFE standards, arguing that it is a federal issue.


Steve Forbes (Photo courtesy Forbes campaign)
Among other Republican candidates, Forbes recently has stated his opposition generally to "old Soviet-style command-and-control" regulations and earlier to setting higher CAFE standards specifically. Keyes has charged that "CAFE kills 2,000 - 4,000 people a year by making larger, safer cars less affordable; it's an assault on the family car and should be abolished."

McCain has reportedly expressed an interest in holding hearings next year in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee which he chairs on the issue of increasing CAFE standards.

Hatch opposes stronger CAFE standards, and Bauer has stated no position.

Reform Party candidate Buchanan has expressed his general opposition in the past to tightening CAFE standards.

Other Transportation Options

Gore has called for "investing in mass transit and light rail and [for] helping communities develop alternatives to clogged highways [including] walkable, bikeable neighborhoods" as part of a broader initiative addressing the problem of suburban sprawl. Bradley wants "to get car owners to get old clunkers off the road ... and to encourage the production and use of cleaner cars" as well as "improve mobility for everyone but in less environmentally damaging ways."


Orrin Hatch (Photo courtesy Hatch campaign)
Hatch has proposed tax credits, rather than federal mandates, for the purchase of alternative fuels "such as hydrogen, natural gas, propane, methanol, and electricity" as well as for the purchase of electric and alternative fuel vehicles. McCain expressed support for developing alternative fuels to reduce pollution and has called for strengthening emissions controls on all gasoline or diesel-powered engines, including cars and trucks. Bush would "support cleaner gasoline standards across the country," while Forbes and Keyes have offered no further transportation policy views.

Natural Law Party candidate Hagelin believes that "basic research and development funding on energy alternatives such as fuel cells is key to a clean energy future for the nation."

Public Opinion

A public opinion survey of 1,000+ registered voters conducted in September 1998 for the Sustainable Energy Coalition by Research/Strategy/Management of Rockville, Maryland found that more than 80% of registered voters favored raising fuel efficiency standards for both cars and light trucks, including Sport Utility Vehicles. By similar margins, respondents also favored increased use of electric vehicles and cars powered by natural gas. The findings echoed those of a similar survey released by the Sustainable Energy Coalition in January 1996.


Among the Democrats, Gore stresses that he "has helped win significant increases for research in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies" and promises to continue his "commitment to address the international challenge of global warming with new technologies such as biomass." Bradley speaks more generally of his "support [for] the widest possible mix of energy sources, including gains in energy efficiency in order to reduce our dependence on insecure source of fuel and to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and conventional pollutants."


Alan Keyes (Photo courtesy Keyes campaign)
Among the Republicans, McCain is the most vocal advocate for sustainable energy programs noting that "we should encourage energy efficiency and focus research and development on technologies that will help meet the environmental needs of the next century."

Bush has spoken more sparingly, promising only "to spend money on research and development to find additional uses for agricultural products" including biomass. He has also proposed switching to a two-year budgeting cycle.

Forbes has made it clear that he wants federal spending capped and said "additional cuts may be needed" in the U.S. Department of Energy's sustainable energy programs. Forbes has further called for the abolition of the "unnecessary and bloated" Department of Energy altogether. Keyes also favors cuts in the Department of Energy's budget for its energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Hatch and Bauer have offered no positions to date on the issue.

Among third party candidates, Buchanan supports further cuts in the Department of Energy's sustainable energy budget. Hagelin says "basic research and development funding on energy alternatives such as fuel cells and solar and wind energy is key to a clean energy future for the nation."


Joel Kovel (Photo courtesy Green Party)
Both Green Party candidates Dr. Joel Kovel, a professor of psychiatry who lives in Woodstock, New York, and Stephen Gaskin, a self-described "hippy priest," support increasing funding for sustainable energy programs.

Public Opinion

A public opinion survey of 1,000+ registered voters conducted in May 1999 for the Sustainable Energy Coalition by Research/Strategy/Management of Falls Church, Virginia found that among registered voters expressing an opinion more than 72% favored giving priority to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs compared to other technologies in the U.S. Department of Energy's budget. The findings echoed those of similar surveys released by the Sustainable Energy Coalition each year since 1994. By margins of 75-80%, respondents also agreed that tax incentives should be made available to increase the use of renewable energy as well as to encourage the purchase of energy efficient homes, heating and cooling systems, and environmentally cleaner automobiles.


Oil Drilling

Among the Democrats, Gore has promised to "put a stop to all new oil drilling in federal waters off the shores of California and Florida [as well as] fight to prevent oil drilling in federal waters off all states where the public clearly opposes it - even if companies already have been granted offshore leases."

