No Environmentalists Need Apply

Many people on the political scene are anticipating Mitt Romney’s vice presidential choice in a state of high agitation and none are more agitated than I.  Four years ago next month, I had just left the dentist’s office with a face full of novocaine when my boss’s boss called me on my cell and screamed, “McCain just picked Sarah Palin!  The governor of Alaska!  To be his running mate!  We didn’t expect it!  We don’t have a file on her environmental record!  We need one!  Quick!”

I said, “Uhh thih! Uhll geh rugh uh ih!” and drooled a bit (which, for the record, is my only occasion of drooling in relation to Ms. Palin).

So for the past month or so, I’ve been looking at the records of the various Republicans the oracles of punditry have been tossing forth, hoping Mr. Romney stays true to his cautious self and doesn’t go all maverick like Sen. McCain.  (BTW, I loved it when a reporter asked Mr. McCain if Mr. Romney’s tax returns and business history had caused Mr. McCain to pass over him as VP candidate.  Sen. McCain said, no, Ms. Palin was simply a better candidate.  So, one of the GOP’s most senior members thinks a half-term governor who clearly didn’t grasp her own party’s foreign policy positions was a better candidate than its current standard bearer.  Good luck with that.)

So I’ve been rummaging through the policy portfolios of the Pawlentys and Portmans, the Christies and Rubios, all the while knowing that most of my work would, by design, be in vain.  (The sad truth is, most people trapped in corporate America feel that way about their work every day; I only have to endure it every four years.)

The first thing I learned is that if you look for a Republican politician’s positions on environment, you won’t find all that much.  Not that they’re not busy, but much of what used to be called “environmental” issues are now called “energy” issues.  I guess that’s a meta-branding way of changing the topic.

For example, in his campaign book “100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) lists four “environmental” ideas: 1) partner with private companies for transportation system (how is privatizing highways an “environmental” idea?) 2) Hurricane Savings Accounts for homeowners’ insurance (so, we pour CO2 into the atmosphere until half the state is wiped away by storms and the only thing we worry about is the insurance?) 3) utilize toll revenues to widen & improve expressways (first, I hate the word “utilize,” it’s a bureaucrat’s way of saying “use,” but what in the name of Florida citrus does building bigger highways have to do with the environment, except to destroy it?) and 4) increase funding for making homes hurricane-resistant (see the comment at number two).

Mr. Rubio lists four ideas under “Energy and Oil” that might have otherwise been called “environmental” initiatives: 1) tax incentives for energy-efficient appliances, 2) loans to public institutions for energy efficiency 3) Florida has obvious advantages in solar energy and 4) let hybrid drivers use HOV lanes and discount parking.  Not exactly John Muir, but a bit better than his “environmental” list.

In 2009, Clean Water Action gave its endorsement to Republican Chris Christie over incumbent New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (D), but by May 2012 had given him a “D” on his environmental scorecard.  (Guess he didn’t keep those promises.)

Minnesota’s former governor, Tim Pawlenty has a comparatively good record at home, but all that seems to evaporate as soon as he crosses the state line. His evangelical pastor – Leith Anderson – got him into climate change issues as a matter of faith and he toured Minnesota with dogsledder Will Steger talking about climate change.  Then he got into the primaries – however briefly and tepidly – and stuck a knife into all that.  If Mr. Pawlenty is the VP candidate, this will be a major story – not because the national political press cares about the environment – but because it’s a major policy flipflop and a character issue.  We’ll take what we can get.

There’s more, but I’m running out of space and frankly, am getting depressed all over again.  Yet another occupational hazard.  Have a good week.

© Mark Floegel, 2012

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