Energy, smart growth, climate change and the 2008 candidates (Part 2)

This is part two of our rundown of candidates’ energy, climate, and transportation positions. Today, we’ll cover the Democrats. (Click here for the Republicans)

As a reminder, Smart Growth America is endorsing neither a candidate nor a party. This is solely for informational purposes. Have we missed something or has a candidate changed their stance? Let us know in the comments. FYI, Grist and the League of Conservation Voters have both done exhaustive comparisons between the candidates on environmental platforms, with much more in-depth analysis than we’ve got here.

The Democratic field

In the words of this editorial from the New York Times, all of the Democratic candidates are “fully engaged” in planning for climate change and energy independence. All of them have issued environmental and energy position statements on their website. Every single one is committed — in word at least — to mitigating climate change, reducing consumption, building a green economy, and investing in renewable energy. But as the Times reports, the candidates (and the public) seem to be more interested in discussing the issue than their questioners in the media. “The League of Conservation Voters found that as of two weeks ago, the five main political talk-show hosts had collectively asked 2,275 questions of candidates in both parties. Only 24 of the questions even touched on climate change.”

All have advocated for steep mandatory emissions cuts, most in line with the 80% by 2050 figure. The candidates will debate “who proposed it first,” but all of them support a hard cap and trade system, (with all supporting auctioned credits.)

Most are in favor of increasing the funding for public transit and improving rail travel to decrease fuel consumption and emissions. But deciphering their specific urban policy can be a little more difficult.

We are an urban country, and becoming more urban with each passing day. Which begs the question: Why aren’t candidates spending more time in cities, talking more about the issues that affect the bulk of Americans. Crime, poverty, urban education, housing, mobility, air quality, climate. Harvard’s Ed Glaeser asks this question and suggests our response in a terrific Boston Globe commentary, “What About the Cities?

“Our cities are as important today as they were in 1968, but you wouldn’t know it from the first caucus and primary, held in states without big cities. The economy is powered by the idea-rich clusters around New York and San Francisco, not the black soil of Iowa. Yet, Republicans now ignore cities altogether, and Democratic urban policies cater too much to well-organized urban interests. We need national politicians to pay more attention to urban problems, and this will only happen when we start judging them on their urban policies.”

In no particular order, the candidates, after the jump.

Hillary Clinton

All of these quotes are taken directly from “Powering America’s Future: Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Address the Energy and Climate Crisis.

Hillary’s big three goals: “Reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050 – the level necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. Cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from projected levels by 2030. Transform our carbon-based economy into an efficient green economy, creating at least 5 million jobs from clean energy over the next decade.”

Some of her specifics for implementation: “Creating a market-based cap and trade program, and auctioning 100% of greenhouse gas permits. Hillary would raise fleet-wide fuel economy standards from the current level of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) to 40 mpg in 2020 and 55 mpg in 2030.

“Increased public transit usage is one of the best strategies for addressing the energy and environmental costs of transportation…As President, Hillary will increase federal funding for public transit, including buses, light rail and subways, by $1.5 billion per year. She will also link federal public transit funds to local land use policies that encourage residential developments that maximize public transit usage and discourage sprawl. She will also invest an additional $1 billion in intercity passenger rail systems. Intercity passenger rail is an environmentally efficient alternative to highway driving and short flights; it elieves congestion on roads and airports; reduces the emission of automotive pollutants; and it timulates economic growth by linking metropolitan areas.”

Bill Richardson

Gov. Richardson supports a cap and trade for greenhouse gases, with a higher target for reducing emissions. (80% by 2040, 90% by 2050) Here’s what Bill Richardson had to say in last weekend’s New Hampshire debate:

“The better way to do it is through a cap-and-trade system, which is a mandate. Furthermore, a carbon tax, that’s passed on to consumers. That’s passed on to the average person. That’s money you take out of the economy. So it’s a bad idea. Cap-and-trade is mandate, but it’s also going to take presidential leadership. It’s going to take all of us here, every American, you know, to think more efficiently about how we transport ourself, what vehicles we purchase, appliances in our homes.

It’s going to take a transportation policy that doesn’t just build more highways. We have to have commuter rail, light rail, open spaces. We got to have — we got to have land use policies where we improve people’s quality of life.”

