Go green, vote blue

A few weeks ago, my friend Katie Della Terza, who writes an eco-friendly lifestyle blog called Shades of Green, asked me to write a blog entry on why progressive and environmentally-conscious voters should vote for Barack Obama this election, and why people should concern themselves with environmental issues this year.

To be honest, there weren’t that many people talking about the environment and our effect on it until Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast this week. In political terms, talking about climate change doesn’t win votes – and it usually gets swept under the rug in favor of more voter-friendly campaign ideas. Every debate series since Jimmy Carter’s election has had a question about the environment, and climate change – until this election cycle.

As a nation, we don’t usually talk climate change unless nature does something large enough to warrant it – and even then, we speak more about recovering from disaster than preventing it.  And for the most part, this presidential campaign hasn’t specifically focused on the environment, and measures that we as individuals can take to reduce our consumption. Instead, the campaign has been focused on the economy, on jobs, and how to make the economy create more jobs.

That said, I argue that President Obama has made a more concerted effort to include environmentally friendly policies into his platform than Governor Romney has – and he’s done so by linking the environment to our economy.

In the context of the economy, President Obama has talked about his plans for more renewable sources of energy and his opposition to dangerous fuel discovery practices like frakking, and to increase the manufacturing of more fuel-efficient cars. He hasn’t specifically said anything about climate change, but instead focused on the jobs and economic growth that could grow from good climate sense. By tying the environment to the economy, President Obama is trying to show voters that “social issues” like being eco-friendly truly do affect the bottom line, and how we as a nation must strive to be more green-minded to better the planet and better our economy.

A great example of this is the Obama administration’s push for higher fuel efficiency standards in new cars. This August, the President announced new regulations on cars requiring that car models in 2025 must be able to drive 54.5 miles to a gallon of gas – for comparison, the average car on the road gets about 29 miles per gallon, and the last passed regulation would only require 35.5 mpg by 2016.

The move was criticized by Governor Romney, who said the new regulation would make cars too costly for consumers, and would slow down economic growth. But the intent of the new regulations is to cut our nation’s dependence on foreign oil – which will cut costs of gas by $8,000 per vehicle by 2025, as well as hopefully cutting the subsidies to Big Oil – to make cars use less gas (thus reducing the cost to the consumer), and to reduce fuel emissions. Obama also understands that to have these lean, green machines, there needs to be a large, technologically-advanced workforce to produce them – he’s made it a point to work with community colleges and universities to push science and engineering education to create a strong workforce for the future.

Governor Romney is also concerned with creating jobs, but less concerned with the environment. Where energy is concerned, Romney also wants to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but wants to drill more here in the US – using whatever means necessary, including frakking, to find oil and natural gas within the country, regardless of consequences. Romney wants desperately to create jobs, as he’s been saying his entire campaign, but seems less interested in green energy as a means to create those jobs. In fact, Romney doesn’t seem to be too interested in helping curb global warming – in his RNC speech, Romney actually mocked Obama for trying to “heal the earth.”

I hesitate to include Hurricane Sandy too heavily in this blog, because it’s such an extreme example of climate change and presidential leadership. But obviously, it has to be included, because a president is not only a president during the best of times, but during the worst as well. Climate change really only pops onto the national when a natural disaster happens – when nature does something awful enough to warrant discussion.

We are only a few days into recovery from Hurricane Sandy, but President Obama seems to be doing a wonderful job corralling FEMA and local aid agencies into getting people the help that they need quickly. The government made it a point to get ready for the storm and get things working as quickly as possible, and making sure that FEMA worked more effectively and more quickly this time around than its past failures. When asked about FEMA in the past, Governor Romney said he would prefer to give the funding to the states to control their own disaster relief, and cut funding for FEMA.

Most relevant to this discussion, Romney will not admit that people are causing climate change, saying this at a private event:

“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet, and the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try and reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.”

What Governor Romney is saying here is that we shouldn’t be investing money into environmental issues and climate change prevention – he would rather this money go towards job creation and budget cuts. But what he needs to realize is that the environment is no joke – if he truly wants to leave a better future for his children and grandchildren, he would think twice about dismissing this investment. For all of these reasons, and many more that I can’t fit into this blog post, it’s clear. In order to go green, we must vote blue – Barack Obama is the most eco-friendly and progressive choice this election.