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Decisions, Decisions

I thought I had slumped off into la la land after hearing 'Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time' for the billionth time

By Novella Carpenter

I must admit that I have a hard time telling the difference between the Kerry plan and the Bush plan. Let's take biodiesel. Kerry's tour bus runs on B20 (20 percent BD, 80 percent dino-diesel), and he includes biofuels as a part of his plan to increase domestic energy production. I was surprised, then, to hear the B-word come out of Bush's mouth during the last debate. I thought I had slumped off into la la land after hearing "Wrong war, wrong place, wrong time," for the billionth time--but no, he said it: biodiesel (with a funny twang).

That Bush supports this vegetable oil-based fuel might seem counterintuitive--after all, many people who drive biodiesel vehicles are rabid anti-Bush, antiwar folks. But biodiesel isn't just a bunch of hippies making fuel. The National Biodiesel Board began with strong ties to the soybean industry, which has a powerful lobby. The Senate recently approved a bill that contains a tax incentive of a penny per percent biodiesel per gallon (that's $1 per gallon if using B100!), and Bush is expected to sign it soon. I guess both opponents can agree on biodiesel.

How do they disagree then, you ask? One way is on their diverging opinions on drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). You don't hear much about this topic, but ANWR enters the discussion when talk turns to domestic oil production. Bush believes in something called "environmentally sound domestic oil production," and waves the following carrot: "Just 1 percent of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could provide up to 1 million barrels of oil a day for nearly 20 years," "could" being the operative word--no one really knows. Is it worth it to deface an amazing piece of wilderness just so that oil companies can get rich and consumers will have a few more years of driving? Kerry has promised that he won't drill in the Refuge, and we have a reason to take his word for it--he led the filibuster against the drilling in the Senate.

Another difference between Bush and Kerry is in their fundamentally different energy programs. Kerry pledges 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 and tax credits for auto manufacturers who build more efficient vehicles. Bush plans to build more refineries, and he promised to remove "unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles to help build new refineries"--obstacles like seeking new permits that would require costly pollution controls.

W is also fond of natural gas, more LNG terminals and constructing the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline. I'm sure Bush and his oil cronies are hoping natural gas will become the "new oil" once oil supplies dwindle. Finally, there are their divergent clean-air programs. During the debates, Bush has proclaimed that the air is cleaner today than it's ever been. I ran across an article in Slate.com by Timothy Noah who pointed out that Bush can say this only because he's in denial. Specifically, Bush doesn't recognize carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, as pollution. Other recognized pollutants include ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, which have all been decreasing every year since 1970, Slate reported. But CO2 levels are up 17 percent It is notable, too, that with the passage of his Clear Skies initiative, Bush actually slowed the rate at which nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide were being reduced. Kerry has pledged to roll back Bush's legislation, calling it an "assault on clean air."

So now you know--I'll be voting for Nader. Psych! Just joking. A vote for Kerry might mean cleaner air, less drilling for oil and a viable energy program. A vote for Bush certainly means a willful ignorance of environmental science, more money for big oil companies and the destruction of pristine wilderness for a fool's pot of gold.

Anyone who's undecided is playing coy and should email Novella at [email protected].

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From the October 20-27, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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