From his energy plan: ” Cut Oil Demand: 50% by 2020. That means reducing oil imports from around 65% to 10-15%. We can do this in part by getting the 100 mile per gallon (mpg) car into the marketplace. We must work to double the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, or CAFE, to 50 mpg by 2020. And we will set a life-cycle low-carbon fuel standard that reduces the carbon impact of our liquid fuels by 30% by 2020. Establish Smart Growth Criteria for Preferences in Federal/State Funding. Give preference to funding for sites that comply with Smart Growth guidelines.”

From a speech to the New America Foundation: “Here’s my second oil-saving initiative. I will push fuel economy standards to 50 miles per gallon by 2020. As a result, our conventionally powered automotive fleet will reduce its demand by as much 3 million barrels a day…We will work to increase the efficiency in non-transportation sectors as well, potentially saving another 500,000 barrels per day. And I will support smart growth and public transportation policies that will reduce driving and save oil.”

Matt Yglesias had this to say after interviewing Gov. Richardson when he released his plan back in May: “I particularly liked his insistence on the idea that most people underplay the role of transportation and land use policy in the energy puzzle. This was appealing because it’s what I already thought, but Richardson said it totally unprompted, and it’s true. More fuel efficiency is good, and more renewable energy is also good, but we’re also going to need people to drive less. And that’s going to mean that we’ll need policies that make it realistic for people to do so — mass-transit, but also transit-friendly, high-density constructions.”

Barack Obama

Sen. Obama’s emissions targets are similar to most other candidates (80% by 2050, through an auctioned cap and trade.) But he unquestionably has the most comprehensive agenda for transportation reform, smarter growth, and transit funding.

From his “Plan to make America a global energy leader” (pdf)

“Build More Livable and Sustainable Communities: Over the longer term, we know that the amount of fuel we will use is directly related to our land use decisions and development patterns, much of which have been organized around the principle of cheap gasoline. Barack Obama believes that we must move beyond our simple fixation of investing so many of our transportation dollars in serving drivers and that we must make more investments that make it easier for us to walk, bicycle and access other transportation alternatives.”

“Reform Federal Transportation Funding: As president, Barack Obama will re-evaluate the transportation funding process to ensure that smart growth considerations are taken into account. Obama will build upon his efforts in the Senate to ensure that more Metropolitan Planning Organizations create policies to incentivize greater bicycle and pedestrian usage of roads and sidewalks, and he will also re-commit federal resources to public mass transportation projects across the country. Building more livable and sustainable communities will not only reduce the amount of time individuals spent commuting, but will also have significant benefits to air quality, public health and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Level Employer Incentives for Driving and Public Transit: The federal tax code rewards driving to work by allowing employers to provide parking benefits of $205 per month tax free to their employees. The tax code provides employers with commuting benefits for transit, carpooling or vanpooling capped at $105 per month. This gives drivers a nearly 2:1 advantage over transit users. Obama will reform the tax code to make benefits for driving and public transit or ridesharing equal.”

John Edwards

Edwards is one of only two candidates to mention smart growth by name in their position statement on energy. (Obama is the other, though Richardson mentions  it in interviews and other outlets from time to time.) He also specifically refers to reducing vehicle miles traveled, which has to be a part of any emissions reduction strategy as shown in Growing Cooler. Until the supposed “cars of the future” are the cars of the present, reducing VMT has to be an immediate component of any emissions and fuel reduction strategy. In keeping with his rural populist focus, he advocates for large investment in ethanol and other biofuels.

From his plan entitled “A New Energy Economy

“Transform the Auto Industry to Lead the World in Cars of the Future: Edwards believes that everyone should be able to drive the car, truck or SUV of their choice and still enjoy high fuel economy. American automakers have the ingenuity to lead the world in building the clean, safe, economical cars of the future.”

“Raise Fuel Economy Standards: American cars and trucks are less efficient than they were two decades ago, despite the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Standards in China, Japan, and the European Union are between 40 and 100 percent higher. Edwards will raise standards to 40 miles per gallon by 2016, a step that could single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day. [Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 2004; Reicher, 2007]”

“Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled: Edwards will create incentives for states and regions to plan smart growth and transit-oriented development with benchmarks for reductions in vehicle miles traveled. He supports more resources to encourage workers to use public transportation and will encourage more affordable, low-carbon and low-ambient pollution transportation options.”