Concentrating on cleaner air

As the earth’s environmental condition continues to deteriorate alongside increased industrial growth, globalization and development, the next U.S. president’s environmental policies will have a significant impact on whether subsequent generations will enjoy a land more pristine or filthy than it currently is. Among the more important environmental issues that the next president’s vision will directly affect is energy.
A critical question concerning U.S. energy policy is whether our society wants to continue to depend on oil — and more specifically and dangerously, foreign oil — for its growth and movement, or would rather redouble its efforts toward decreasing the number of vehicles on the road and reduce the pollutants they emit. We could either open up more of our oil-rich countryside for exploration and drilling — as Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan wishes to do in the nearly untouched and pristine Alaskan Natural Wildlife Refuge — or intensify our interest in building more clean and efficient forms of mass transportation and investing additional time and money into minimally polluting cars.
When scientists recently returned from the North Pole and revealed that they had seen water where they expected to find ice, environmentalists and many scientists felt that their years of urging humanity to curtail pollution levels to prevent global warming were finally justified. Others, however, scoffed at this reasoning, calling the observed water part of a natural cycle.
Despite the still tenuous and widely debated human link to global warming, our next president should consider the noticeable temperature rise a long-term threat to our civilization and should propose workable solutions, principally directed at eliminating toxic gas emissions.
Ratifying and following the Kyoto Protocol must be among a president’s environmental priorities. Democratic nominee Al Gore originally helped negotiate the treaty, which calls for a seven percent emissions reduction from 2008 to 2012, and he is naturally a strong supporter of the treaty’s Congressional ratification.
Green nominee Ralph Nader and Natural Law candidate John Hagelin also want the United States to follow the United Nations-endorsed guidelines. Both third-party candidates consider preserving the environment an important element of their political platforms.
The conservative candidates, however, oppose the emissions treaty as too restrictive on American industry. Texas Gov. George Bush wisely urges more personal responsibility in cleaning and protecting the natural world, while Buchanan says the Kyoto Protocol would devastate American industry.
While Gore, Nader and Hagelin all want more federal involvement in regulating U.S. businesses and more stringent standards for them to follow, Bush and Buchanan consider this an excessive intrusion into private industry, which these two candidates believe can regulate itself.
Unfortunately, the private world has repeatedly demonstrated its inability to police its own actions. As our government strives to remain a limited one, it must first attend to the freedoms and concerns of its people before placating the businesses that fund our country’s elections. Federal involvement is essential to heeding the dangers of the United States’ excess energy consumption.
While many Americans waste the earth’s limited resources and take their country’s prosperity for granted, much of the world resides in poverty. Imagine if every human consumed as much as an average American does. Bush is right to emphasize personal responsibility over federal involvement but wrong to ignore the role the government must take to insure U.S. industries do not pollute our environment.