Election Preview: US candidate’s economic and climate change policies

eCO2abacus investigates the two highest polling Republican and incumbent Democratic presidential candidates running for President of the United States in 2012:

Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are the three leading candidates

Mitt Romney (R): Mr. Romney has gradually moved his rhetoric to a more conservative stance since Rick Perry, Texas’ current governor, joined the GOP primary race during August. It is reasonable to assume that Mr. Romney’s campaign will maintain its current trajectory.

Mr. Romney’s principle ideas have not change. Consider, for example, this quotation from his 2010 book, No Apology: “I believe that climate change is occurring. … I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor.” These words complement Mr. Romney’s stance on current cap-and-trade mechanisms like the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“I do not believe in a cap and trade program” he said), and they help silhouette comments Mr. Romney gave in late October that could preview how a Romney administration might tackle climate change. When asked about his climate change stance in a private fundraiser in Pittsburgh, Mr. Romney proclaimed, “My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. … [S]pending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.” Mr. Romney’s economic platform includes reducing the United States’ dependence on foreign oil, increasing natural gas consumption and building more nuclear reactors. Mr. Romney has been nothing but consistent.

Newt Gingrich (R): The latest “likely voter” polls indicate that Mr. Gingrich’s wide margin has been reduced but he still leads Mitt Romney in the Republican race. On one hand this reaction could be to simply fill the void left by other candidates, but on the other Mr. Gingrich could be peaking at the right time, just before the Republican primary vote.

In 2008, Mr. Gingrich appeared in a short television advertisement with then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to lend his support for climate change reform. The commercial is kitschy, but demonstrates Mr. Gingrich’s former beliefs: In 2007 he said, “I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur … that’s a very, very good. And frankly, it’s something I would strongly support.” Such optimistic and indeed supportive wording for a market-based mechanism is not totally surprising coming from a man who is widely known for supporting off-the-cuff endeavors that might ultimately clash with his party’s base. No matter, because 14 months later, Newt reneged on his former assessment of an American cap-and-trade market when he said, “A carbon cap and trade system … would lead to corruption, political favoritism, and would have a huge impact on the economy.” Today, Mr. Gingrich does not propose a concrete economic plan and his platform has no reference to climate change at all. Ultimately, Mr. Gingrich’s own platform leaves little doubt should he advance to the White House, not only will a cap-and-trade mechanism go unconsidered, the options in his playbook are to decrease taxes and increase domestic oil and coal production.

Barack Obama (D): After his election  victory, Mr. Obama proclaimed, “My presidency will mark a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process,” in November 2008. Perhaps that was the goal despite the major recession that devastated global economies. But, in 2011, the United States’ climate change policy has not changed. Mr Obama is seen as mimicking his predecessor George W Bush by demanding that all major emitters be held to an equal mandatory reduction, even those still thought of as developing countries. US climate change envoys have been accused as envoys without purpose, or worse. The US’ interest has remained blaming others while not accepting responsibility. The Durban Platform may help to change those opinions over the next several months, though, as China, India and the US have agreed to the same patchwork document as a way to begin negotiating towards implementation in 2015. Then again, 2015 could be another opportunity to turn down an agreement, regardless of who resides in the White House in 2013.

Each contender has demonstrated he walks on both sides of the issue. Mr. Gingrich has television footage that shows, at one time, he was serious about implementing cap-and-trade in the US, while Mr. Romney governed a state implemented a market-based mechanism. At times, Mr. Obama has spoken forcefully about the subject but has not achieved tangible results. The global economy’s resurgence coupled with the Durban Platform’s future will help clarify whether climate change is an important issue to voting Americans.

This article also appears in the 21 December 2011 edition of eCO2abacus, our free carbon market information newsletter. If you would like to access this or any of our previous editions, please click here.

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