Bradley notes that he "fought against opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil, gas, and mineral development" and is proposing "the creation of a Coastal and Ocean Conservation Fund that would provide greater authority to states for coastal protection" including decisions affecting oil drilling off their shores.


Pat Buchanan (Photo courtesy Buchanan campaign)
Among the Republicans, Bush notes that while he "would encourage exploration" particularly for natural gas, he supports the existing moratorium on California and Florida offshore oil drilling. McCain, who criticized the Clinton administration for its decision to extend 36 offshore oil leaves along the central California coast over the objections of that state's governor and attorney general, has promised to "never lose sight of the fundamental principle that federal land management decisions affecting local communities must be made in cooperation with the Americans who call those communities home."

Forbes and Keyes would open ANWR to oil exploration and drilling. Hatch and Bauer have offered no views on the issue.

Reform Party candidate Buchanan favors opening ANWR to oil drilling. Natural Law Party candidate Hagelin would permanently protect ANWR from future oil exploration and drilling as would Green Party candidates Gaskin and Kovel.

Incentives for Fossil Fuel Development

Neither of the Democratic Party candidates has addressed whether he supports increasing, reducing, or maintaining the current level of tax incentives available to the domestic coal, oil, and natural gas industries.

Republicans Bauer, Hatch, and Keyes have been similarly silent and Bush has spoken only generally about avoiding "price controls." Forbes says that he would abolish the capital gains tax to encourage more exploration. McCain notes that he has "worked to end corporate welfare enjoyed by certain fossil fuel industries, most recently offering an amendment to end oil and gas subsidies."

Reform Party candidate Buchanan has not addressed the issue.


John Hagelin (Photo courtesy Hagelin campaign)
Natural Law Party candidate Hagelin stresses that "there are well-thought-out solutions that can end fossil fuel subsidies without jeopardizing the industries that are energy and fuel dependent. Among the Green Party candidates, Gaskin would reduce subsidies for the fossil fuel industries while Kovel stipulates that "tax incentives would be given [only] as a quid pro quo for conservation, and especially for conversion to renewable source."

Fossil Fuels & Clean Air

Noting that old fossil fuel plants "must do more to meet modern standards," Bradley says he "would support legislation limiting power plant emissions of carbon dioxide [as well as] additional efforts to ensure that all Americans breathe healthful air [including] the new ambient air quality standards adopted by EPA and the efforts to reduce levels of NOx. Gore speaks more generally about the need to "continue the push for increasing air quality standards" but embraces the Clinton Administration's recently-announced "strong clean air standards for soot and smog that will prevent up to 15,000 premature deaths a year and improve the lives of millions with respiratory illnesses."

Bush, who has created a voluntary program for reducing emissions from older fossil fuel plants in Texas, says he "supports cleaner gasoline standards across the country" and that "we ought to look at a national standard for lower sulfide for gasoline." Expressing general support for "clean air, safe water, and the gifts of unspoiled creation," McCain nonetheless says "it's time to comprehensively review out nation's environmental laws to assure they are relevant to today's needs and capabilities ... and for seeking ways to make them more sensible and less costly."


Gary Bauer (Photo courtesy Bauer campaign)
Forbes criticizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for "too often resort[ing] to junk science," says that "the free market incentives in the 1990 Clean Air Act are a step in the right direction [but] before tightening standards, we must be sure of the soundness of the science involved." Hatch has noted only that "all of us believe in clean air, clean water, and a better quality of life," while Bauer and Keyes have offered no positions on the issue.

Green Party candidates Gaskin and Kovel as well as Natural Law Party candidate Hagelin all support requiring all fossil-fueled power plants to meet the same clean air emissions standards as those met by new plants built today. Reform Party candidate Buchanan has put forth no position statements.

Public Opinion

A public opinion survey of 1,000+ registered voters conducted in October 1998 for the Sustainable Energy Coalition by Research/Strategy/Management (RSM) of Falls Church, Virginia found that 57% of registered voters opposed, at least somewhat, opening ANWR and protected offshore areas to new oil drilling. A similar finding was also found in a RSM survey conducted in January 1996. The October 1998 survey also found that 69% of registered voters strongly or at least somewhat favored decreasing the use of oil and gas as a strategy for addressing the problem of climate change. A December 1996 RSM survey found that 80% of voters favored requiring all fossil fuel plants to meet the same environmental standards that apply to newer, cleaner facilities while a December 1994 RSM survey found a majority of Americans opposing the provision of tax incentives and other federal support to the fossil fuel as well as the nuclear power industries.



Bill Bradley:

Al Gore:


George W. Bush:

Gary Bauer:

Steve Forbes:

Orrin Hatch:

Alan Keyes:

John McCain:

Reform Party:

Pat Buchanan:

Natural Law Party:

John Hagelin:

Green Party:

Stephen Gaskin:

Joel Kovel: