Obama Steps Out As the Environmental Candidate

Jun 26, 2008 by

ObamagreenFinally. The moment came when I felt like it could happen. I was already officially supporting Senator Obama, but yesterday as I sat down on the plane at JFK international airport, I noticed other passengers watching him in a press conference on CNN, so I turned my TV on.

Within moments, Senator Obama was saying what I had been waiting to hear for months: he wants to approach the environmental crisis the same way JFK himself approached getting to the moon, only with an even more aggressive goal. And I suddenly felt as if my plane was going to the moon. Finally we have the opportunity to elect a leader at a pivotal time in history who will make the policies we so desperately need to have a chance at saving the planet. I always knew he could do it, I knew he could rally people, and I knew if he could work with Al Gore, they could make it happen. But I hadn’t seen the evidence. Yesterday I did.

Try as I might to agree 100% with Obama’s environmental policies, I don’t really understand his attachment to Ethanol – I see the problems of too much dependence on corn and what it’s doing to our ecosystem – but the rest of it makes sense. And I can’t chide McCain for all of his ideas either… please, pretty please whoever wins take all of the cars and buildings used by the government and make them green. That’s absolutely essential. But there must be more to it than that. McCain can criticize all he wants, but Obama laid down a plan to get it done that’s not based on a bunch of nods to special interest groups.

If I remember correctly, Senator Obama yesterday called for putting $150 Billion toward solving the environmental crisis. And he calls it what it is – a ‘crisis,’ ‘global warming,’ etc. He uses ‘climate change’ sometimes too, but you get the sense that he understands the meaning of these things when he speaks about them vs. just touting whatever the party line terminology happens to be. And Obama has a new energypage on the site that describes what he has in mind.

I’m an issue voter a lot of the time. When in doubt, if candidates have similar policies across the board, I’ll go for the one with the stronger environmental record. And when comparing the candidates in the primaries, I was saddened that those with the most aggressive policies really had little chance of becoming the nominee (Richardson and Edwards). Throughout the primaries, I knew Senators Obama and Clinton both had it in them to step up to the plate and hit a home run for the environment, but at the seventh inning stretch, no one had.

I don’t really understand why it’s taken so long in the election for the environmental crisis to become a major contender in the debate. Maybe it’s because it seemed so obvious that the Democrats always come out as the environmental candidates and McCain is grabbing for whatever political real estate he can find, but it’s difficult to see how someone advocating offshore drilling and more wars could truly be an environmental candidate, no matter how much sweet talking he tries to do, no matter how many cheesy videos he releases on the topic. The sad truth is that if gas prices hadn’t skyrocketed as far as they have, perhaps the environment never would have been drawn into the discussion because now it’s all wrapped up in new, clean, renewable energy and it’s less scary and fuzzy to talk about energy than the environment for policy makers.

Troubling to me is that I can’t find video of yesterday’s press conference anywhere after a decent search on the Obama site and blog, and Google (inc. Google News), and YouTube. I wanted to include direct quotes. I wanted to help fire people up. But I’m sure the remarks and the clips will be released soon enough. It was a very “presidential” press conference, as Time magazine noted. I also wonder how Al Gore’s endorsement plays into all of this timing, along with the floods, oil spill issues and other disasters looming.

The bottom line is we truly do have an environmental candidate in Barack Obama and I believe he will make good on this initiative. I believe he can and should do it in the first 100 days when the world is watching and rallying behind him. I believe he can raise us up to feeling empowered to make the necessary changes, and I believe he can devise programs to solve the most difficult of dilemmas during the process.

Sarah Granger, formerly served as a member of a city level Environmental Quality Commission and currently writes for ecofabulous, among other things.