Investing in new, home-grown energy is on the platform of every major 2008 presidential candidate, whether their pins are emblazoned with blue donkeys or red elephants. But while some -- and certainly not all -- of the candidates' policy prescriptions call for investments in the same energy sources -- farm-grown ethanol, for instance -- their reasons for supporting those investments show sharp differences that split roughly along party lines.
Energy Independence -- the catch-phrase of the election -- means reducing our dependence on foreign oil. To Republicans, that's a goal to improve national security by reducing our entanglements in the Mid East, and we can achieve it through a variety of means -- from nuclear power and increased oil and gas exploration to the continued or expanded burning of domestic coal.
With the exception of Sen. John McCain, who has been a proponent of capping carbon emissions, if Republicans mention climate change, it's typically to acknowledge it as a fact, but their energy policies haven't been geared to address it, according to a story in today's USA Today. To Democrats, reducing pollution that causes global warming is a key component of energy policy, so "energy independence" encompasses strategies for reducing pollution -- like a tax on carbon, a cap-and-trade system for reducing emissions or new international treaties.
Two fuel types that divide candidates in both parties are uranium and coal. Nuclear power is virtually pollution free, when considering air emissions, but the waste remains radioactive for thousands of years and many fear nuclear power plants will become terrorist targets. Coal is cheap and abundant domestically, but highly polluting, so candidates are divided over which schemes to support its continued use -- whether through liquifying it, capturing its carbon emissions and storing them underground or other technological fixes that are still in development.
It's early in the campaign, and voters who care about global warming would be wise to watch carefully as the candidates discuss energy, because sounding alike doesn't necessarily mean they are alike.
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