“We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years.”
-President Obama listing an accomplishment at the second presidential debate.
I can’t say I’m surprised that this week’s presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney didn’t address climate change. Disappointed, yes. Surprised, sadly no.
Energy got a lot of attention. And yes, President Obama (who seemed to have found his mojo compared with the first debate) came out with strong endorsements of renewable energy, stating that the US needs to invest in “solar and wind and biofuels, [and] energy efficient cars.” Yet when the sparring began between the two, it was more about who could outdrill whom.
Here are some of the more disappointing statements that came from the President:
- “We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years.”
- “Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades.”
- “We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.”
- “…we still continue to open up new areas for drilling.”
- “We continue to make it a priority for us to go after natural gas.”
- “We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and 100 years worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas.”
- “We’re actually drilling more on public lands than in the previous administration.”
The President certainly pointed out that he wanted to invest in the renewables as part of his energy plan, but the above statements were made as a list of accomplishments rather than a list of apologies.
What’s surprising is that Governor Romney pretty much said the same thing. He wants coal, oil and natural gas. And he believes in a mix with renewable sources of energy, too. So the two proceeded to argue about fossil fuels, with Governor Romney arguing that President Obama hasn’t done enough investment in fossil fuels and put too much effort into renewables, and President Obama arguing that simply wasn’t true. (And I believe everyone who would like to see the US—along with the rest of the world—move away from fossil fuels and towards renewables would agree that the President has been more Romney than Obama in energy: he’s done plenty for fossil fuels and not enough for renewables, just like Mitt wants.)
The real lost opportunity by the President was to explain why we need to invest so heavily into cleaner renewable sources of energy in the first place. He made the point that he wants to put an end to a dependence on foreign sources of oil (although Governor Romney seems hell-bent on getting “that pipeline from Canada,” so I geuss it depends on which foreigners the US deals with), but the President never pointed out why renewables are an important part of the equation.
I think a large part of the blame goes to the moderator who never asked the right question. As Candy Crowley put it in an interview after the debate:
“I had that question for all of you climate change people. We just, you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing so you knew you kind of wanted to go with the economy.”
All of us climate change people? Does that mean those who care about climate change? Or perhaps those who “believe” in it, like that’s an issue still open to debate. As a citizen of the human race living on Planet Earth, I would consider that we’re all “climate change people,” as we and especially our future generations are going to be contending with this problem in a significant way for the next millennium.
It’s as if the topic of climate change is taboo. Otherwise I can’t see why something that most Americans want to have addressed is being so blatantly ignored. And yet at the vice-presidential debate, Catholicism and its connection to attitudes on abortion was discussed. It’s hard to imagine the biggest environmental threat to our planet is more taboo than that.
Someday the presidential candidates will care about this issue enough to talk about it. Just not today.