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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Head to Head: Democrats and Republicans debate environmental policy, midterm elections

    Nick Mahon, UA Young Democrats

    Voters have a clear choice in November with regard to the environment: Democrats, led by President Barack Obama, have made extraordinary strides forward in environmental policy in the past six years. Despite roadblocks from Republicans in Congress, under the president’s leadership, we’ve seen new regulations for coal power plants, groundbreaking standards signed into law that will increase average fuel economy to over 50 miles per gallon by 2025, and a tenfold increase in solar power.

    What have the Republicans done for the environment? Nothing but stand in the way. Nationally, GOP leaders have continued to deny the scientific fact of climate change. Quite frankly, it’s embarrassing to see elected officials, who purport to serve the will of the people, make complete fools of themselves.

    I wondered whether or not to include data about how practically every study ever done on the issue of climate change has concluded that human activity is warming the planet at an alarming rate, but since we have all had to take general education science classes, we all know that already. The “liberal conspiracy” of climate change is going to affect our country whether certain right-wing clowns believe it or not. We need to take steps to avert the worst consequences and slow our reckless burning of fossil fuels. The actions of this administration are a step in the right direction, but more work is needed.

    The steps that the Obama-Biden Administration has taken so far aren’t sufficient to stop climate change, and for that reason, we have to keep working and electing candidates who support positive environmental policy. Eventually, Americans will have to move toward a cap and trade or carbon tax system of regulating greenhouse emissions if we want to prevent an increase in the average summer temperature of Tucson from 99 degrees to 109. 109 degrees.

    The only politicians with the guts to propose these hard solutions? Obama and congressional Democrats.

    Unfortunately, policy isn’t made in a vacuum. There are other issues facing the country that are also of pressing concern. Economic hardship, limited access to education, crises abroad and other issues need to be dealt with by our government, too.

    Some say that we can ignore environmental issues for now or that protecting our environment is too expensive. I wonder if these people can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    Of course there are other issues, and important ones, that need to be confronted. That does not mean, however, that we can unilaterally ignore the threats posed by climate change. The time to act is now. Actually, the time to act was five or 10 years ago.

    There’s still time to ward off the worst effects of climate change (God forbid it gets that hot in Tucson in August), and the only way to do that is by electing leaders at the local, state and national levels who support renewable energy production and who pledge to confront our long-term environmental problems head on.

    While not every Democrat is quite as much as a tree-hugger as I’d like them to be, as a collective, our party believes that we need to protect the environment now, before it’s too late. The Republicans can’t say the same.


    Caleb Rhodes, UA College Republicans

    At the U.N. Climate Change summit, President Barack Obama said, “There is one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

    But what Obama has missed is the current, silent revolution within our capitalistic society that is already working to create a cleaner earth. And that revolution has been in the use of natural gas.

    In 2012, America’s carbon emissions dropped by almost 4 (3.8) percent, and at the same time, the economy grew by nearly 3 percent, according to the Environmental Information Agency. This is drastically different information from the propaganda being spread by agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, which claim that government intervention is necessary to create a cleaner earth. In fact, this shows positive steps being taken that have little to do with government policies, agencies or intervention.

    So what is responsible for the drop?

    Much of it lies in America’s shale gas revolution, which has led to the increase of U.S. dependence on shale gas from a mere 1 percent to 20 percent in the past decade. In fact, a study within the Chatham House predicts that by 2035, over 46 percent of gas production in the U.S. will be shale.

    New extraction technologies have allowed for our vast reserves of natural gas to be exploited. Natural gas is an inexpensive and clean form of fuel, that, according to The Economist, creates 45 percent less carbon dioxide than coal when used. The result has been that, when examined per capita, carbon output from power plants is at its lowest since 1961.

    This means we are producing more energy but polluting less.

    Modern technology can provide clean solutions to our environmental challenges. Despite being much maligned, well-regulated nuclear energy plants provide one of the cleanest forms of energy . A group of climatologists from the Carnegie Institute, MIT, Columbia University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research declared that “[in] the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power.”

    Similarly, new technology is shifting America’s economy away from dirty industry and into cleaner high tech sectors. When left to work, the market pushes forward with new and innovative technologies. Think of Google, a company that has created immense wealth and improved all of our lives while still being environmentally conscious. Likewise, Tesla Motors has created electric cars that are rapidly dropping in price and will soon be available to the average American. Entrepreneurs, not government, created these incredible advances of technology.

    What we are witnessing is the very beginning of a revolution, a revolution of the environment and the economy. The capitalist system has given entrepreneurs room to create technologies that solve our toughest challenges. We as students live in a time of immense opportunity; this is a time in which we can forge a future that is greener and more prosperous.

    To do this, however, we must be free of burdensome government regulations. We must reject calls for a carbon tax, which would raise the cost of energy for all of us. We must allow for continued expansion of energy production. Most importantly, we must embrace innovation and allow for competition in the market.

    The market has shown time and time again that, with room to grow, it will thrive. Let’s let it do just that, and let it save the planet.

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