Who should be our next President?

19 arguments that differentiate the candidates

By Steve Kirsch
May 26, 2007

If you are undecided about who to vote for, the facts and arguments on this page have helped many people make up their mind.

This is a long web page. But the choice you make in the Primary is the most important choice for President that you will ever make in your life. So bear with me...

If you are already committed to a candidate, this page has caused people to re-think that commitment.

And if you believe that your decision "doesn't matter so long as we get a Democrat any Democrat" in office consider the following:

  1. Edwards has consistently polled best against Republicans in the general election both in past polls. In the latest polls, he's the only candidate to beat all potential Republican nominees. So if your primary goal is a Democratic President in 2008, he should be your choice in the Primary.
  2. It's the polls in the battleground states that will determine whether we have a Democrat or Republican president. Again, Edwards does better than the other candidates in those critical states as well.
  3. The President we elect in 2008 must lead our country and the world to solve global warming starting now or we will be permanently locked in to the biggest disaster scenario our planet has ever seen. Extraordinary leadership skills are also required to get that job done on other top issues like Iraq and healthcare
  4. To solve these tough problem we face, you need a strong leader. Leaders have four main characteristics: 1) they are not afraid to take bold stances, 2) they take the stances before it is "safe" to do so (that's why it is called leadership and not followership), 3) they are not afraid to speak out and tell people where they stand, and 4) they ask others to follow. If you want to evaluate leadership ability, the best predictor is to look at how the candidates have act with respect to the most important issues, not what they say. So far, only Edwards has consistently demonstrated the strong leadership traits that are required to succeed. He's taken real actions on ending the Iraq war and global warming by coming out with bold positions early on and then asking his supporters to join with him. Obama and Clinton have shown that they are good followers when others take the lead. The best proof of that is looking at both when and how they signed on to the "gold standard" Sanders-Boxer climate change bill (S.309). Clinton and Obama were 1) late to take a position 2) silent when they did make a decision and 3) didn't ask others to follow. Clinton and Obama both signed on to this bill, the toughest in the Senate, almost 4 months after it was introduced and 3 months after Senator Chris Dodd signed on (and 11 other Senators). And both Obama and Clinton signed on to that bill silently, with no press announcement. They've never even emailed their supporters asking them to urge their Senators to co-sponsor this critical bill. Their actions (or lack thereof) speak louder than words. We need strong leadership on this issue. We shouldn't be electing the last ones to get on board the Senate's gold-standard climate change bill. Edwards isn't in the Senate anymore, but he supported the strong standards of the Sanders-Boxer bill way before Clinton and Obama and he was out there urging his supporters to take action on Iraq and global warming while his opponents were silently voting their opinions on the same issues. Clinton and Obama both demonstrated the same lack of leadership ability with their most recent Iraq funding vote where they refused to discuss their position before the vote and never asked their supporters to urge the members of congress to vote the right way.
  5. Obama could make global warming worse because although he says he wants to fight global warming, at the same time, he is the leading advocate in the Senate for switching to transportation fuels (coal to liquids) which emit twice the greenhouse gasses per gallon as the fuel it replaces! Nobody will follow a leader who says one thing and does the opposite. His position is totally inexcusable; the discrepancy has been brought to his attention by many environmental leaders I've spoken with. I've heard rumors he's going to change his position; there are cheaper and cleaner alternatives, e.g., biomass to liquids, that emit hardly any greenhouse gasses and, in some cases, actually absorb CO2! Here's a link to the New York Times editorial referring to the legislation Obama is championing in the Senate. Fortune magazine writer Marc Gunther's column also criticizes Obama directly for supporting coal to liquids. And here's the urgent email MoveOn.org sent to its members entitled "Turning every Prius into a Hummer" calling the coal to liquids legislation that Obama is championing "the greatest single threat to solving the climate crisis in a decade." On June 13, 2007, Obama issued a statement that he wouldn't support coal to liquids unless the resulting fuel was 20% cleaner than the fuel it replaces. That's better than he was before! However, I checked with his legislative director who confirmed to me that Obama allows that reduction to happen just by blending the fuel with a clean fuel. While that incentivizes the production of clean fuel, if we are going to mix a fuel with the clean fuel, it should be the next cleanest alternative, not the worst.
  6. The best predictor of how the leading candidates will rate on the environment after being elected is how they act right now. On June 19, 2007, Clinton joined Obama in support of a coal to liquids amendment. Clinton's position is directly opposite that of every major environmental group. For example, see this statement from the Sierra Club opposing coal to liquids. It is opposite that of at least 61% of the Senate. And it's opposite the vote of the most reliable environmental votes in the Senate (Boxer, Kerry, Kennedy, Wyden, Whitehouse, etc). In fact, even the Senate's leading global warming skeptic (Inhofe) voted the same way Boxer did on this amendment! This vote is very telling of how Clinton and Obama would be on global warming, i.e., very weak. David Hawkins of NRDC testified before the Senate in 2006 and vividly described all the reasons why coal to liquids is a very bad idea.
  7. History has shown that what you see before the election is always better than what happens after the election, i.e., if you aren't thrilled with your candidate before the election, you are going to be very disappointed after the election.
  8. Of the top 3 candidates, I found that Edwards is way ahead of Clinton and Obama on climate change. This excellent analysis at Gristmill (Where the presidential candidates stand on climate and energy issues) is right on the money and found the same thing I did.

See Comparing the Candidates Summary Chart  for the current numerical rating of the candidates based on leadership abilities and a summary of key strengths and weaknesses.

Why this election is more important than any other election in our history

This is a really long web page. But this page is about your future and the future of your children and their children. Trust me...it's worth the 20 minutes it will take you to read it so you fully understand what is at stake. It may be one of the most important web pages you'll ever read.

Why should you trust me? Here's one reason. In the 2000 election, I published an analysis of George Bush who was running for President at the time. My analysis showed that Bush would be a complete disaster for the country because the evidence indicated very clearly that he ignores the facts, does whatever he wants, and then twists the facts to present a case that is exactly the opposite to what the facts show. That made him a very dangerous man. That's why I spent outrageous amounts of my own money (over $10M) to help Gore win. Sadly, not enough people believed me in 2000. Of course, a lot more people believe me now....7 years too late.

Today, I ask only that you read the material below in its entirety with an open mind.

Because of global warming, this election is totally unlike any other election in our history. We must choose wisely. If we pick a President who fails to cut our greenhouse gas emissions as fast and as deeply as we possibly can, or who fails to get other nations to start to follow our lead, then our people and our planet will suffer very dire irreversible consequences. See Global Warming urgency for details.

Scientists tell us that we must cut our emissions substantially by 2020 and then keep cutting until we've reduced emissions by 90% or more. The faster we do this, the better. If we do not do this, the problem becomes too big to solve because we pass a tipping point beyond which the oceans start emitting CO2. When that happens, climate is a runaway train; even if we drop our emissions to zero, we cannot stop it from growing. We cannot predict how hot it will get in that case. Eventually, things could get so bad that we may be unable to grow food anywhere on the planet. For example, this USA Today article points out that, among other bad things, that the entire continent of Australia will be unable to grow food at a 7.2 degree temperature rise. That may not be far away if we do not take action. Under one scenario in the IPCC report, temperatures could rise by 6.4 degrees Celsius by 2100 (see the A1FI scenario in Working Group I Summary For Policymakers Table SPM.3). And a report from our own National Academy of Sciences that just came out says this is now happening faster than the worst case IPCC predictions (i.e., worse than the A1FI scenario), i.e., it's much much worse than even the pessimists thought. And reality reflects this.

This fact is undeniable: this year, Australia may become the first continent that has to import food to survive. It only gets worse from there (although in some areas it gets better for a very small temperature increase, then it gets worse again after that). At some point (and they cannot predict when this will happen according to the IPCC report), all continents will be in the same position. The only trouble with that is when that happens, then where do we all import our food from? This question remains unanswered but if you know, please let me know!

