On Earth Day, I made a call to Obama to step it up on environmental issues, especially those having to do with climate change. The senator’s support in January of the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act of 2007 generated the ire of many environmental groups and raised skepticism that Obama might not be the “new kind” of politician he wants so desperately to be.
I wish I could report that Obama had retracted his support of the dirtiest fossil fuel out there, or at least issued a cogent defense of his position. But unfortunately, the bill trudges on, as does the criticism from climate advocates. Young people are paying attention to Obama’s positions on climate and energy, and Obama needs to realize that we have high standards. We want to support him – really – but for many of us, climate change is a make-or-break issue in 2008. We need to be confident that our next president realizes the severity of the situation and is willing to take strong, even controversial, positions to save our climate.
Coal-to-liquid is one of several technologies in recent memory that have tried to stretch the definition of “alternative fuel” in the name of energy independence. Experts are in disagreement about whether coal-to-liquid technology breaks even or is a negative in terms of carbon, although all agree that it does much more harm than renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
As Mark Gunther says in a post cross-posted at The Huffington Post, “[Obama] is undermining his own claim to be above politics, to be the kind of leader who looks beyond narrow, parochial interests to do what’s right for all Americans.” He goes on to say, “I take no pleasure is saying that this will damage Obama. I read his autobiography, Dreams From My Father, a few months ago, and came away very impressed. I want to believe that he is a different kind of political leader.”
I couldn’t agree more. Coal is emerging as a test for Obama: he can either give in to the powerful coal lobby in his home state or prove his mettle as a new breed of politician. For the sake of both the climate and Obama’s chances to make it to the White House, I hope he has the courage to pass this test.