Thursday, August 14, 2008

How “Green” is the McCain VP Short List?

With the opportunity for sustained media face-time at a premium before the upcoming national party conventions, people are expecting to learn any day who the presidential candidates have chosen to be the respective choices for vice-presidential candidates. Now that energy and environmental issues have become increasingly salient, each of the candidates has to give at least some consideration to how their potential ticket-mate stands on energy-related and environmental issues. Believe it or not, this may actually ring more true for Republican John McCain than it does for Democrat Barack Obama, as the Democrats have historically been the party of environmental protection.

To help you wade through all of media hype and speculation, I’ve put together a short list of possible McCain runningmates and their positions on energy and the environment. To add some color, I’ve enlisted the support of several prominent bloggers who have more intimate knowledge of the potential candidates’ environmental stance and record (where possible).

[Please note that I do not claim to be a prognosticator. And with the list of potential GOP vice-presidential candidates longer than the list of Beltway lobbyists running the McCain campaign, who actually can? I've added a few 'long-shots' to the end of this list, but it is quite possible that McCain's selection is absent from the following collection.]

The Short List:

minnesota governor tim pawlentyTim Pawlenty: Pawlenty is relatively young, conservative, and popular. As the Governor of Minnesota, Pawlenty Advanced the Community Based Energy Development Credit to encourage the development and use of locally owned wind and clean energy sources and established a goal of obtaining 800 megawatts of community based wind to be added to our electric system by 2010. Pawlenty also proposed and passed Minnesota’s largest ever Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement, authorizing the set-aside of 120,000 acres of marginal crop land near environmentally sensitive waterways.

Maria Surma Manka of Maria Energia: “Governor Pawlenty has responded well to Minnesotans - including his evangelical Christian pastor - who have demanded action to fight global warming. Thanks to citizens, legislators and the Governor, Minnesota has a biofuels mandate, renewable energy standard and efficiency requirements. But we still struggle with our dependence on coal and oil. Whether chosen as VP or not, I hope “T. Paw” will show even stronger leadership to help move us away from our old-fashioned energy system and on to something cleaner and more efficient for the 21st century.”

former massachusetts governor mitt romneyMitt Romney: I know I might make some enemies by saying this, but I have a hard time believing that anyone with five children in this day and age can honestly call themselves an environmentalist [Editor's note: this thread has been picked up in the GO Forums if you'd like to discuss it at depth].

As governor of Massachusetts from January 2003 to January 2007, Mitt Romney got off to a promising start on a green issues, but then repeatedly disapointed the state’s environmental community [PDF]. In 2005, Romney pulled Massachusetts out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a pact between Northeastern states that calls for emissions cuts, even though his administration had spent more than two years helping to shape the deal (since then, Romney’s successor, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick [D], reversed that decision).

Romney’s opposition to the proposed offshore wind farm in the waters of Nantucket Sound is not likely to gain him any favor in the eyes of renewable energy advocates, or the larger environmental community. Wendy Williams at The Huffington Post: “Throughout his four-year term heading up the Bay State government, Romney’s behind-the-scenes stalling tactics were both legion and legend.”

florida governor charlie christ

Charlie Crist: Florida Governor, Charlie Crist may have one of the most progressive environmental platforms of all McCain’s pottential VP candidates. In a January interview with Grist, Gov. Crist spoke unflinchingly about his support for the environment. He said, “[I]t really goes back to Teddy Roosevelt for me, as a Republican — here was a guy 100 years ago who understood the importance of conservation: protecting the environment, establishing our national park system.

Noah Levy of Red, Green, and Blue: “He has shown himself through words and actions to be a true friend to the environment. However, the reversal of his position toward offshore drilling combined with his shrugging off of McCain’s negative vote toward the restoration of the Everglades reek of political opportunism.”

south dakota senator john thuneJohn Thune: The young, extremely conservative senator from South Dakota, spent 3 terms in the House and then knocked off Tom Daschle in the 2004 election. Thune had the highest LCV score of all the potential VPs at 30%. But that figure is up from a 9% rating the Congressman earned in the 109th Congress (2001-2002), and from 2004, when he earned the LCV’s “Dirty Dozen” designation.

More recently, Thune has been a champion of the corn ethanol industry, and has voted to protect the economic interests of Big Ag in his home state of South Dakota. Thune is also part of the so-called “Gang of Ten,” a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators pushing a proposed energy policy that would break the stalemate currently dogging Congress. The proposal would open additional drilling areas in the Gulf of Mexico, and allows Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia to choose whether they want to drill of their coasts. Existing bans off the West Coast and ANWR would remain in place. The proposal would also dedicate $20 billion to R&D of alternative fuels and extends a series of tax credits and incentives, such as for the purchase of hybrid vehicles.

eric cantorEric Cantor: The four-term Republican Representative from Virginia’s seventh district took two full terms to break out of the basement of the LCV ratings with a score of 0%; but is now making a run for double digits as Cantor has moved to 5% in the last term and 7% in the current term.

Terry Carter of Too Progressive: “Eric Cantor has a history of blindly following the failed regressive policies of the Bush administration and the Republican party as a whole, voting nearly 100 percent of the time with the Bush administration throughout his (Cantor’s) Congressional career. That having been said it pretty much goes without saying that Cantor is once again siding with the Republican party (and the big oil companies) and promoting a regressive energy policy that will provide virtually no long OR short term relief for average American’s struggling with gas and energy prices. Cantor, a potential VP candidate, Republican presidential nominee John McCain and the Republican party as a whole are once again showing where their true allegiance lies - with the big oil companies that have upported their party for years.a prolific fundraiser for the campaign.”

Longer Shots:

Christine Todd Whitman: Though probably a long shot, the former Secretary of the EPA in the at the beginning of George W. Bush’s first administration now runs an energy lobbying group called the Whitman Strategy Group.

Newt Gingrich: Newt’s been hard at work billing himself as an environmentalist as of late. Economically-bereft “Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less” campaign. While Gingrich might have the conservative record to attract that particular wing of the party, he may be too polarizing of a figure to be McCain’s runningmate.

Bobby Jindal: of Louisiana. Jindal Voted NO on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies in 2007 and Voted YES on deauthorizing “critical habitat” for endangered species in 2005. It’s not all bad though. Jindal did vote YES on increasing AMTRAK funding by adding $214M to $900M in 2006.

Bob Portman: Virtually unknown nationally, Portman is a former one-term congressman from the key state of Ohio, who, in his single term as a U.S. Representative earned an LCV score of 36% in the 105th Congress (1998-1999). Portman likes canoeing and kayaking. In 1984 he traveled to China to kayak the Li River and a portion of the Yangzi River. He has also kayaked the entire Rio Grande.

Concluding Remarks:

John McCain has a very real dilemma to address: How does he simultaneously satisfy the conservative wing of the Republican Party and attract the moderates and independents who would be a critical component of a McCain win? More specifically, can candidate McCain select a VP runningmate with a strong record on the environment, one that might also support a cap-and-trade for carbon emissions - a rather unpopular among most conservative Republicans - and still mobilize the conservative base?

We’ll soon find out.

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