If you think I'm exaggerating or that global warming isn't that serious or that we have more time, please see Global Warming: Why we need to cut dramatically by 2020 which explains the science, debunks the debunkers, and explains why we must take action now and why we must achieve dramatic cuts by 2020 and beyond rather than simply throw up our hands and say "we cannot solve this."

To avoid a global train wreck, we must start cutting dramatically by 2010 at the latest and we must achieve dramatic cuts (20% and preferably more) by 2020. So we must elect the a President in 2008 who has both the leadership skills and who clearly understands the urgency of the problem. And to do that we must elect the right candidate in the Primary. We cannot just elect any Democrat because of the frontrunners, currently only Edwards has clearly demonstrated that he has the leadership skills to solve this problem.

Why I focused my analysis on global warming and Iraq

Global warming is critical. It is not "just another issue." It is the big gorilla. It is certainly the most important issue of our generation. It is likely the most important issue in the history of our planet.

In a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, an overwhelming majority said they favor "immediate action" to confront the global warming crisis (90% democrats, 80% of independents, 60% of Republicans).

In an April Center for American Progress poll, 60 percent of Americans supported bold action on global warming. A staggering 79 percent believe shifting to alternative energy sources will help the economy and create, not cost, jobs. Voters think the United States is falling behind other countries, and they want government to lead.

And the sooner government leads, the sooner we reap the economic benefits. This NRDC report projects that California's battle against global warming will increase jobs and improve California's economy. So it's senseless to wait, even if you don't believe in global warming at all or are skeptical that we can win the battle.

That is why I decided to start my analysis with this this issue. I also looked at Iraq which I view as a big distraction from the real problem (global warming). We should be spending at least 100 times more money fighting global warming than preventing an inevitable civil war in Iraq. But we are doing the opposite! Which is more important? Spending all our available funds and resources in delaying an inevitable civil war in Iraq? Or preventing our planet from an irreversible melt down? Hmmm....now that is tough choice. Future generations will look back on this time and wonder "what were they thinking?" We must end the war in Iraq and fix this resource allocation now or the terrorists will surely have won for they will have succeeded in distracting us from tackling the real enemy: global warming.

If all the candidates were equally good on these 2 critical issues, then I could look at the other issues.

Secondly, I believe that examining their differences on these 2 issues (going beyond the 1 minute sound bites you get in the debates or in TV commercials) can tell you a lot about how the candidate will perform on other issues important to the nation. The analysis below validates that; if they lead on one issue, they were highly likely to lead on other issues and vice-versa.

Why I limited my research to the top 3 Democratic candidates

I spent a lot of time researching the candidates. I limited my analysis to the Democratic candidates because I want us out of Iraq now (which eliminates all the Republicans) and we need a candidate that takes global warming as a top priority (which again eliminates all the Republicans as you can see from this chart of Where the candidates stand that was put together by the League of Conservation voters.

Next, I limited my analysis to the top 3 Democratic candidates because the eventual winner is most likely one of them (but that can change). I've spoken with each of the top 3 candidates directly.

I started without a favorite. I like all 3 of the Democratic candidates and the only reason I started doing the research is because I knew I ultimately had to choose one, and I knew I had better choose wisely because the fate of our planet rests in our decisions more so in this election than in any other election in history.

If you had asked me to rate the candidates before I started doing this research, I would have rated Obama and Clinton at the top: Clinton because of her intelligence, experience and her ability to tap into the advice of President Clinton, and Obama because he has been extraordinary at inspiring people with his vision of the future attracting huge crowds when he speaks. Edwards seemed like a strong candidate too, but he didn't seem to have anything "special" I could point to. So I would have rated him #3. So my ranking mirrored the polls at the time.

But after I objectively analyzed the data, I was surprised to find that my initial impressions were wrong. Very wrong.

Ultimately, this race boils down to one word: leadership

Although I started my research focused on how the candidates would fare if I examined them only on global warming, I came to the conclusion that ultimately this race came down to one word: leadership. We need leadership to get out of Iraq. We need leadership to solve global warming. We need leadership to solve our domestic issues such as health care.

The evidence I found was both clear and consistent. In general, I found that Edwards is not only the best candidate on Iraq and global warming but the best candidate all-around and arguably the one best positioned to win the White House. He is, by far, the best candidate of the top 3 on leadership skills. He demonstrated this on Iraq and on global warming. The other two top contenders have not. It wasn't even close. I was shocked when I looked at the record. I found that Clinton and Obama have, in general, refused to take strong positions on the top issues, they have been followers on the top issues, they have failed to speak out and express their opinions on some of the top issues facing our country, they have not asked others to follow them. Obama supports legislation which is opposite to the position he articulates on global warming. You'll see many clear examples of this summarized below. It is evidence that is hard to ignore.

Nothing made this more clear to me than observing how the candidates handled the Iraq war funding. The Iraq Funding Bill example was a very clear and compelling analysis of how Edwards took a position and communicated it (via newspaper, TV, and e-mail) and asked people to follow him while Clinton and Obama remained silent. This was the top issue for most Democrats and it was a perfect example of how Clinton and Obama not only failed to lead, but they also consciously refused to make their positions known to anyone in advance of the vote.

Several people who read that analysis said "I think that Edwards is a very important candidate yet I think it is easy for him to send out alerts and emails on the war because he does not need to vote." I disagree. What makes "needing to vote" an excuse for not disclosing where you stand on an issue until after the vote is over? It doesn't! In fact, Chris Dodd, who is in the exact same position as Clinton and Obama (a current Senator running for President), announced to the world that he would vote "No," yet his opponents Obama and Clinton remained silent. This AP article which came out on May 23, the day before the Iraq funding bill vote points out the contrast:

Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama (news, bio, voting record) of Illinois, both leading presidential contenders, declined to say how they intended to vote on the measure. Sen. Christopher Dodd (news, bio, voting record), D-Conn., also a presidential contender, said he would oppose it.

The exact same thing happened with the Reid-Feingold amendment to stop funding the war; Dodd not only announced his position, but he ran TV ads to get people to urge Congress to support this amendment. Within a few hours after those TV ads started running, both Obama and Clinton announced their position...before the vote. So don't tell me that "it's different when you are in the Senate." That's simply not true. Dodd and Edwards were the leaders in speaking out and asking others to join in the cause; it was likely it was their efforts that caused the other 2 Senators to join.

On other votes, Clinton and Obama came out before the vote and announced how they intended to vote. On May 14, two days before the vote on Senator Feingold’s proposal to cut of war funding, both candidates were both mum on how they would vote. Then, one day before the vote, they both declared their support for a March 31, 2008 cutoff in funds. So they can tell people how they are going to vote before the vote. They just chose not to in this important case. That's a leadership problem.

Howard Dean's former web guru, Joe Trippi, points out in an interview (Trippi blasts Clinton, Obama on war) that Edwards was the only candidate urging the American people to urge their Members of Congress to send Bush the same bill over and over again and that his actions stand in stark contrast with the inactions of Clinton and Obama. Trippi is biased since he is working on the Edwards campaign, but his statements are right and match what I independently found.

Although on January 30, 2007, Obama did introduce the 'Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007' which calls for a goal of all U.S. troops to leave Iraq by March 31, 2008, in a phased redeployment worked out with military commanders," Lynn Sweet reported January 31, 2007, in the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to the Wikipedia, "Obama sponsored 152 bills and resolutions brought before the 109th Congress in 2005 and 2006, and cosponsored another 427." None of these were related to ending the war in Iraq.
Additionally, "once Obama got to Washington [in 2005], he made only one Senate speech on Iraq." [8]

Even more damaging is that Obama's bill is rather reminiscent of the June 21, 2006 Kerry-Feingold amendment which did substantially the same thing. That amendment was supported by 15 Senators (Edwards isn't listed since his Senate term had already ended), but not Clinton or Obama.

All the candidates are on their best behavior because they are trying to get our vote. We all know that once elected, Presidents always do worse than we thought (like how Bush went from saying we must regulate CO2 before he got elected to rescinding that in his first 60 days in office). So their inaction on the Iraq vote...that's probably as good as it is going to get.

