Mason Experts Address Key Issues in Presidential Election: The Environment

Posted: November 1, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Election Day 2004 is tomorrow. Pundits and polls are still predicting a tight race. All indications are that voters have had a difficult time deciding between candidates on national security, health care policies, and the environment. In an effort to provide our readers with additional clarification on these key issues, the Gazette asked George Mason experts to provide their analysis. Today, we offer a brief summary of where the candidates stand on the environment. Comments on the series can be e-mailed to

Bush and Kerry on the Environment

By Janette Kenner Muir

Janette Kenner Muir
Janette Kenner Muir
Photo by Evan Cantwell

In the 2004 election, the environment has been mostly invisible and neither candidate has made a great effort to focus public discussion in this area–whether through political advertising or public speeches. However, both candidates’ environmental plans, as well as their public record, are available on their web sites and on several nonprofit environmental web sites (see, for example, the League of Conservation Voters,

George W. Bush claims that during his presidency, the air has become cleaner, water is purer, and national parks are better managed, funded, and protected. John Kerry claims the opposite has occurred; environmental gains have been lost over the last three years, with air more polluted and water more contaminated, and national wildlife areas are at great risk. Both candidates claim to passionately care about the environment; they differ on how they can best protect it.

Much of Bush’s environmental interest has centered on developing long-term energy policies that can promote affordable and secure energy supplies. His policies revolve around exploring new domestic sources of energy, investing in new technologies, and increasing conservation measures. He has proposed several clean air initiatives, such as requiring cleaner diesel fuel and engines for heavy equipment, which can help reduce soot and smog pollution. However, he strongly opposes Clean Air Emissions standards, particularly the key provisions that require older polluting power plants and other large industrial facilities to install modern pollution-control technology.

Many conservation groups perceive Kerry as a champion for the environment with a public record that shows consistent concern to ensure balanced protection for public lands and adequate resources to enhance national parks. Kerry strongly favors mandatory Clean Air Emissions standards and was an original cosponsor of the Clean Power Act to force the cleanup of older polluting power plants. He also helped negotiate one of the first international treaties on greenhouse gases and global warming.

Bush is a proponent for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska and has pushed Congress to open ANWR to oil and gas exploration. Kerry refers to ANWR as a “national treasure,” and has voted in the Senate to block efforts to open the area to oil exploration and drilling.

If Kerry wins the election, the American public can expect an ongoing interest in promoting a cleaner environment with stronger pollution standards and greater local community involvement. If Bush is reelected, the American public can expect a push for greater energy independence through exploration of American land and use of new technologies to promote better conservation.

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