April 18, 2008

Guest Editorial:

(Editor’s Note: Tuesday, April 22, is Earth Day, a day that we celebrate the Earth. On Earth Day, we remember to appreciate nature and learn ways to protect our environment and find ways that we can help keep the planet clean! In celebration of Earth Day we are reprinting two guest editorials from the Progressive Media Project in relation to Earth Day.)

For Earth Day, let’s make sure the environment is a campaign issue

By Hank Kalet

The environment appears to be the forgotten issue during this year’s presidential election.

That’s why we should view this year’s Earth Day celebration as an occasion to put environmental issues on the table.

Here are four crucial ones.

1. Fuel economy standards: Motor vehicles generate about one-fourth of all carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere in the United States, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Controlling the emission of carbon dioxide, the chief cause of climate change, will require a reduction in the amount of fuel used.

Which candidate advocates that we drive less and rely more on mass transit?

Which one insists that we improve fuel economy standards and plug a loophole that holds light trucks and some SUVs to a lower standard?

And which one wants to invest in new technologies and renewable fuels and support electric, hybrid and fuel-cell cars?

2. Reducing our reliance on and eventually ending our use of coal to generate electricity. Electricity generation is responsible for about 40 percent of fossil-fuel-generated carbon dioxide, with coal making up about half of the total, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Which candidate has a plan for reducing the use of coal?

3. Nuclear power. This is being sold as a trendy alternative to fossil fuels, because nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gases. But nuclear power plants do produce radiation and pose significant safety issues. What’s more, “nuclear power costs substantially more than electricity made from wind, coal, oil or natural gas,” because of high capital costs and debt, according to the environmental writer Mark Hertsgaard in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. Nuclear power is “seven times less cost-effective at displacing carbon” than energy efficiency, he added.

Which candidate sees through the propaganda about nuclear power?

4. Land use and deforestation. The steady loss of forested land accelerates climate change because forests store carbon and slow its emission into the atmosphere. American forests function as “net carbon sinks,” meaning they store more carbon than they allow into the atmosphere, notes the Union of Concerned Scientists. Preserving forested land, therefore, could help reduce net carbon emissions — especially if the United States can assist tropical nations in their preservation efforts.

Which candidate best understands the need to preserve forests?

Unfortunately, no single candidate has a perfect score on all these environmental questions.

This Earth Day, the press should demand answers from the candidates so that voters can make an informed choice on this vital issue.

Hank Kalet is a newspaper editor in New Jersey. He can be reached pmproj@progressive.org.

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