At the beginning of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt became president and emerged as an early environmental leader. From 1901 to 1909, he provided federal protection for almost 230 million acres. His conservationist legacy lives on today through national parks, national forests and wildlife preserves throughout the country.
The environmental problems facing us at the start of the 21st century are much more complex than those of T.R.'s time. Our next president will have to deal with issues such as global warming and the wide-spread contamination of our drinking water supplies from accidental releases of the fuel oxygenate methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE).
Environmental Protection asked the three leading presidential contenders -- Governor George W. Bush, Vice President Al Gore and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader -- to give their positions on eight important environmental topics. In some instances, longer answers have been edited due to space constraints.
In this new century, we are entering a period in which it is crucial that we devise solutions to increasing industrial pollution and depletion of our natural resources. The responsibility to protect the environment doesn't lie solely with politicians and government bureaucrats -- it's with each of us in the voting booth. Please exercise your hard-won privilege as an U.S. citizen and vote for the candidate of your choice on November 7.
"We must ask ourselves if we are leaving for future generations an enviornment that is as good, or better, than we found it."
Scientific research is increasingly documenting that greenhouse gases are contributing to global warming. What efforts do you think should be made in the United States to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being generated? Are you in favor of the United States ratifying the Kyoto Protocol -- negotiated in 1997 as an amendment to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change?
Alternative energy sources
What efforts would your administration make to reduce the United States' dependence on fossil fuels and promote the use of alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines? What is your position concerning the government's proper role in developing lower emission vehicles and alternative fuels for automobiles?
MTBE contamination of drinking water supplies
In 1979, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reasoned that replacing lead in gasoline with the fuel oxygenate methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) would result in cleaner vehicle emissions. However, EPA officials failed to consider that in the process, MTBE would contaminate drinking water supplies, such as lakes, underground aquifers and urban wells, around the United States. What actions will your administration take to handle this mounting threat to our nation's drinking water supplies? Do you think the use of MTBE should be phased out, and, if so, what type of fuel additive should be substituted in its place?
Our largest remaining source of surface water pollution is stormwater runoff from farm fields, animal feeding operations and city streets. As president, what type of legislation would you support and promote to address this problem?
The Clinton administration has been giving high priority to the redevelopment of brownfields -- idled or underutilized industrial or commercial facilities stigmatized by real or perceived environmental contamination. The U.S. General Accounting Office recently estimated that approximately 450,000 exist throughout our nation. What efforts does your administration intend to take to clean up and revitalize U.S. brownfields in order to put these blighted sites back into productive use?
EPA - 2001 Budget
How much should EPA receive in funding for fiscal year 2001, including EPA's enforcement budget? Please list a specific amount, specify, if any, funds dedicated to particular functions within EPA, and give your reason(s) for advocating that specific funding level.
Appointment of EPA administrator
What qualifications do you think are important for an EPA Administrator to have in order to lead the agency effectively and protect the nation's environment? Please list the names of any potential appointees to this position that you are considering at this time. What actions do you think the next EPA Administrator should take to improve environmental protection, while offering greater flexibility and cost-savings to U.S. industry?
This nation's 630 million acres of public land consists of parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. What is your policy concerning the future management of U.S. public lands? What is your policy concerning the government's role in relation to the nation's remaining unprotected wildlands?
Known as one of the most pro-environmental leaders in America, Vice President Al Gore's environmental record has drawn endorsements for his candidacy from groups such as the Sierra Club and the New York League of Conservation Voters. In 1992, Gore defended the environment in his best-selling book, "Earth in the balance: ecology and the human spirit." Critics have labeled Gore an environmental extremist, especially concerning his call for the end of the internal combustion engine. "I expected that criticism...and I wear it as a badge of honor," said Gore. "For me, a commitment to the environment has always run deeper than politics."
In his Energy Security and Environment Trust speech (June 27, '00), Gore said, "It is time to abandon old ways of thinking that hold us back. It's an old, timid way of thinking to say that we have to trade off our economy and our environment. It is a new, bold way of thinking to see that environmental protection can actually fuel economic growth. I say to you today...It is those who would continue to unnecessarily endanger our children with pollution who are extreme."
For more information, contact Gore/Lieberman at (615) 340-2000 or visit
Defending his turf
The 2000 election season has seen environmental issues rise to a lofty status among voter concerns. Increased public awareness and media attention have placed new emphasis on the environmental records of the candidates, and George W. Bush's environmental record as governor of Texas has drawn its fair share of scrutiny and skepticism. Described by the Texas Sierra Club as having a "laissez faire attitude" towards the environment, Bush faces the duality of presiding over the state with the largest reduction in toxic air emissions from '95 to '97, yet also the state with the largest amount of total air emissions during that same span.
When questioned on his record, Bush has clung to his stump statement, "Is the air cleaner since I became governor? The answer is yes." And according to the Texas Sierra Club, "air quality in Texas has improved over the last 10 years."
The Bush campaign has outlined an environmental protection plan based on conservative, market-based approaches. "The United States is entering a new era of environmental policy that requires a new philosophy of public stewardship and public responsibility," said Bush. "The federal government and the states, local communities and private landowners must respect and work with one another to preserve our natural heritage. Economic prosperity and environmental protection must go hand in hand."
For more information contact Bush - Cheney 2000, (512) 637-2000 or visit www.georgewbush.com.
Raiding the election
Many critics dismiss Ralph Nader's current bid for president as a radical fringe effort from a 1960s' time warp. Yet, throughout the year, his campaign has been gaining momentum as a mainstream movement that is now projected to capture between five to 11 percent of the popular vote on November 7 in several western states such as California. He has definitely become a factor in the close race between Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore.
The long-time consumer advocate stresses what he views as the adverse impact of corporate power on the U.S. political system. Nader characterizes this trend as "a government of the Exxons, by the General Motors and for the Du Ponts." In a speech he delivered in Washington on June 30 after his acceptance of the Green Party nomination, he said, "We have an overdeveloped plutocracy and an underdeveloped democracy, too many private interests commandeering the public interest for their own profit. Most Americans don't realize how badly they're being harmed by the unchecked commercialization of what belongs to the commonwealth. If enough people knew what questions to ask, we would have both the ways and means to achieve better schools, a healthier environment and a more general distribution of decent health care."
According to Nader, his campaign will be a success if he wins five percent of the nation-wide popular vote. This would qualify the Green Party for $5 million in federal matching funds and make it better able to compete in the 2004 presidential election.
For more information, contact Nader 2000, (202) 265-4000 or visit www.votenader.com.
This article appeared in Environmental Protection, Volume 11, Number 10, October 2000, Page 26.
This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2000 issue of Environmental Protection.