Iraq is simple compared to global warming. The question you should ask yourself is:

If my candidate refused to speak out on Iraq before the vote, then why should I believe that he'll be the incredibly strong leader required to tackle the most difficult problem that our country has ever faced?

If you cannot answer that question, then perhaps you should re-think your decision.

Here's another interesting metric. Edwards sent 3 different emails in the March -April 2007 period with "global warming" in the subject line during this period. The others sent no emails at all regarding global warming. They didn't even mention it. Clinton and Obama signed onto the Sanders-Boxer bill in May. It's critical to our planet that this bill gets passed as soon as possible. It is called the "gold standard" of climate change bills. So why aren't they asking their supporters to call on their Senators to support this bill? That's what a strong leader would do; take a stand and enlist others to support it. Instead, they are silent on that critical bill. You cannot even find a press release from either candidate mentioning it. They never sent even an email to their supporters. They signed on silently and didn't tell anyone. No press stories even after they signed on. Sorry, but that is not the kind of bold leadership we need to solve this problem. I can guarantee it.

Comparing the 3 top candidates 19 different ways

Edwards ended up being my top choice for the following reasons:

  1. He's the strongest candidate on climate change. Climate change is the most important issue in our planet's history. We must make a dramatic greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by 2020 and we must help (and convince) other countries to follow our lead. We must start phasing in significant reductions by 2012 and ideally sooner.

    Global warming is also a very tough problem. It requires unprecedented international cooperation. If we are to mobilize the country and the world to win the war against global warming,  we will need an incredibly strong leader. We will need leader that has the courage to set a tough 2020 or 2030 GHG reduction goal and make it happen regardless of what the special interests want. We need a leader who is as dedicated to fighting global warming as President Bush is to winning the war in Iraq.

    I sent a 2-page letter to the top Democratic candidates explaining the problem and urging them to set a tough 10-year GHG reduction goal and adopt policies consistent with achieving that goal.

    Edwards has been way out in front of the others on setting a tough 2020 goal which is absolutely critical. He was praised by Sierra Club President Carl Pope for leading the way on global warming. He was the first presidential candidate to publicly pledge to the target of reducing U.S. GHG emissions by 80% by 2050. Clinton and Obama now support the Sanders-Boxer bill (S.309) which the Union of Concerned Scientists has called the "gold standard" of climate change bills in the Senate which has the same goal. But Clinton and Obama signed on to the bill almost 4 months after 11 other Senators had already signed on and more than 3 months after another Presidential candidate, Chris Dodd, signed on to the bill. That isn't leadership! That is followership. Clinton and Obama once again failed to lead on the most important global warming bill, just like they did in the Iraq blank check bill.

    And just like the Iraq "blank check" bill, both Clinton and Obama failed to ask their followers to support their position on this critical piece of global warming legislation. They never ever asked their supporters (in email or in their speeches) to call their Senators and urge them to co-sponsor on to this bill. Do you know why? Don't they care about global warming? If so, why aren't they doing things well within their power to solve the problem? Why are they leaving the heavy lifting to Senator Boxer and others?

    They can't say they will get to it after they are elected. Boxer's bill needs to be passed right now. There is no question that the sooner we pass legislation like Sanders-Boxer, the less it will cost our economy and our environment. The sooner we act the greater our chances of avoiding a climate tipping point. No leading scientist would dispute that.

    Even large business interests want a bill passed soon.  They want the regulatory certainty that will allow them to make smart long-term investments, e.g., the US Climate Action Partnership members (http://www.us-cap.org/).

    So why are Clinton and Obama not even asking their constituents for help on this critical issue? It's not like it costs them anything. The email to their supporters is free. Incorporating the ask in their speeches is free. Why are they choosing not to lead? This battle must be fought starting now, not after they are elected. It's the same with Iraq...they should be leading the fight now, not after they are elected.

    In addition, Obama and Clinton both had the opportunity, in their testimony in front of Boxer's committee in January 2007, to say that the goals in Sanders-Boxer don't go far enough and they think the goals should be even stronger. That would be real leadership. It would be inspirational. It would be what our leading scientists tell us must be done. But they didn't. This is the most critical issue facing our world today, and they didn't talk about what the specific GHG reduction goal needs to be within the critical next 10-year period.

    In Senator Clinton's written testimony she said that McCain-Lieberman sets "strong targets." Unfortunately, the problem is that the targets that bill advocates are still not strong enough to get the job done as you can see from the analysis of the climate change bills which shows that the McCain-Lieberman bill doesn't even keep us in the "IPCC safety zone" (which is far less safe than you think because all IPCC recommendations are optimistic because almost all the scientists have to agree). You can read and watch their testimony on the Senate hearing on Global Warming page (Obama is on the video only; Edwards is missing because he's no longer in the Senate!).

    The only global-warming-related legislation proposed by Senator Clinton I could find was: S.701 which would impose a temporary oil profit fee to provide a Strategic Energy Fund and S.1059 which would improve Federal building efficiency standards.

    On June 23, 2005, Clinton voted against the Durbin amendment to increase fuel efficiency of passenger cars. You can make a pretty good argument that you cannot say you are serious about fixing global warming and then break with your fellow Democrats and vote along with the Republicans against increasing efficiency. Increasing fuel efficiency is on the short list of recommendations from every environmental group I know of; it reduces global warming, and it decreases our dependence on foreign oil. The 40 mpg by 2016 goal is not a lot higher than the average fuel economy required of vehicles sold in Europe and China today. Studies have shown that increasing fuel efficiency to 40 mpg would save three million barrels per day-the single biggest step to reducing our dependence on oil. 28 Senators, including Presidential candidates Dodd and Obama and voted in favor of the Durbin amendment. Clinton and Republican Presidential candidate McCain voted against it. While Edwards didn't vote (he had finished his Senate term in 2004), he has strongly endorsed a 40 mpg by 2016 increase in CAFE and includes it in his Energy Plan and in speeches (like the ones in the video of his New Hampshire talks).

    So why did she vote No? I talked to her energy staffer and learned that she was persuaded by fellow Democrat Senator Levin that it is time to re-think how the CAFE standards are calculated (the argument that it is unfair to American companies due to the vehicle mix we sell) and allow for leapfrog technology and help the auto companies achieve even bigger gains. This is actually a pretty courageous move on her part since she had the courage to vote her beliefs, independent of what her fellow Democrats were doing. So if that's what she had in mind, and I have no reason to doubt it, then her desire to say, "let's scrap this because we need to something more fair and more aggressive" is very reasonable.

    She gave a speech at the National Press Club on May 23, 2006, where she set a "concrete goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil by at least 50 percent by 2025." She went on: "And how will we get there? Two words: innovation and efficiency." It's a long speech; here is a summary of the key points. There are no greenhouse gas reduction goals. There should have been. These are the most important to have. And the two ways to get there are close. The two ways you get there are: efficiency and renewables as pointed out in the ASES Climate Change report on page 3.

    On May 15, 2007, at an Obama event at the Plug-and-Play center in Silicon Valley, I asked Obama why it took him almost 4 months to sign on to the Sanders-Boxer bill. He said it was because he was a co-sponsor of the (weaker) McCain-Lieberman bill (S.280) and that the Boxer bill was so tough that it wouldn't pass so his support would only be symbolic. Sorry, but that's definitely the wrong answer. A real leader takes positions that are necessary for the safety of our country and then inspires others to follow. In this case, Boxer's bill isn't just a good bill; it is absolutely required if we are to have any chance at all to stop global warming. Obama and Clinton should have jumped on this bill in January when it was introduced and spent their time helping Boxer convince other Senators to support it. That would be a real demonstration of leadership on the most critical issue that this planet has ever faced. Instead, Clinton and Obama left the real climate leadership to Boxer and Edwards. Edwards, who is not in the Senate anymore, on March 16, became the first presidential candidate to publicly pledge to the target of reducing U.S. GHG emissions by 80% by 2050, a goal which parallels Boxer's bill.

    Obama's answer is also inconsistent with his actions. If Obama has a policy of not signing on to bills that are only symbolic, then why did he sign on as a co-sponsor of Sanders-Boxer on May 3? The bill did not change at all since it was introduced. Obama signed on Thursday morning; Clinton signed on a few hours later. I just wished he would have signed on at the start and let his supporters know to tell their Senators to sign on to this. He still hasn't done that.

    Obama's CAFE bill (S.3694) to increase mileage standards has good intentions, but Obama did not accept any of the recommendations of the Sierra Club to fix the bill. I suspect he did that because it would make the bill harder to pass, not because the ideas they suggested were bad ones. It is much easier to pass a bill that has lots of escape clauses than a bill with more teeth. As written, the bill would only work under an administration that is 100% devoted to climate change. But in the real world, it is basically toothless since NHTSA has never raised fuel economy standards even when they are supposed to. As Obama likes to point out, the Obama-Lugar bill certainly flips the initial consideration at NHTSA from one where they start from a zero baseline and go up from there to one that starts a 4% and then goes down. But what Obama doesn't like to point out is that once NHTSA makes the determination to set standards weaker than the 4% target, it starts from an assumption of 0% increase and sets the weaker standards based upon technical feasibility and economic practicality - which is what NHTSA does under current law, only now, the industry has more statutory hooks to sue over. Given that NHTSA has been able to justify recent increases of less than 1% improvements in light truck fuel economy as the maximum technically feasible and economically practicable, there is no guarantee that the agency would change how it operates. NHTSA's predilection for manipulating the science, the economics, and the law is the basis for the Sierra Club's current lawsuit in the 9th Circuit.

    We are way behind China and Europe; those countries require cars get 45 mpg which is almost twice what cars in the US get. The UCS supports the bill but the Sierra Club's analysis of Obama's CAFE bill concluded it was nearly useless. They wrote: "it is likely that this bill will not do much to raise CAFE."  There are way too many loopholes for them to choose not to act, which means nothing is likely to change from where we are today, i.e., zero progress. That is why it is easier to get co-sponsors whereas a bill with no loopholes like Feinstein's bill, is much harder to pass. We have the technology today to double our efficiency and make vehicles that cost less to manufacture and are safer (e.g., switching to hypercar materials), so why do we need the escape clauses in Obama's bill? Why aren't there any non-negotiable minimums to ensure some forward progress?

    Here's what the New York Times said about the bill in an editorial January 30, 2007 (note the word "could be" rather than "is"):

    But there’s a way Congress can get moving. Senator Barack Obama plans to reintroduce a bill that would set a 4 percent annual increase in efficiency as a target, just what Mr. Bush says he wants. The bill would also give both the Transportation Department and the manufacturers considerable flexibility. But the department could not deviate from the target unless it could demonstrate that the costs outweighed the benefits.

    Even that is too much wiggle room for lawmakers like Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Edward Markey. While allowing for administrative flexibility, they would require a firm fleetwide standard of 35 m.p.g. with no escape hatches. But given the long Congressional stalemate, the Obama bill could be an important first step. It commands some bipartisan support, and unlike Mr. Bush’s approach, it promises real as opposed to hypothetical results.

    Obama's low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) (S.1324) (modeled after California's law) is a good bill. It forces companies to sell a cleaner mix of fuels, i.e., make hydrogen, E85, and other fuels available. In theory, the cap and trade (auctioning permits) should be sufficient to achieve the desired result so this should be unnecessary. There are basically two rules for good policy: the fewer the government rules, the better and the rules should focus on endpoints (i.e., fewer milestones are better) and not on specific paths. But if you are going to add a few more rules, this is a good thing.

    On the neutral side, there's Obama's "Health for Hybrids" bill (S.1151). I agree with the reviewers who say this bill just combines two bad ideas (and summing two negatives doesn't give a positive). For example, see: So, Where's the Beef in Obama's Big New Ideas?: Kevin Hassett or Obama’s “Health Care for Hybrids” by Nicole Gelinas. In addition, the Health for Hybrids bill does not reward results; it rewards only investment. Detroit is not forced to sell any additional hybrids. They are not even incentivized to sell more hybrids. Nor are they forced to improved their average fuel economy by even 1 mile per gallon! It requires only that the fuel economy cannot go down (see Sec. 102(c)(4) of the bill)! Give me a break... we're going to give you all this money and you are going to guarantee that it won't get worse!?!? This is leadership? This is going to get us cleaner cars by requiring things not get worse!?! At least it doesn't make things worse, and it could make things better. But holding the companies accountable for results that we can see would be much better. That's why it is a neutral rating.

    I think there are much better ways that government can spend money. Government should reward results, not reward R&D investment. How about giving a big reward for the first US car maker to achieve an average fuel economy for passenger vehicles of 100 miles per gallon equivalent of CO2 instead? That's possible to achieve pretty quickly. The prize for 2nd place would be smaller. The prize for 3rd place would be even smaller. Then you'd have the big 3 tripping all over themselves to outdo their competitors. Who would oppose that bill? If the car makers can't do it (like they claim), it costs the government nothing.

    And on the really bad side, in January 2007, Obama re-introduced his "coal to liquids" bill (S.155) which actually makes the GHG problem twice as bad (or at best 4% worse than gas if all the CO2 were sequestered which Obama's bill rewards, but does not require). Read this posting at gristmill entitled Barack Obama is not serious about global warming which examines Obama's bill pointing out that the bill doesn't require greenhouse gases be reduced; it only provides incentives to employ technology that is still unproven (carbon capture and storage). All the experts I talked with are all vehemently opposed to coal to liquids (CTL) because it is costly, twice the GHG emissions as the fuel it replaces as you can see from this news story from the New York Times on coal to liquids. Here is a wonderful editorial from the New York Times that argues that coal to liquids is just an incredibly stupid idea since much better alternatives are available. Even worse, Obama is the co-chair of the Senate Coal to Liquid Caucus! My favorite though is the urgent email MoveOn.org sent to its members entitled "Turning every Prius into a Hummer" calling the coal to liquids legislation that Obama is championing "the greatest single threat to solving the climate crisis in a decade." How can you top that?

    On June 2, 2007, I asked Obama about this and he said his bill requires sequestration and that coal is our most abundant resource so you can't eliminate coal out from the equation. But this is wrong on several accounts.

    First, his bill only incentivizes sequestration of the emissions; it does not require it. This has been pointed out by many people. You can even read the bill: S.155 in Sec. 204(a). It is an extra tax credit if you sequester; it is not required.

    Ironically, he said it in California. California already done exactly that! It's now illegal in California to buy power from a coal plant and our economy is growing! And it is VERY possible to totally eliminate coal in every other state as well. It just requires vision and the right leader. Even more ironically, it took a Republican governor for this to happen!

    He's still on coal because it is abundant. That's stupid. It's the wrong criteria. LCV has declared "war on coal." There are plenty of clean technologies which are cost effective and which wean us off of dependence on oil and reduce global warming at the same time. Those are the things he should incentivize. Biomass to liquids is much cleaner than coal to liquids (and using wood as a BTL source is actually negative GHG emission, i.e., it absorbs CO2). Other alternatives include better vehicle efficiency (the cheapest of all options),  Fuel efficient aftermarket tires (this alone can ramp up savings faster than CTL), low-carbon electricity to power plug-in hybrids, cellulosic ethanol, and hydrogen as a fuel (which can be burned cleanly in both existing internal combustion engines as well as fuel cells).

    Technically, he's misinformed in his belief that coal is our most abundant energy resource. It isn't. Some estimates are that the Earth has 50,000 times more geothermal energy than all the known oil and gas reserves known today. And with the minmal government investments, it is very economical and clean according to a new MIT study. This wikipedia article on Geothermal power notes that geothermal can supply the entire world's energy needs for the next 30,000 years! By contrast, we have only 300 years of coal left. So Obama is ignoring a 100% clean resource that is more than 100 times bigger than coal and costs less (when you factor in the "cost" of pollution caused by the CO2 emissions of coal).

    Abundance should NOT be the criteria on which to select a fuel. We must factor in the true cost of CO2 and look for options which are the most efficient and which will meet our GHG goal. Obama still doesn't get the "and" clause and he doesn't talk about it at all. To him, it is OK if we incentivize a fuel that increases GHG emissions (even if you sequester all the CO2 it is still worse than diesel!) if we are making cuts elsewhere. But you simply can't get there from here. To get the 80% GHG reduction that Obama supports (the goal in Sanders-Boxer bill that Obama supports), we must focus our efforts on replacing every fuel we have with a GHG-free fuel. I don't know why he doesn't get that. Take a look at the chart at the end of this New York Times article showing that coal to liquids is a step backwards, even if you sequester all the CO2! We will never reach our GHG reduction goals with a President who spends time championing fuels which are far worse than the fuels we currently use. Never. Nor will anyone follow us. We have to "walk the talk." We have to look at all our options and incentivize the energy sources which get the job done at the lowest price, not sources which are simply abundant. See this Washington Post article which makes the same point. That is why Obama gets a 4. Until he "gets it" that the solutions must be sufficient to meet the goals he sets, our planet is hosed. I'm not the first to point this out that he isn't "walking the talk." This blog figured it out in January 6, right after he re-introduced his coal to liquids bill, giving nearly identical commentary to what I wrote when I found out about Obama's coal to liquid legislation.

    Finally, according to a Clean Air Watch blog (which is a public interest blog focused on clean air and not on supporting any particular candidate), "One of DC’s little secrets is that environmentalists breathed a big sigh of relief when Obama recently left the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee."  However, this is an unfair comment. I checked with the head of one well known environmental group and he said he felt that environmental groups were "mostly neutral" about Obama's departure. I believe that because (1) I heard it directly and (2) it is consistent with Obama's legislative track record and leadership on this issue.

    The question for you is whether you think that someone that the environmental groups are "mostly neutral" about and who is also the champion of the greatest single threat to solving the climate crisis in a decade is the best guy to lead this nation in solving the most critical environmental problem that this country has ever experienced. It's hard to get very excited about that prospect.

    On the positive side, Obama does have a 100% LCV record. That is far better than Edwards (who got a low score because he missed votes due to his campaign) and slightly better than Clinton. Also, the Sierra Club and LCV have endorsed him. And in 2004, he brought the enviros to their knees with a speech at an LCV rally. Plus, he has a long history of environmental activism.

    All of that is great background. But continuing to champion coal to liquids even after all the environmentalists are telling him it is a mistake while at the same time saying we must tackle global warming shows incredibly poor judgment on the most pressing issue our world has ever faced. This disqualifies him for me and if you read my writeup on just how urgently we need to tackle global warming, it should disqualify him for you too.

    There is only one way we are going to beat climate change. We need someone like Edwards who is out in front of the climate change train, not someone who is going to be run over by it.

  2. All three say they will end the war in Iraq; but Clinton and Obama voted against setting a deadline to get out of Iraq in 2006! Clinton and Obama are followers on other top issues such as Iraq. See The Iraq Funding Bill example for the best example of how they were afraid to express their views on ending the Iraq war, even waiting to see how other Senators voted before they voted.

    Earlier this year, they both stalled for weeks getting on board the Reid-Feingold amendment which was introduced on April 10, 2007 to end the Iraq war. I thought this was a priority for them!  But it wasn't until May 15, after Edwards urged all Senators to support this amendment and Chris Dodd ran TV ads criticizing his opponents for not backing this measure that Clinton and Obama finally signed on... only a few hours after the TV ads started. Coincidence? Leadership? Or followership? The New York Times reported this about Senator Clinton: "But when asked by a reporter whether she supported the underlying idea of the Feingold bill, to cut off financing for major combat operations next spring, she declined to say yes or no."

    On the Iraq funding bill second attempt in May 2007, Dodd and Edwards came out against it very early and urged their supporters to contact their Representatives. But Clinton and Obama were silent on their position on whether or not to give Bush a blank check on the Iraq war until after they voted. Is this the leadership the country needs? Silence on an issue that an overwhelming majority of Americans want fixed? Is that the kind of leadership you want?

    A year ago, on June 22, 2006, Clinton and Obama both had an opportunity to be leaders and join with 15 other courageous Senators in supporting the Kerry-Feingold amendment to set a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq. Obama and Clinton chose not to support withdrawal from Iraq! Obama and Clinton were afraid to take a courageous stand for a position supported by the vast majority of Americans! They both voted against setting a deadline for getting out of Iraq! Read Senator Kerry's page on the Kerry-Feingold amendment which was supported by 15 Senators (Edwards isn't listed since his Senate term had already ended), but not Clinton or Obama.
  3. Edwards is the best on healthcare. Only Edwards has a plan that will cover everyone. Obama's doesn't. And Hillary has so far just suggested reducing the power of insurance companies and computerizing medical records! Hmm.... tough choice. See this May 30, 2007 Boston Globe editorial for details on the plans from all three candidates: Obama's incomplete health plan - The Boston Globe
  4. Any of the top 3 can win in the general election. We must have a Democratic President in 2008 or our planet is hosed. Failure is not an option. So the Democrats should elect the guy who will do the best with independents. Edwards has historically polled better than his opponents against the Republican Presidential candidates. So put your personal choice aside and think who has the best shot of winning the general and you'd pick Edwards. For more discussion on this issue, see Ted Rall's voting analysis where he points out "And John Edwards, the number three Democrat, would defeat either leading GOP contender." One other point is that Edwards emerged pretty much unscathed by the Republican smear machine in the 2004 cycle. So he's battle-tested.

    The latest polls show that Edwards is the only candidate than can beat any Republican challenger. That is critical!

    Conservative columnist Robert Novak points out in Iowa, Edwards is way ahead of the other candidates and he's totally battle-tested; the other candidates aren't.

    And Edwards is a lot better now than he was in 2004. He's clearly learned some important lessons from the 2004 campaign as this editorial from the Boston Globe points out. Everyone makes mistakes. It takes a lot of courage to admit them. And he's not making the same mistake again in this campaign.

    The thought of a Republican President would indeed be devastating for our planet: Mitt Romney echoes Dick Cheney, pitting the economy against clean energy, warning that "Republicans should never abandon pro-growth conservative principles in an effort to embrace the ideas of Al Gore."

    Senator Clinton has a fantastic campaign machine. But unfortunately, she is polarizing; some love her, others hate her. That may be a problem if we want to win the general election. Personally, I'm a fan... and she'd be a super-strong candidate in my mind if she understands and fixes the 4 items I suggested at the start of this article.

    People like Obama, and he's attracted huge crowds and has a huge supporter base. But even his supporters admit he's weak on policy. One guy told me (referring to Obama, "hope is not a plan." Were you inspired after reading the Sierra Club's review of his CAFE bill where they concluded it wouldn't do much? Of his three energy-related bills, that's his best piece of legislation. Is that the guy who you believe is best suited to solve the greatest problem that our planet has ever faced?

    If you believe this analysis changed your opinion about the candidates, then imagine what will happen when the Republicans go on attack mode.
  5. He is a tireless worker for causes he believes in. Take a look at this incredible blog post on MyDD about Edwards (JRE's Journey: Edwards Goes Left is also available on Daily Kos) that covers a broad range of issues. It wasn't written by anyone in his campaign, and it's a more convincing piece than I've seen for any of the candidates including the Edwards campaign itself. That piece removed all doubt that I made the right decision. It is extremely compelling. It has also withstood the attacks of detractors on both MyDD and Daily Kos as you can see from the comments. Former Congressman, David Bonior is quoted in that piece as saying this about Edwards:
    I haven't seen someone as a national figure do as much on workers' rights and poverty in my lifetime. That includes Bobby Kennedy and people in politics in the `60s. He helped organize people in probably 85 different actions, from hotel workers to university janitors to people who work in buildings and factories. He was out there demonstrating, marching, picketing, writing letters to CEOs, demanding that [workers] have the right to organize and represent themselves. He started a center on poverty and became the director at the University of North Carolina. He traveled the country and was a leader in getting a minimum-wage bill passed in eight states.
  6. He has the courage to ask Americans to help fix America's problems. To beat global warming, Americans are going to have to sacrifice. We need a President who is not afraid to ask Americans to do that. John has actually done this. And he got a standing ovation from the crowd for having the courage to take this stand. Take a look at this video of John in New Hampshire on February 27 or just read the transcript that is on that page. This is the most inspiring video clip I've seen from any candidate. Totally unscripted. Finally! A candidate who really "gets it" about global warming and is willing to take a strong stand in America to ask us to help solve this crisis and then work with other countries to follow our lead. Bravo!
  7. He has integrity. He's not afraid to publicly admit it when he makes a mistake. Edwards admitted his Iraq vote was a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. I have a lot of respect for people who publicly admit their mistakes and learn from them. Not only does he admit his mistake, but now he wants to make it right. And he's doing it in both his words and his actions to stop the war.

