The Environment has become a hot topic in political platforms as of late. With noticeable changes in weather patterns such as El Nino, La Nina, and the steady increase in the average daily temperatures, environmentalist group’s views and values have become the views and values of more of the general public. This topic has even resulted in more support of the Green Party and its leader Ralph Nader, who some environmentalists believe may have cost Al Gore the presidency. Although clean air, water, and global warming are all valid issues it is the belief of some political scientists that the reason for the recent environmental swell is due to the current surging economy and rock-bottom unemployment rate. Thus, when Americans have jobs and are able to make a descent living their concerns turn elsewhere. As far as where each political party stands in their environmental policy one should look towards said parties current leader and his/her current policy and past record on environmental issues. The Democratic and Republican Party’s, Al Gore, and George W. Bush seem to be on somewhat of the same level concerning the environmental policy, with Gore of course getting more backing from environmentalists based on his track record. In contrast, Ralph Nader and the Green Party place the environment on a whole new level of importance.
The Republican Party tends to be a bit more conservative concerning the environmental policy, as they do on most every issue. Although Bush seldom spoke of environmental issues on the campaign trail, he and the Republican Party propose a plan to decentralize environmental control. During a speech at Sand Harbor State Park on Lake Tahoe, Bush said, “As president, I will speak for that great national goal. It is our duty to use the lands well, and sometimes not to use them at all. It is our responsibility as citizens, but more than that it is our calling as stewards of the earth.” “We have a national consensus,” Bush continued “but problems arise when leaders reject partnership, and rely solely on the power of Washington on regulations, policies, and dictation from afar.
The federal government and the states, local communities, and private land owners must respect and work with one another to preserve our national heritage, to promote flexibility, decentralization and positive incentives to involve more Americans in the responsibility of conservation” (Lazaroff). Bush also proposed that fifty percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund be given to state and local conservation efforts each year. This fund uses the royalties of offshore oil and gas exploration to fund experimental projects. Although the fund is authorized for funding at 900 million a year, less than half of those funds have been appropriated by congress in recent years. Bush again emphasizes responsibility in the private sector by introducing a landowner incentive program where states would benefit from fifty million dollars in matching grants to help private land owners protect rare species while engaging in traditional land management practices. A ten million dollar private Stewardship Grant program would provide funding for private conservation initiatives.
Bush credits these private efforts in helping to save the Aplormado Falcon native to south Texas. Finally, Bush proposed to do away with the estate tax so it would be easier for private landowners to pass on their land to future generations. On the issue of global warming Bush noted that the average temperatures “have increased slightly during this century, “ but said, “both the causes and the impact of this slight warming are uncertain.” His administration would support market-based mechanisms to reduce global pollution (Hansen). Thus, Bush and the Republicans would probably oppose any legislation to directly reverse the trend.
Although the Republican Party under President Bush seems to have a moderate and conservative environmental plan, Bush’s personal record and chosen running mate, Dick Cheney, have been criticized by the environmental community. Gore 2000 national spokesman Douglas Hattaway said Bush’s environmental record “shows a lack of effort to conserve the environment of Texas.” Hattaway cited a report by the League of Conservative Voters ranking Texas forty-ninth in state spending on parks. Under Governor Bush, the state has acquired no new land for conservation (this could also reflect Bush’s decentralization view). A 1998 state audit found that Texas had a funding deficit of thirty six million for maintenance of existing parks (Hansen).
Bush’s choice for a running mate in Vice President Dick Cheney makes for further criticism by the environmental community. While ion congress Cheney voted to postpone economic sanctions for areas that did not meet Clean Air Act requirements. Cheney also voted against a bill that would permanently ban oil and gas drilling in wilderness areas. As the C.E.O. of Halliburton Oil, Cheney has publicly challenged the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement that will try to reduce the emissions of green house gasses. The current Republican leaders (President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney) environmental promise can be best summed up by Martha Marks (president of Republicans for Environmental Protection, R.E.P) “The possibility that two men from the oil and gas industry could wind up as president and vice president gives me little reason to hope that our country will finally start moving towards great energy efficiency, and alternative energy sources.”
The Democratic Party under Al Gore and Joe Lieberman seems to be the safest bet for environmental enthusiasts. According to Deb Callahan, President of the League of Conservation Voters, “Al Gore has proven to be an environmental leader who is unparalleled.” The Democratic Party has made a new commitment to environmental protection, with pledges to restore the everglades, boost public transportation, and preserve the open spaces.
Al Gore proposes incentives for purchases of fuel-efficient vehicles, energy efficient homes, appliances and equipment. The Democrats want to invest in diverse public transportation options, including light rail, cleaner buses, and high speed trains. They propose cleaning up aging power plants, and providing funds for the development and deployment of clean energy technologies. Al Gore and the Democratic Party also promote incentives to the oil industry to promote the development of cleaner fuels, and to the auto industry for producing cleaner engines. Gore has even distinguished himself as a published environmentalist with his 1992 book Earth in the Balance. The Democratic platform takes seriously the threat of global warming. According to the platform, “ Scientists predict a daunting range of likely effects from global warming… These are not biblical plagues. They are the predicted result of human actions. They can be prevented only with a new set of human actions, big changes and new thinking.” Gore along with the Democratic Party support Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 add on to the United Nations climate change treaty, which mandates greenhouse gas emissions for thirty nine industrial countries including the United States. The platform promotes international cooperation on such global issues, to prevent countries from under bidding each other for production contracts that result in little or no regard for the environment.
