President Barack Obama and GOP Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney are both focused on energy independence for the U.S.; however, they approach this goal very differently. Obama wants to focus on the development of renewable energy along with local production of fossil fuels, whereas Romney is planning to achieve energy independence by focusing solely on developing fossil fuels in the U.S.
Each person interviewed by The Knox Student expressed concern regarding the threat of climate change because of increased fossil fuel usage. Both Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman and Assistant Professor of
Environmental Studies Katie Adelsberger, expressed concern at the lack of focus on environmental issues.
According to Adelsberger, “The arctic sea ice reached its lowest level ever recorded this year … and no one has talked about this. None of the candidates, none of the political discussion has been at all about what are we seeing and what does it tell us … This is the only country where people are really in a majority saying, ‘We don’t believe that this is happening.’”
The candidates are mainly focused on energy issues, including the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. This pipeline, if completed, would run from Alberta, Canada to Texas and carry up to 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil into the U.S. per day. Many environmental agencies including the National Wildlife Federation have spoken out against the pipeline’s harmful effects on ecosystems and U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. Obama also spoke out against the pipeline, but Romney believes that the pipeline should be completed because it would bring a lot of locally drilled tar sand oil, thereby boosting U.S. energy independence by 2020.
The interviewed students all expressed concerns for global warming. Freshman Chloe Salk said, “I think probably reducing carbon emissions is the most important [issue] right now … it is definitely affecting our environment and there are tons of studies that show that, and I think it is a huge problem that needs to be addressed for us and future generations.”
Another issue on the energy agenda is where to drill for oil. Romney wants to open all federal lands and waters for drilling, including the entire Pacific and Atlantic coasts and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Obama also wants to open more offshore areas for drilling and supports drilling on existing leases while sustaining the drilling moratorium on U.S. Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
To promote oil drilling, Romney wants to give states the power to give out permits for drilling on federal land and renew tax incentives that add up to $4 billion a year for oil and gas. Romney also wants to curb the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to control carbon emissions.
Obama, meanwhile, wishes to keep drilling permits under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and to get rid of tax subsidies for oil companies. He also wants to create tax incentives for wind energy, while Romney wants to cut them.
Obama claims that during his four years in office, there has been more domestic fossil fuel production than ever before. Obama is unable to take all of the credit, since this plan was set into motion before his presidency. Furthermore, Obama’s policies may promote greener energy, such as an agreement with the EPA, to close down aging coal units, yet few of them focus on the need to invest and act now.
Schwartzman said, “We have sufficient wind and solar resources to produce the energy we need. Now, it’s true we can’t yet run the majority of cars and trucks on wind and solar, but it’s just a matter of time.”
Although many students said that the environment was an issue that would determine the vote, a few disagreed. When asked, sophomore Jennifer Keilhack said, “I don’t think it would majorly come into play, just because I would probably just look at what they believe are important environmental issues as a whole and see if that kind of plays into global warming, but if they’re not totally pro-global warming or trying to prevent it, I don’t think it will really affect my vote.”