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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Democrats on the Environment, part 1

Air Date: Week of

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This week, our entire broadcast features a special forum for the democratic presidential candidates sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters and held at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom at the University of California, Los Angeles. Among the democratic hopefuls attending were former Illinois senator Carol Moseley Braun, former Vermont governor Howard Dean, U.S. senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, and the Reverend Al Sharpton of New York. The candidates discussed their views on the environment and were questioned by a panel of reporters, including Living on Earth’s host Steve Curwood. The moderator of the forum is Warren Olney, host of the nationally syndicated radio show, "To the Point." Panelists are: Steve Curwood, host of "Living on Earth;" Pilar Marrero, political editor for La Opinion; John North, a reporter with KABC; and Deborah Schoch, environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times.


FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Support for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation and Stonyfield Farm.

CURWOOD: This is Living On Earth. I’m Steve Curwood, and welcome to Democrats on the Environment, a special forum for the party’s presidential candidates sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters. We’re here at the Ackerman Grand Ballroom, on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, to hear the candidates discuss the environmental issues of the day, and respond to questions from a panel of reporters. Of the nine declared democratic presidential hopefuls, five are here today, including former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, U.S. Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and the Reverend Al Sharpton from New York. Joining me to question them are Pilar Moreno, political editor for the daily newspaper La Opinion, John North, a reporter with KABC TV in Los Angeles, and Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News. Warren Olney, host of member station KCRW’s To the Point, is the forum’s moderator.

OLNEY: The president took some heat this week, because the EPA’s new report on the environment was said to have played down the issue of global warming. Senator Lieberman, how important, do you think is global warming, and what specifically would you do about it?

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Warren. Global warming is the most critical, long-term environmental challenge that America and the world faces. This administration has been profoundly irresponsible in dealing with this. In fact, it pulled us out of the Kyoto Protocol to deal with global warming, and in doing so separated us from the rest of the world, in a way that’s had profound and adverse consequences for our foreign policy. Incidentally, the decision by this administration to block out scientific fact from its EPA report about global warming because it didn’t meet its political conclusions was outrageous. And it is more typical of the old Soviet Union than of the United States of America. But it’s not new for this administration. I have been fighting to do something about global warming since I came to the Senate in 1989. I went to Kyoto and Buenos Aires. John McCain and I, today, have the most comprehensive, constructive, aggressive program to deal with global warming that anyone has yet produced. We’re going to put it on as an amendment to the energy bill in the Senate, after July fourth when that bill comes up. It sets standards, caps—it would bring us back, or up, to 2000 emission levels by 2010, and 1990 emissions level by 2016. That would not only protect us, and the generations to follow us, but it would restore us to our moral role as leader of the world in dealing with a problem that we are a major cause of.

OLNEY: Governor Dean, is there any, in your mind, any scientific disagreement about global warming that’s significant, or do you think it really is an established fact?

DEAN: It’s an established fact unless you’re in the Bush Administration. It’s clearly a scientific—I agree with Joe—one of the things that drives me absolutely crazy, in all areas, not just the environmental area, is this president is willing to discard science because he doesn’t care about science. This is an administration that has substituted ideology for thought. You can’t run a country, you can’t run a state, your can’t run a company if facts don’t matter. And facts don’t matter to this administration. I will note, however, just on a note of, sort of, sadness, in one way—this is Christie Whitman’s last day on the job as EPA director. And you may applaud, but this was a women who I served with . She wasn’t all that bad, for a Republican, on environmental issues. And she has to be leaving because no one pays any attention to her. She hasn’t run the EPA since she arrived there. It’s all run by the right-wing young folks from inside the White House who don’t care about environmental protection. She tried to do her job, she left because the White House told her what to do, and I think it’s a disgrace.

OLNEY: If global warming is a moral issue, Senator Lieberman, then do have a responsibility to call on the American people to sacrifice in order to try to deal with it? We’re going to have to give something up?

LIEBERMAN: Absolutely. You sacrifice for a purpose, and the purpose is to protect the generation s that will follow us here in America and, overall, on Earth, from the dire and potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change and global warming.

OLNEY: What sacrifices do we need to make?

LIEBERMAN: Well, number one, and this is part of my own energy declaration of independence, we’ve got to break our addiction to foreign oil. We’ve got to break our addiction to oil-- and don’t expect leadership on that front from an administration that is from oil, by oil, and for oil. As president, I’m going to do better than that. We’ve got to invest in new technologies. We’ve got to be willing to take on what’s a controversial matter in the Democratic Party. We’ve got to demand by law that American auto makers produce cars that are fuel efficient. And I set a standard in my proposal of 40 miles per gallon average fuel efficiency by the year 2015. This is all about leadership. Leadership that doesn’t just do just what’s popular at the moment by ignoring problems, but leadership that sees a problem coming over the horizon and asks the American people to do something about it. The bill I have with John McCain would do exactly that , in 80 percent of the emissions…

OLNEY: Let me go to former Senator Moseley-Braun, and ask you the same question. Do you think the American people are going to have to give things up in order to cope with the environment. Is that something that you think is going to be part of the Democratic campaign next year?