    A high-profile Democratic donor told me, "We've known him since the 2004 campaign. He has more integrity than any other candidate we've known...and we've met a lot of them [I can vouch for that!]. With Edwards, what you see is what you get. He's not going to be swayed by political consultants telling him what he should do to get the most votes."

    Unlike Edwards, Senator Clinton steadfastly refuses to admit that her original Iraq vote was a mistake. She can't admit the truth. That makes it very hard for me to trust what she says. Take a look at this video where Edwards pointed that out very clearly and eloquently in the first debate, America needs someone they can trust.

    But Edwards missed a more important point. Failing to admit you made a mistake is a trait that President Bush has too. That is why we are still in Iraq... because Bush refuses to admit that his post-war strategy isn't working.

    Clinton has exactly the same problem as Bush; she must look perfect and she cannot admit she made a mistake. So if she makes a mistake and picks the wrong strategy to mitigate climate change , and that strategy turns out to make the problem worse, I predict that she will not be able to correct it because if she did, she will be admitting she made a mistake. This is very likely to happen since there are lots of paths in energy that seem "good" but actually make the problem worse such as many biofuels (as Monbiot points out in "Heat., but other scientists tell me the same thing).

    Charles Peters, in the May 2007 issue of Washington Monthly (of which he is the founding editor) got it right when he wrote, "Hillary's one weakness is a dismaying one for a president. It is a desire to appear perfect that cannot allow her to admit a mistake. This trait of Hillary's is why I'm so uncomfortable with her candidacy for president."

    Kos on Clinton after the June 3 debate said the same thing I have been saying:

    Hillary Clinton: "I trusted Bush on Iraq." That, alone, should be enough to disqualify her. "Good judgment" is a must-have trait for our next president.

    I don't know why she just can't say about her war authorization vote: "I regret that vote. It was a mistake." Edwards did so and it hasn't hurt him. In fact, given our current president's inability to admit a mistake, being honest about the biggest whiffs is kind of refreshing. But Hillary is learning the worst lessons from Bush. And thus, rather than admit she screwed up, she's reduced to arguing that she placed all her trust on Bush.

    In my book, saying "I made a mistake" will always trump "I trusted Bush."

    Because those of us who were watching closely, in 2003, knew damn well that Bush couldn't be trusted on anything.

    Senator Gravel also pointed the same thing out about Clinton in this Huffington Post opinion piece.

    But perhaps the single most significant impact of Clinton's perfection problem is that it also causes her not to take the bold stand that this country needs in order to muster the sense of urgency required to solve the problem. If you are afraid of being wrong, you will never be bold. She is cautious. This Washington Post opinion piece points out that "in Clinton's case, she is dead center in American public opinion, foursquare for what's popular and courageously opposed to what's not.

    Even though all our best climate scientists tell us that it is urgent that we cut greenhouse gasses dramatically as fast as we can, I don't believe she can convey the same sense of urgency to the public because they might be wrong and she afraid of being labeled an "alarmist" In short, she isn't going to tell us the truth about how bad it is until it is perfectly safe to do so. And with self-proclaimed "energy experts" such as novelist Michael Crichton, Senator Inhofe's extensive media guide to global warming, and others stirring the fear, uncertainty and doubt pot (even though all their arguments don't hold up under scruntiny), that will never happen. If we have a leader who fears telling us the truth because she might be wrong, we aren't going to have the political will to be able to solve the problem.

    This isn't just my theory. This is true for her stance on global warming. She realizes it is important, yet she refuses to take the strong stand required to solve the problem. Environmentalists I know who have discussed this issue face-to-face with her find her stance disheartening. It's likely only going to get worse from here if she is elected.

    Edwards, on the other hand, is not going to be shy about being straight with the American people. I can imagine his message will be something like this: "there is high agreement among our best scientists that we need to be cutting our greenhouse gas emissions as quickly and as deeply as we can in order to avoid severe consequences that our best economists believe are likely to cost us more to repair than to prevent from happening in the first place. Therefore, the most responsible course for the country is to follow their advice, rather than ignore it. It would be the equivalent of going to 100 doctors, where 99 say you have cancer and will die without aggressive treatment and the other doctor says he's not sure what is causing your problems. What do you do? Seek aggressive treatment now or ignore the problem until all 100 doctors agree?"

    Obama voted against the war so he's fine with me on Iraq. Good judgment on Obama's part since we never had evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the US was in danger. That (the "criminal standard of proof") should be the standard for going to war. But will Obama admit that his championing of coal-to-liquids is a mistake since it contributes to global warming at twice the rate of existing fuels? Will he admit that he failed to speak out before the "Iraq blank check funding" bill vote? So far he has not.

  8. Edwards is more likely to act fast enough to save the planet. Presidents almost always accomplish less than they promise when they are running. So what you are seeing during the campaigns is typically the "best" you are going to get. So look now very carefully at their leadership on Iraq and their leadership on global warming. Are you thrilled with it? You better be because that's the best you're going to get...it all goes downhill from here. Edwards uses words like "crisis" and "immediate action" when he talks about climate change. The others don't convey this type of urgency.
  9. He's a nice guy. People like him. I like John. I have always liked John since I first met him 6 years ago. He's a real solid guy, very personable both 1-on-1 and in front of a group. He is very smart and totally sincere in his desire to serve the public. He may not be as great an orator as Obama, but he's very close. He's just really solid all around. Not just on climate change, but on other issues as well. And as a candidate, he's improved a lot since 2004. He doesn't have any major negatives that would cause me to think twice about having him as President. I've talked to a lot of people and nobody has anything bad to say about John. That's a major plus. One negative I've heard is "he doesn't have any foreign policy experience." That's true, but the same can be said for his opponents. Then there is that video on YouTube of Edwards combing his hair. They slowed it down; he actually spent about 20 seconds combing his hair. If that is his biggest negative, then we all should be rushing to elect him.
  10. He really walks the talk. Some people say his big house sets a "bad example" and he doesn't "walk the talk." That's ridiculous. I couldn't disagree more. The "talk" is to ask people to "be energy efficient and carbon neutral." The talk is NOT to ask people "to move to small houses and stop using energy." John's house is Energy-Star compliant. Is yours? Do you think any of the other candidates live in homes that meet that standard? John uses about $300/mo in electricity. That's a lot less than a lot of people I know (including me). His home may in fact use less electricity than the homes of the other candidates. What's wrong with that? He pays for carbon offsets so that the house is carbon neutral. How about you? How about the other candidates? I think he sets a great example: you can be carbon neutral without having to change your lifestyle at home. He wants people to make decisions that are energy efficient and carbon neutral. Edwards was also the second candidate to go carbon neutral in his campaign (Vilsack was first). So Edwards himself has gone way beyond what he's asking people to do. In fact, if everyone in the country followed his example in their home, we wouldn't be in this mess! He also gave up his SUV for a more fuel efficient hybrid. And he's swapped out his incandescent lights with fluorescents. Have you?
  11. He's been out leading people to cutting GHG while the other candidates have done nothing. Check out Reduce Your Carbon. Edwards has motivated people to cut 40 million pounds of carbon as of May 26, 2007. The others: zero. It is very inspiring that he is committed to using the the national soap box you get from running for office to encourage Americans to act on crucial issues including both the war in Iraq and on climate change. Other candidates aren't doing this.
  12. He has the strongest plan to fight global warming. League of Conservation Voters head Gene Karpinski praises Edwards for having the "most comprehensive" plan. See more at this Tom Paine article on the candidates and global warming.
  13. He's not afraid to step up to the plate and set strong goals for America. Edwards was the first major candidate to publicly commit to cutting GHG by 80% by 2050. Also, he would require any new coal plants being built to incorporate carbon capture and storage (CCS). This is absolutely critical to reducing GHG emissions. Yet, his opponents haven't taken a position on this issue. Obama's CTL bill makes sequestration optional, for example. This Washington Post opinion piece points out that "in Clinton's case, she is dead center in American public opinion, foursquare for what's popular and courageously opposed to what's not. Most Americans oppose a precipitous pullout from Iraq and -- surprise! -- so does Clinton." In short, she follows public opinion, she doesn't lead it.
  14. He can articulate his top priorities, gets input from subject matter experts, and follows their advice. Edwards has told people that he has 4 top priorities: Iraq, global warming, healthcare, jobs and poverty. Amazingly, these four priorities are listed on the home page of his website. That's truly astounding. We finally have a candidate who is not only clear about his priorities, but he actually put them on his home page. I've been urging candidates to do this for years and this is the first time I've seen it done!

