Back when it was Kerry vs Bush there was a lively debate on global climate change as well as directions for power initiatives. I am hoping that the conversation will continue to be advanced in the next presidential election, and perhaps even before then.
Other survey questions concerned whether the country’s focus should be shifted from nuclear fission and fossil fuels to the development and implementation of energy-efficiency and renewable-energy technologies. Clinton said that he generally opposed the proliferation of nuclear plants “because of my deep reservations about the safety risks and long-term problems posed by such plants.” He also said that “we must rely less on imported oil, and more on cheap and abundant natural gas,” while investing in the research and development of renewable energy. Tsongas, Harkin, and Kerrey all said that they favored the development of solar/hydrogen fuel systems and other renewables, while Tsongas added that if he were president, he “would channel substantial resources into such research.”
Buchanan said that the market should determine what energy sources are used, while Bush balked at government-mandated energy reduction/efficiency targets because, he said, “they are unlikely to work, they invite government red tape and counterproductive intervention, and they can slow down cost-effective conservation by force-feeding uneconomic technologies into the economy.”
Global Climate Change
On combating global climate change, Harkin said the federal government must create incentives for industry to produce, and for consumers to buy, energy-efficient, low-polluting appliances, motor vehicles, machinery, buildings, and homes. “I favor a revenue-neutral ‘feebate’ system,” he said, “whereby purchasers of energy-efficient, low-polluting products are given a rebate, and those who buy polluting gas guzzlers are charged an offsetting fee.”
Clinton noted that “the idea of a tax shift to discourage polluting is right in line with the principle of making polluters pay … and a carbon tax is one way to do this.” Tsongas agreed that “a reasonable ‘carbon tax’ would be an effective way to combat global warming,” while Kerrey said that such a tax “is perhaps the most direct and cost-effective way of reducing [CO.sub.2] [carbon dioxide] emissions.” Clinton also proposed a [CO.sub.2] emission credit system utilizing marketable allowances, much like the sulfur-dioxide allowance trading system outlined in the Clean Air Act, and added that he would support a climate change treaty in which the U.S. would agree to stabilize [CO.sub.2] emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000.
Citing a lack of definitive scientific evidence, Bush said, “It would be premature at this time to impose a carbon tax, or any other control measures that would place serious new burdens on the U.S. economy.” He noted that he has, however, instructed U.S. representatives at the negotiating sessions leading up to June’s United Nations Conference on Environment and Development to stake out “a strong position in support of the reduction of emission of chlorofluorocarbons and other substances that deplete the protective ozone layer.”
The potentially loaded question of what to do with the country’s nuclear waste elicited few new ideas from the candidates, although criticism of present administration policy was rampant.
None of the Democrats, except for Harkin, supported the sitting and construction of a high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, but they all supported a comprehensive re-evaluation of U.S. policy regarding waste storage and disposal.
“Serious questions have been raised as to the long-term environmental and safety concerns at the Yucca Mountain site,” said Clinton.
Tsongas, who has also criticized the proposed facility, called for an independent commission such as the National Science Foundation to explore the feasibility of site options. “Then,” he said, “there will be no question that this is being examined on a non-political basis.” Kerrey said that he supported a strong state and local role in the screening, selection, and operation of any kind of waste storage facility. “I simply do not trust the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission on these matters,” he said.
In more pragmatic fashion, Harkin admitted that “No waste disposal system will be perfect. … The best we can accomplish is to reduce the risks of storing this deadly cargo to the lowest possible level.” Toward this end, he supports the development of “suitable storage facilities for both high-level and low-level radioactive waste.”
On the Republican side, Buchanan had not formulated an opinion on nuclear waster, but Bush called it “essential” that Yucca Mountain continue to be evaluated as a potential depository site. “If nuclear power is to take its place among the important energy sources for the United States,” he said, “we must ensure that we have a permanent solution to the nuclear waste problem.”