Democratic Presidential Candidates on Environmental Issues

One of the biggest issues of the race for the Democratic nomination is a candidates’ stance on environmental policy. This is not only because Americans have recently made it clear that they would like their next president to have a strong stance on the environment, but also because much of the money in Democratic politics is tied to environmental policy. Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has even come out with a list of minimum acceptable standards for his chosen candidate. Due to the fact that Steyer spent around $74 million in the 2014 elections, many candidates are scrambling to put forward environmental plans that meet Steyer’s high standards. 

Hillary Clinton has come out stronger than she has in the past on environmental issues.  Her current plan would have at least 33% of the nation’s electricity produced by renewable resources by 2027. This is more aggressive than Obama’s plan to have 20% of electricity produced by renewables by 2030. Clinton’s plan also calls for the installation of half a billion solar panels by 2020. Overall, Clinton’s plan would cost $60 billion over ten years. She plans to offset this cost by putting an end to tax breaks for gas and oil producers. In addition to this formal plan, Clinton has made statements that show her opinions on a range of other issues. Clinton has come out in favor for pipeline and rail safety and tax breaks for renewables while coming out in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. The plan that Clinton has put forward meets Steyer’s standards and he has thrown her a campaign event at his home. Even though the plan meets Steyer’s standards and has been applauded by voters, some analysts are saying that Clinton’s plan won’t be achievable if and when she makes it into office.

In contrast to Clinton, Bernie Sanders does not currently have a proposed environmental plan. Even without a specific plan Sanders has proven himself to be a strong defender of the environment. He has publically declared his support for range of environmental proposals including increased use of renewables, carbon emissions taxes, tax breaks for renewables, and pipeline and rail safety. The list of things Sander opposes includes issues like offshore drilling, artic drilling, tax breaks for fossil fuels, and the Keystone pipeline. Sanders can also rely on his work in the House and the Senate to demonstrate his commitment to the environment. Bills that Sanders has introduced include the Residential Energy Saving Act, the Low Income Solar Act and the Green Jobs Act. In addition to helping introduce bills on environmental policy, Sanders has a very strong record of voting in favor of environmental issues. Steyer has not commented on Sanders eligibility to win his support, although it is doubtful that Sanders will be considered until he releases a formal environmental plan. Voters, on the other hand, seem satisfied with Sanders past achievements in environmental policy as proof that he will be a strong defender of the environment if he were to become president.

Martin O’Malley is currently the candidate with the strongest stated stance on environmental policy. He encompasses all of the stated views of Clinton and Sanders and takes many of them a step further. The environmental plan O’Malley has put forward has some very lofty goals and defines environmental protection as a moral obligation. His plan states he would have the entire nation powered by renewable energy by 2050 and would create a Clean Energy Jobs Corps. The Clean Energy Jobs Corps would do things like retrofit buildings with more energy efficient technology, restore and expand forests, and create green spaces. Other goals of the plan are strengthening the EPA, ending subsidies to fossil fuels, and investing heavily in clean energy research and infrastructure. Although O’Malley’s plan is the strongest in terms of the environment and certainly puts him in the running for Steyer’s attention, it may not be feasible. Much like with Clinton’s plan, analysts doubt that O’Malley could actually follow this plan once in office.

In conclusion, the field for this year’s democratic nomination has quite a few strong supporters of the environment. Both Clinton and O’Malley have released specific plans for how they would handle environmental policy while Sanders has shown his policy ideas through his statements and voting record. Although Clinton, Sanders, and O’Malley all have strong stances on the environment, it is likely that Clinton will be taking home donations for environmental policy. This is because she has a stated plan and it is the most feasible.