The Democratic Platform concerning the environment seems to be an active plan that will produce positive results for the environment without having to rely on the uncertainty of state and local governments. However, the Democrats under Al Gore have faced criticisms concerning Gore’s ties to Los Angeles based Occidental Petroleum Company. Gore’s family owns half a million dollars worth of the petroleum company’s stock, and his father Senator Albert Gore Sr. has served on the company’s board for twenty-eight years. When the company planned to drill for oil in Columbia, on the sacred lands of the U’Wa Indians (a peaceful tribe in the Columbian Cloudforest, who are adamantly opposed to the project) Gore ignored the pleas of the environmentalists. Environmentalists and citizen activists for his links to the Von Roll Waste Technologies Industries (WTI) hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio have also criticized gore.
The plant that is permitted to burn more than sixty thousand tons of hazardous wastes each year is only four hundred yards away from an elementary school. In 1992 Gore pledged to prevent the plant from operating if voters elected him and Bill Clinton to office. Instead, Gore passed on an opportunity to spoil the permit between the election and the inauguration. According to sworn testimony by William Riley (former head of the EPA under president George Bush) Gore encouraged the EPA to approve the incinerator’s trial burn permit before he and President-elect Bill Clinton assumed power (Hansen). Although Gore does have a few blemishes on his track record, he still seems to the favorite among environmentalists when given the alternative in Bush. This said one should doubt his sincerity concerning the environment when it involves losing the support of large corporations such as Occidental Petroleum.
This sudden profound interest in the environment by Gore and the Democrats is thought by some political scientists to be the result of the closeness of the race and the growing support Ralph Nader and the Green Party achieved. This is the second time Nader has been up against Al Gore, Nader lost to Clinton and Gore in the 1996 election. Nader was only on the ballot in twenty-one states and spent a total of five thousand dollars on his entire campaign (Lazaroff). The Green Party stance on environmental protection is one with emphasis on importance and activity. The Green Party believes that action must be taken to produce results, instead of procrastination and hollow promises. Ralph Nader makes clear his stance and his plan on issues such as: global warming, nuclear power, environmental justice, and energy. On the heated issue of global warming the Green Party sees it as a “clear and present danger” and demands that the United States implement a course of action to reduce harmful greenhouse gases. Nader proposes ratification to the Kyoto Protocol, to exceed its minimal standards, and to move rapidly towards zero-emission standards for cars, while reinventing a satisfactory public transit system. Concerning nuclear power the Green Party hopes to put an end to it in the United States, stating its danger, inefficiency, high costs, and long-term hazards.
Nader proposes a ban on the long distance transportation of high-level nuclear waste, to redirect the funding for nuclear energy research to that of renewable energy technology. With large corporate plants comes the issue of environmental justice. Too often these hazardous plants are located in areas populated with residents who are poor or minorities. “Environmental justice means that fair treatment of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws or policies. Fair treatment in turn means that no specific group should bear a disproportionate share of negative environmental consequences from industrial, municipal, or commercial operations, and that all environmental policy decisions should be made in a nondiscriminatory way (Nader).” The Green Party also focuses on energy policy. They criticize the government for failing to promote safe, secure, affordable, and environmentally sound energy sources. Nader proclaims, “Under the thumb of the dirty fuel industries, Congress and the Executive branch refuse to take even the most modest, common sense measures. For example, when the Presidents Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology concluded in a 1997 report that doubling the Department of Energy’s efficiency R&D funding would produce a forty to one return on the investment for the nation, Congress responded by proposing deep cuts in the efficiency and renewables R&D budgets (Nader).”
Ralph Nader and the Green Party may have a seemingly unattainable environmental platform, but their solutions are clean-cut and their intentions sincere. Ralph Nader brings to light the crooked inefficiency of the federal government concerning the environment. The Green Party may never hold the White House, but they may set the trend for holding the government responsible for their environmental injustices.
The environmental platforms of the Republican, Democratic, and Green Parties are each unique in their place of importance on environmental policy, and their proposed environmental plans. The Republicans take a conservative approach to the environment with plans of decentralizing the responsibility of effective environmental policy. The Democratic platform plans to improve on their good record with increased environmental activity in transportation, protection and preservation of our lands and open spaces, and addressing the issue of global warming as an actual threat and promoting reductions in emissions. Finally, the Green Party promotes environmental justice, and specific plans to address global warming, nuclear power, alternative energy sources, and environmental justice for all people.
- Lazaroff, Cat. Bush Lays Planks in Environmental Platform. Environmental News Service. Retrieved February 19, 2001 from the World Wide Web:
- Lazaroff, Cat. Ralph Nader: Green Candidate With a Mission. Environmental News Service. Retrieved February 19, 2001 from the World Wide Web:
- Hansen, Brian. Gore Concedes, Environment a Non-Issue for Bush. Environmental News Service. Retrieved February 26, 2001 from the World Wide Web:
- Nader, Ralph. Statement on Global Warming. Retrieved March 03, 2001 form the World Wide Web:
- Nader, Ralph. Statement on Nuclear Power. Retrieved March 03, 2001 form the World Wide Web:
Retrieved March 03, 2001 form the World Wide Web:
- Nader, Ralph. Statement on Environmental Justice. Retrieved March 03, 2001 form the World Wide Web:
Retrieved March 03, 2001 form the World Wide Web:
- Nader, Ralph. Statement on Energy Policy. Retrieved March 03, 2001 form the World Wide Web:
Retrieved March 03, 2001 form the World Wide Web: