The Breakdown

Comparing candidates’ environmental positions is a new political phenomenon, and never has it been more important. Both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain have said they will maximize resources while searching for better energy solutions, but while the former is looking to shed the nation’s fossil fuel dependency as cleanly and quickly as possible, the latter projects a future full of offshore drilling, nuclear power and liquid coal. Below, a point-by-point comparison.

League of Conservation Voters Lifetime Score
Obama: 86%
McCain: 24%

Cap and Trade Policy for CO2
Obama: Supports a mandatory cap on emissions with a 100% auction of pollution permits.
McCain: One of the first Republican Senators to push for capping CO2 emissions. Favors an allocation of permits to polluters based on existing emission rates.

CO2 Emissions Reduction
Obama: 80% reduction by 2050.
McCain: 65% reduction by 2050.

Federal Renewable Electricity Standard
Obama: Supports setting 25% federal renewables standard by 2025.
McCain: Has voted twice against setting federal renewable standards. Supports only state-led efforts.

Auto Fuel Efficiency Standards
Obama: Supports 52 mpg fleetwide standard by 2026.
McCain: “Open to negotiations’ on increasing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. In 2002, introduced bill to raise fuel economy to 36 mpg by 2016.

Alternative Fuels
Obama: Would invest up to $50 billion per year (gained from CO2 emissions auctions) towards development of clean energy and green jobs. Proposes investing $150 billion over 10 years on renewables research and development.
McCain: Has stated in the past that the federal government should be investing in alternative energy sources, but has voted against alternative energy funding bills.

Energy EfficiencySupports
Obama: 50% reduction in consumption by 2030.
McCain: General support for efficiency but no targets specified.

Nuclear Power
Obama: Believes that use of nuclear power could be expanded if waste and security problems are addressed.
McCain: Proposes to add 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030, and another 55 at a later date.

New Coal Plants
Obama: Would consider moratorium if emissions cap doesn’t slow construction of new plants
McCain: Supports use of conventional coal.

Liquid Coal
Obama: Has “qualified” support for investment in liquid coal technology.
McCain: Supports development of liquid coal technology.

Obama: Has supported wide array of ethanol subsidies, but now says that the U.S. should move away from corn ethanol to cellulosic.
McCain: Has long opposed corn ethanol subsidies.

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
Obama: Opposes drilling in ANWR.
McCain: Has opposed drilling in ANWR, but now says he is “glad to accept new information” about the possibility.

Offshore Oil Drilling
Obama: Opposes lifting the ban on offshore oil drilling.
McCain: Reversed his opinion in June and now supports lifting the offshore oil ban.

Public Lands
Obama: Does not support rolling back protection to allow drilling in the West. Has stated that he will increase national park funding and will work to conserve more land.
McCain: Cosponsored bill to allow handguns in national parks. Sponsored bill to restrict flights over the Grand Canyon. Has opposed bills on wilderness designation.

Roadless Rule
Obama: Supports the rule, which keeps 60 million acres of national forest land off limits to logging and road construction.
McCain: Opposed the Clinton-era roadless rule. Has stated that he would repeal it, if elected.

Endangered Species Act (ESA)
Obama: Says that the ESA needs to be updated and improved.
McCain: Voted to exempt U. of Arizona land development project from compliance with ESA.