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
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:
- Edwards has consistently polled best against Republicans in the general
election both in past
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 best predictor of how the leading candidates will rate on
the environment after being elected is how they act right now. On June 19,
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
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
the Candidates Summary Chart for the current numerical rating of
the candidates based on leadership abilities and a summary of key strengths and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
which came out on May 23, the day before the Iraq funding bill vote points
out the contrast:
Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack
voting record) of Illinois, both leading
presidential contenders, declined to say how they
intended to vote on the measure. Sen.
Christopher Dodd (news,
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,
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
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
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."
Even more damaging is that Obama's bill is rather reminiscent of the June 21,
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
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
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
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:
- 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.
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
(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
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.
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:
which would impose a temporary oil profit fee to provide a Strategic Energy
S.1059 which would improve Federal building efficiency standards.
On June 23, 2005,
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
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.
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
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)
(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
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
Here's what the New York Times said about the
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.
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
“Health Care for Hybrids” by Nicole Gelinas. In addition, the
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
- 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
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.
- 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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
- 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!
- 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
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).
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
- 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.
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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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
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.
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.
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
- 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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
3 easy things you can do to stop global warming
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.
- Make a $5
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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
Email: stk@ propel.com.