    And then he goes to the experts in each area and tells them that he wants to have the strongest platform on each of these issues and seeks advice on how to accomplish that. That's clear from reading his website; input from experts gets turned into the policy that Edwards has adopted and put on his website—intact!

    Now that is a refreshing change from "business as usual." I talked to a former Kerry advisor. Here's what he wrote about Kerry:
    I worked for several days crafting energy-climate things for Kerry, who has been a pretty close friend of mine for a long time. Whether drinking beer in private or shouting into a microphone, he clearly gets it. His staff seemed to get it. But if you look at the actual focus-grouped-and-expert-reviewed lowest-common-denominator statements finally issued by the campaign, I doubt you can find five words of mine still strung together in the same order I wrote them. The campaign stuff was all embarrassingly "political" in the worst sense of that word -- a little something for everyone.

    Turns out that the same thing could be said about Gore in 2000.

  15. The confidential info I obtained matches the conclusions of the public info. The conclusions I made from some confidential info I received match that of the public data. If you don't know me, this may not sound credible. But I'm the opposite of Bush; if I find data that conflicts, I'll share the fact it conflicts. For example, in the Comparing the top 3 Democratic candidates table, I show the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.
  16. His public face = his private face. I know from my own experience (when I lobbied him when he was in the Senate) and from people close to Edwards that you're seeing the real deal; he's the same way in public that he is privately. Clinton is too (based on my own experience sitting next to her at dinner). My guess is Obama is too, but I don't have anything to back that up.
  17. Most of my peers prefer him. When I asked a mix of Washington insiders as well as people in my company, almost all pick Edwards. I was pretty surprised by how lopsided it was for the people I know.
  18. He thinks like a leader: he sets clear, measurable goals then creates the strategies to achieve those goals. I looked carefully at the issues pages of the candidates. In particular, I focused on what they said about global warming since that is the most important issue of our lives and since I'm very knowledgeable in that area.

    Clinton's issue page on energy was pretty general. But maybe that's because the site designers wanted to keep the site at a high level rather than try to appeal to policy wonks like me. But the most important part, the GHG reduction target by 2020, was missing. Nothing about a 2050 goal either. There's no excuse for that. Leaders have to set clear, measurable goals. JFK's man on the moon goal could be expressed in one sentence. Leaders set goals first, then they talk about how to get there. Clinton's site talked about ways to reduce our emissions, but we don't know "how much? by when?" so there is no way to evaluate a policy as to whether it will achieve the goal since there is no goal.

    Because of the generic nature of her issue page on energy, I think it is more fair to evaluate her on her Energy Policy speech at the National Press Club on May 23, 2006. I could probably write an analysis of that speech that is as long as the speech was.

    Here are just a few of the points of Clinton's speech:

    • The 3 greatest challenges we face as a nation are: (1) how do we keep our economy strong? (2) How do we keep our communities safe? (3) How do we protect our values?
    • Our values demand that we be good stewards of the planet for our children. We are failing that simple moral test if we continue to stand by as the Earth warms faster than at any time in the past 200,000 years.
    • Today, I want to suggest a concrete goal of reducing our dependence on foreign oil by at least 50 percent by 2025.

    She has a lot of good ideas in that speech. But what is most disturbing that she is missing the big picture. Based on her speech, you'd conclude that she sees global warming as a stewardship and a values issue. If I were giving that speech, I'd have a far different set of top 3 priorities. My top 3 priorities: global warming, global warming, and global warming. Saying anything else just isn't honest or accurate. Energy independence is important, but you get that "for free" if you focus doing the things you'd do for global warming.

    If you look at her website (June 8, 2007), what you find is:

    Hillary recognizes that global climate change is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time. She supports policies to reduce carbon emissions and other pollution that contribute to global warming.
  19. Again, she positions global warming as a moral issue. But global warming is way beyond being a moral issue. Lack of water is not a moral issue. Hurricanes are not a moral issue. Flooding isn't a moral issue. Whole continents unable to grow food anymore isn't a moral issue. Insurance companies refusing to write policies in Florida anymore isn't a moral issue. People dying of starvation isn't a moral issue. The list goes on and on. See Global Warming: Why we can't wait and see if you agree with her assessment after reading it.

    Secondly, her focus on reducing our dependence on foreign oil is completely misplaced. That is like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Her focus should have been on setting a concrete goal for GHG reductions, not energy independence. But there is no GHG reduction goal to be found anywhere in that speech.

    It's possible she did that for political reasons. I've talked to a lot of voters and they care more about energy independence than global warming because the former seems to more directly affect them (the price of gas).

    So even if she had the superb leadership skills to lead our country and the world to follow her, if her judgment is so poor that she picks the wrong thing to focus on, we're toast, i.e., if her focus is on energy independence rather than greenhouse gasses, then she will have won the battle (energy independence) but lost the war (planet burns up). This is not a good outcome. Had she instead focused on global warming, she would find that "energy independence" is achieved along the way as a fringe benefit.

    From a source who knows her well, I learned that Clinton does not think like a leader; she is still stuck in "Senator mode" evaluating policy decisions based on whether it could pass rather than in the context of a new leader who sets the agenda based on what is best for the country and then figures out how to get others to march behind her. I saw some evidence of this first hand myself. I asked her about her Iraq "blank check" vote...why she waited to vote. She said she didn't want to create a media frenzy. That's a fine answer if you are a Senator; but if you are a leader, you'd relish the media frenzy since it creates an opportunity to get your message out.

    She is not yet willing to be bold on global warming at this point and hasn't put the elements of an aggressive plan together in one place. She knows climate change is "important" but she still does not "get" how urgent it really is. When she talked about climate change on May 31, 2007, she used words like "it must be done" and "fast track." Just 1 hour earlier, Edwards talked about climate change on an LCV call and used the words "crisis" and "immediate action." Richardson says "act boldly and act now." Subtle differences in phrasing, but you can see from the words that Edwards and Richardson really get the sense of urgency of climate change and Clinton isn't there yet. So the subtle language choices I observed is consistent with observations of others who had 1-on-1 time with her.

    One thing I know for sure: if you are not willing to be bold with a capital B-O-L- and D, then you will fail with a capital F-A-I-L. On May 31, I asked her directly about this and she says yes, she wants to be bold about climate change. That's good, but I want to see it reflected in her speeches and policy. I'll help her do that and I'll let you know how it goes.

    In contrast, Edwards has it all on his issue page on energy; he has specific GHG reduction goals with dates, and he has specific ways to achieve them. His page is full of substantive proposals and exhibits a clear understanding of the issues. Privately, he tells people he wants to be bold; just the opposite of Clinton and exactly what you'd want to see.

