Voting is vital, but it’s not the only thing that matters.
Two dates are critical to the direction of our nation on environmental and energy policy. The first is November 6, when a failure to reelect President Obama would signal a retreat from recent progress made on protecting citizens from polluters. Mitt Romney’s contempt for society’s most vulnerable members and his close ties to billionaire polluters would undermine the safeguards against mercury, soot and carbon pollution that we’ve won during the past four years.
In addition to letting the EPA do its job, Barack Obama has been the strongest supporter of renewable energy ever to occupy the White House. He championed the Recovery Act, which was the single largest investment in clean and renewable energy in our nation’s history and helped create tens of thousands of new jobs. Wind power has doubled during the past four years; solar has quintupled.
Mitt Romney has attacked those clean energy investments and would revert to policies that prioritize fossil fuels.
Although presidents have bemoaned our dependence on oil for decades, Obama is the first to do something significant about it—two rounds of stronger vehicle fuel-efficiency standards will double the mileage we get from cars and trucks and create 570,000 new jobs across America by 2030. Once implemented, these fuel-efficiency standards alone will cut US carbon pollution by 10 percent. Romney opposed these standards and instead favors more drilling in the Arctic, offshore and on our public lands.
Despite the failure to pass a climate bill, President Obama acknowledges the seriousness of the climate crisis and has done something about it. US emissions are down; oil and coal consumption are at levels not seen in decades.
Romney, in contrast, has joked about climate change and believes the United States should increase its use of the dirtiest and most climate-polluting fossil fuels.
Just as important as November 6, however, is November 7. That is when we must inspire the president as he inspired us. We must both challenge and support the president to deliver on the promise of a clean-energy future. Regardless of how the Democrats fare in Congress, a second-term Obama administration will have many opportunities to leave a lasting environmental legacy. For starters, it can:
• Finish the job it has started on cleaning up power plant pollution, including carbon and mercury pollution from new sources, coal ash, and cross-state air pollution.
• Protect our public lands by prioritizing conservation and public recreation over dangerous oil and gas drilling, fracking, and oil shale development.
• Preserve the power of the Clean Water Act and end mountaintop-removal mining in Appalachia by enforcing the act.
• Get us closer to the goal of moving beyond oil by doubling the fuel efficiency of heavy trucks (as was done with cars in the first term) and rejecting the Keystone pipeline permit.
So, although the choice is clear, winning this election will only mark the beginning of meeting the challenges we face as a nation. It will be up to all of us—and President Obama—to make the next four years count.