MOSELEY-BRAUN: At the outset I want to thank the league of conservation voters, and everyone here for coming and for having this dialogue and discussion. I think these issues—when Joe Lieberman uses the term morality and outrage in connection with what’s happening in environmental protection, he’s exactly right. These people have missed the point all together. This administration has lied to the American people, and we have failed in our responsibility in a variety of ways, emissions policy just being one of them, pulling out of Kyoto just being one of them. But let me say that while there will have to be sacrifices, I thin k that, in some ways, that sets up almost a false set of choices. That fact of the matter is that we can reduce our dependence on carbon-based fuels. We can have technology investment in the first instance, and technology transfer that will get us away from this addiction to the energy policies that are killing our planet. We can make choices, sensible choices, that will give us, in some ways, a more conservative lifestyle, but certainly not one that will pit one group of Americans against another, pit economic development against protection of the environment. That set of false choices has been, I think, the smokescreen for an awful lot of confusion around these issues, and has helped to peel off constituencies and people who might otherwise not only understand, but support conservation, based on the notion that they’ll lose their jobs. I think that that’s a false set of choices. I think we should make the point to the American people, as Democrats, that we can rebuild this economy, we can jumpstart this economy, we can create jobs, and we can protect our environment at the same time.

OLNEY: Senator Kerry, we’ve heard that this is a moral issue, that it’s terribly important. We’ve heard that sacrifices will need to be made if we’re going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, if we’re going to cut back on pollution. But what specific sacrifices are going to have to be called for?

KERRY: Well, let me speak to that in a moment, but first I want to say—first of all, thank you for the privilege of being here, and thank you for what the league of conservation voters does. There are many of my colleagues, and myself, who have run with great support from the grassroots of this organization , and we appreciate it. Secondly, let me say that with respect to the EPA, that is one of the most disgraceful steps by this administration that keeps faith with their continued effort to say one thing and do another. And I sent a letter to the Inspector General of the EPA asking that they conduct an appropriate investigation of how it is that the White House doctored what is an official government document by a departing Secretary. I think that’s inappropriate, and we should do that. Secondly, with respect to the issue of sacrifice, I think it’s critical for us—I certainly believe—I want to be a president who asks the Americans to do the right thing. I believe that the sacrifices that are needed are the sacrificing of bad habits. And the sacrificing of selfishness. But we do not have to ask Americans to sacrifice quality of life. And that’s a critical distinction to make as we think about what we are saying to Americans. We have the technology, we have the capacity, we have the will, we have the commitment, we have the entrepreneurial skill to be able to develop the means of driving better cars without reducing their capacity to carry the soccer mom to the field. Without reducing the capacity of people on farms to do what they do. So we need to talk directly to the American people. I want the cars of the future made in Detroit, I want them made by Americans. And I believe that this Administration is culpable of walking away from America, and from jobs, by not exciting the possibilities of future vehicles. I drive over here today with Peter Ortin in an electric car that they’ve ceased to make at GM. Honda and Toyota are making the hybrids. We need leadership that is going to say that by the year 2020, 20 percent of America’s electricity is going to be produced from alternatives and renewables. We’re going to raise the raise the emissions standards of our cars, just like you all had the courage to do out here in California, and we are going to set this country on the path to energy independence. We’re going to create the jobs of the future in doing so, and we don’t have to sacrifice one iota of quality of life to do that.


OLNEY: Reverend Sharpton, if it does come down at some point to a choice between jobs and the environment, which is more important?

SHARPTON: Well, first of all, let me join my colleagues in thanking the League for having this forum. As I said, I was a little late working my way through the smog to get here, which is why I want to be president, so we can have standards against that. But let me say we must not allow this administration to continue to use the bogeyman in every argument. They’ve used it to justify Iraq, they’re using it to try and do what they’re doing in the environment, and to try and stop us from moving from an oil-dependent economy. The fact of the matter is, to ask someone are they going to sacrifice their job for their health is like asking a drug addict are you going to sacrifice dope for your health. The fact of the matter is, we should not try and act as though we have a choice in terms of moving to what is more efficient, more healthy, more life-sustaining, and what is better for our grandchildren and their grandchildren. So to try and act like Americans are so cheap that we would rather be paid for something that is detrimental than to try and achieve the transfer into hybrid vehicles, and electric vehicles. Americans understand, if they are exposed to the facts, that where we are now will harm us. It will bring us to levels that we cannot sustain—the humanity of this country and the humanity of the world—and we ought not make false choices to them, with the bogeyman saying you got to hold onto your job, therefore choke yourself to death. I think as we build towards efficiency and health, we ought not tell people that the payoff is that they can get paid to kill themselves.

CURWOOD: You’re listening to Democrats on the Environment, a special forum for the party’s presidential candidates sponsored by the League of Conservation Voters. Our broadcast from the Ackerman Grand Ballroom at the University of California, Los Angeles continues in just a minute. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.



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