    Obama's issue page on energy has no mention of an overall 2020 or 2050 GHG reduction goal. How can he lead the country if he can't even articulate the specific goal he wants us to achieve on the most important issue of our time? He can't just say "jump." He has to specify "how high" and "by when." How else can you evaluate whether his policies will achieve the goal? He leads off with a proposal to reduce carbon from fuels that he says "would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by about 180 million metric tons in 2020." First, that is just one segment of the problem. Where's the overall GHG goal? And the numbers he uses sounds impressive if you don't know the numbers. That would be a 3% reduction in our total GHG emissions in 13 years from now if our GHG emissions were otherwise flat, i.e., no net increase in the number of vehicles over the next 13 years. That is just not good enough. It doesn't move the needle down at all. His page is a perfect example of the kind of incremental, inside-the-box thinking that will get us nowhere close to where we need to be to tackle climate change. We need someone with a vision of a future where both transportation and electric power are virtually GHG-free and the courage to lay out a long term integrated strategy to get us there rather than a hodgepodge of programs that provide little to no benefit and, in some cases, make the problem worse.

  20. He has some negatives. The US Chamber of Commerce gave him a low-rating which is supposed to mean he is anti-business. But I spent a long time and I couldn't find any specifics so if you know of any anti-business vote he made, please let me know. This article stated, "In 2004, when Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry, chose John Edwards, a trial lawyer, to be running mate, business reacted with anger, even though Edwards' voting record was hardly anti-business." So evidently, there is some disagreement. Some specific anti-business examples would be great if I could find one. Edwards did have a 100% AFL-CIO rating so maybe that's why he is considered anti-business. See AFL-CIO Ecstatic about Edwards and Gives his 2003 Voting Record a 100% Rating. He's also been called "the best hope for working and middle class Americans." Among the serious Democratic contenders, only Edwards has taken a strong stand for fair trade policies to protect American workers. Edwards had a low LCV rating in 2003, but that is because he was absent for many votes (which counts as a vote against the environment). This has something to do with running for President which makes it hard to be in two places at the same time. Interestingly, Kerry missed a lot more votes than Edwards did, but thanks to Cheney's remarks in the debate, we only heard about Edwards. However, when he did vote, his votes were, by far, pro environment. By contrast Obama has the best LCV rating, with Clinton not too far behind. In 2001, he got an 88% LCV score, which is exactly the same as Clinton did. In 2002, he scored 59% compared with Clinton's 88%. One person pointed out he's a trial lawyer and MDs and the AMA don't like trial lawyers. That's true. But Edwards isn't advocating for any litigation changes; he's advocating for universal health coverage. Isn't it time we elected someone for what he is going to do for us moving forward rather than his occupation in the past?  None of these "so-called negatives" that people bring up makes him less able to perform the job of President which should be the litmus test we use. Another person said his experience as a trial lawyer disqualifies him in her mind. But I pointed out that he was fighting for justice for innocent victims. What's wrong with that? Can you name a single case that he handled that disqualifies him? Nobody can.

No candidate will be perfect. Keep in mind when evaluating your choice how important that factor is in your candidate's ability to solve the big issues facing our country today.

"The Big Choice"

Still not convinced? OK, well John has talked about 2 Americas when he speaks to people. He's referring to the special interests vs. the public interest. I have a completely different version... I call it "The Big Choice"

You have a choice of two homes:

  • The Hot House: the government comes in each day and increases the thermostat. On day 1, they increase the temperature by .1 degree. On day 2 they bump it by .2 degrees. On day 3, it is increased by .3 degrees and so on. You cannot leave the house, you cannot open any windows and you are trapped inside (with a smoker) for the next 1,000 years.
  • The Green House: it is like you had in 1990 where the temperature is normal and the air is clean.

Which one do you choose? You get to answer that question in the Democratic Primary. It must be your final answer. It is "The Big Choice" because if you choose the wrong candidate, you're locked into the Hot House, and you lock the rest of the world into the Hot House, and there is no known way out.

Note that I assumed you might be able to extricate yourself from the Hot House in only 1,000 years. I chose 1,000 arbitrarily. The reality is that nobody has any clue what happens when we pass the tipping point. It's completely uncharted territory. 1,000 years might be wildly optimistic. Or it might be pessimistic. Nobody knows.

So the real question to ask yourself is this: "Are you feeling lucky?" Or from a more pragmatic point of view, you should ask, "why would we even want to risk picking the Hot House?"

I think candidates should ask Americans to make "The Big Choice" every time they speak. Americans deserve to be told the truth and the deserve the opportunity to make a clear choice as to which path they want to take. If they overwhelming choose the Green House, then that provides the overwhelming public mandate that our next President will need to get the job done. And picking the Green House provides an enormous number of benefits including energy independence, improving our balance of trade, reducing pollution, improving our economy, creating new jobs, and saving people money. Cars will get over 100 miles per gallon and be safer and cheaper. See my letter to Senator Obama for a more complete list of benefits to going green.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to verify the level of worldwide cuts required to avoid the Hot House is well in excess of 60% worldwide. Humans dump over 7 GtC (Gigatons of carbon) into the air each year and the oceans and vegetation soak up only 3 GtC combined (and it will be even lower in the future as CO2 increases). So even if every country on the entire planet were to magically cut its GHG emissions by 60% tomorrow (think of how impossible that would be!), CO2 would then stabilize (since source = sink so the CO2 concentration doesn't get any worse). But it takes the oceans about 500 years to almost fully heat up based on a given CO2 level. So even if we cut our emissions 60% worldwide tomorrow, the average temperatures will rise every single year for the next 500 years as the oceans warm up to the CO2 concentration that we stabilized at when we made the cut. So you should think about these days as the best days of your life. Because they surely are. Unless we are wildly successful, it is going to get hotter and hotter and hotter and there will be no way to turn down that thermostat.

Unfortunately, there is no scenario where we can cut by 60% worldwide tomorrow. We can't seem to must the political will to cut much at all at the federal level (although some states have made progress). Other countries such as China and India are far worse than we are in terms of any progress to make any changes. So that is why we must cut by more than our "fair share" as soon as we can; because it will take years for the others to follow. If we don't cut now, then even if we later figure out how to do it, we'll be too late since even if everyone on the planet cut by 100%, the ecosystems would then be net CO2 emitters as I described in  Global Warming: Why we need to cut dramatically by 2020 and we'd still be in deep deep trouble.

3 easy things you can do to stop global warming

  1. Make a $5 contribution now on the Edwards ActBlue page. If you can afford more, give more.  This money goes directly to Edwards' campaign.
  2. Tell at least 10 friends about this page. Send an email like this sample email. You are actually doing people a favor by doing this. Most people appreciate it.
  3. If you have a blog, post a link to this page and encourage your readers to read it.
Extra credit question: Due to global warming, the North Pole will fully melt by 2020. What do we tell our kids? That Santa Claus can't live at the North Pole anymore because we destroyed it? At what point do we say "this has gone far enough?" At what point do we start to demonstrate to the world that we are smarter than the frog in "Inconvenient Truth"? At what point do we start to listen to the scientists like Jim Hansen who have been warning us for the last 20 years that we need to cut our greenhouse gas emissions as fast and as deep as we can? That time has come. It's now or never. We will get to decide who the best person that will get that job done will be. We must choose wisely.

Find an error? Please let me know and I will correct it. If you'd like to write a rebuttal or have a suggestion, please send it to me. My objective is to help people make the right decision in this most important election. We are all in this together.


Steve Kirsch is a philanthropist and entrepreneur based in San Jose, CA. He is CEO of Abaca, an anti-spam company. He has donated millions of dollars to environmental and world safety issues. In the 2000 election cycle, he published an analysis of George Bush which analyzed the evidence from his performance as Governor of Texas and correctly predicted that Bush would be a disaster as President since he had a track record of twisting the facts to support his misguided beliefs.
Email: stk@ propel.com. Phone: 650-279-1008

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