Column : How green coloured the US elections

Nov 24 2012, 03:19 IST
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SummaryIf Obama now tasks Americans to become emissions-free in 10-20 years, it would create invaluable technology for the world.

Frank-Jurgen Richter

The 2012 election in America is over and Barack Obama has earned another term in office, but what does the outcome mean for the global environment?

The United States has been a world leader in the creation of greenhouse gases, but also in green technology. Even before the election was over, it was obvious whoever won would have tremendous power over the United States’ environmental policy and this was made evident in the campaign’s policies.

Mitt Romney took a surprising stance against global warming and environmentalism; his views were even more conservative than George W Bush. At the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, Mitt Romney said: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise … is to help you and your family.”

Practically speaking, Mitt was denying the existence of, or at least the threat posed by global warming, though it was likely a remark designed to appeal to a particular slice of Mitt’s audience. Either way, his were a clear indication that mother nature would have no friend in a Romney White House.

Throughout the election, the issue of the environment was used by both sides to win voters, with either side often doing the exact opposite of each other in order to woo voters. Romney used global warming denial to attract the hardcore religious vote, a group who mostly ignore the facts about global warming and would rather see their tax dollars spent elsewhere.

President Obama, on the other hand, used his acceptance of global warming as a beacon to bring people to his side. With most people in America today accepting the existence of global warming, the Obama campaign used this fact to push voters who were sceptical of Romney over to their side.

Obama spoke in favour of environmental protection in the televised debates while Romney spoke against it: to someone who accepts global warming, the Obama campaign rightly figured that it would be hard for them to vote for Mitt Romney.

Despite their disagreements on global warming and Romney’s flare for unpredictable, contradictory statements, both candidates agreed on two major pieces of environmental policy: the need for energy independence and the need for clean coal technology.

I’ve written about “clean” coal in the past and the reality is that clean coal does not truly exist. While there are ways to make coal burning cleaner, compared to truly emission-free power generation

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