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Sep 102008
 

By Shermakaye Bass

Republican presidential candidate Arizona Sen. John McCain, who has historically opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), has been uncharacteristically taciturn on the energy issue since he chose pro-drilling Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Green-energy proponents find that ominous.

“With the pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for his running mate, John McCain’s race towards the Bush administration’s failed energy policy is now complete,” Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope said recently. “… No one is closer to the the oil industry than Governor Palin. Along with her support for drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and off our coasts, she also opposes a windfall profit tax on the richest oil companies. …She has been dismissive of alternative energy, saying ‘alternative-energy solutions are far from imminent and would require more than 10 years to develop’, when in reality it is the oil she would like to drill that would take a decade to bring to market.”

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) in Washington, D.C., showed a similar concern over Palin.

“Obviously, it’s a very disappointing pick for a (presidential) candidate who at one time made a priority of getting us away from the old fossil fuels of the past – Sen. McCain,” said David Sandretti, the League’s communications director. “And this is someone (McCain) who at one time pointed out that the single biggest difference between himself and George Bush was his position on climate change. For him to pick someone who doesn’t even agree that human activity is contributing to it (global warming), is disturbing, to say the least,” Sandretti said.

Palin says she has a record of “standing up” to big oil, and she did increase taxes on the oil companies as governor, but her record also shows she’s far from pro-environment.

By contrast her VP opponent, Democrat Sen. Joe Biden, has a record of voting that has earned him a lifetime rating of 83 percent for supporting environmental causes, according to the LCV, which keeps Environmental Scorecards on U.S. legislators’ voting records.

Of Sen. Biden, Sandretti observes, “He has made a priority of the environment and has been scored very well on our scorecard online. This is someone with a lifetime rating of 83 percent of voting in the Senate. … Our scorecards look at a variety of issues on the environment, whether it be funding for enforcement of the EPA or whether it’s supporting positions that protect clean air, clean water and energy issues. Joe Biden has shown real leadership in putting forward an energy plan that moves us away form the dirty fossil fusel of the past and investing in clean, green energy. He was a co-sponsor of the global warming bill in the Senate. It’s very encouraging to us that both he and Sen. Obama embrace these policies. ”

League spokesman Josh McNeil adds that Sen. McCain has a 24 percent lifetime rating (a 0 in 2007 for not voting on any key environmental issues drags down his score). Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama has an average score of 86 percent, with a 67 for 2007, the latter also reflecting his absence on several occasions.

All of this is telling enough for the green voting bloc, but since America’s past two vice presidents have enjoyed unprecedented influence and power, here’s a closer look at the contrasting energy-related stances of the 2008 VP nominees – Democrat Sen. Biden and Republican Palin.

Palin: Taking the opposite stance as her running mate, who until recently opposed drilling for oil in ANWR (perhaps he still does; so far not a word, not a whisper) the Alaskan governor wants to “drill, baby drill” if she and McCain get into office.

In an interview with the Financial Post last month, Palin explained her view: “About ANWR, about offshore drilling, finally it seems there’s been an awakening across the country to recognize what Alaska has to offer,” adding that there’s been “some deception” about ANWR and her plans to free up protected land there. “Of the 20 million acres up there, we’re looking at 2,000 acres as a footprint. Smaller than LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). With new technology, with directional drilling, maybe that footprint [will] shrink even more.”

Biden: Opposes drilling in ANWR. In 1986, he introduced the first bill designed to deal with climate change – the Global Climate Protection Act – and is a co-sponsor of the most recent, the Boxer-Sanders Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007. Regarding ANWR, Biden recently told Popular Mechanics magazine that he “does not believe the uncertain oil recovery justifies the risk of potentially great harm to this rich environment.”

Palin: Is suing the Bush Administration for designating the polar bear as threatened earlier this year because it could limit energy development offshore. The governor told the “Anchorage Daily News” last fall that the polar bear is “a metaphor in the highly charged climate change debate.” She added that such designations could “open the flood gate” for other endangered animals, thereby limiting oil and other industries.