As voters go to the polls in Michigan, there is little at stake for Democrats, but a lot at stake for Republican candidates. Some have called it a make-or-break situation for Gov. Mitt Romney, as he and Sen. John McCain lead the state polls and Romney has finished second in the two most important contests to date.
Because the Republicans show the most differences in policies geared toward global warming and energy, that means there's a lot at stake for the country, and world, in this election. To the degree that Michigan narrows the field, the outcome today could prove pivotal.
Romney has not talked aggressively about global warming. As governor of Massachusetts, he refused to join a partnership among Northeast states, led by then-Gov. George Pataki of New York, that next year will enforce binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. It was the first regional global warming partnership of its kind, though Western states have since set more ambitious goals. Though modest, the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (referred to affectionately as RGGI "Reggy") was a chance for Romney to join a state-level bipartisan effort led by a fellow Republican, but he refused the call to lead.
McCain, on the other hand, was the author of the first bill in the Senate to suggest a national cap-and-trade regulation for greenhouse gases. That was in 2003. He is the only Republican candidate to consistently and convincingly discuss a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or to acknowledge the serous threats that global warming poses to the United States and the world.
That's a clear choice.
Whoever wins the Republican race will face a Democrat with a strong global warming policy. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards all have formulated aggressive, detailed energy plans that put combating climate change as a central priority.
The ultimate choice that matters for the country, and the world, is who will be next president. Whether the debate at that level includes two candidates who are strong on the global warming issue, or only one, could be decided soon.
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