Climate change off the agenda in US Presidential election

While there is no doubt that the US is the number one economy in the world and its international influence — from popular culture to military power — is second to none, trying to understand the nation’s domestic political scene is far from an easy task.

Take for example recent stories regarding climate change denial, a wind power-related lawsuit, and a new poll showing the majority of Americans favour wind energy.

Last week, at the first of three scheduled Presidential TV debates, a number of newspapers and websites have reported that neither Democrat candidate Barack Obama nor Republican Mitt Romney are even speaking about climate change.

The Guardian, for instance, says that climate change and what to do about it is the biggest issue that won’t be discussed during the final weeks of the campaign as both candidates are fearful of making complacent voters confront a topic that scientists say has to be dealt with rapidly and aggressively if humankind as we know it is to survive the 21st century.

“Don’t expect this reality to intrude upon the current presidential contest,” the Guardian says.

“Both Romney and Obama see global warming as a no-win issue for them. Romney won’t alienate his rightwing supporters by addressing something most of them don’t even believe is happening. And Obama is convinced that he has nothing to gain from talking about cutting CO2 emissions, especially in the swing states of the rust belt where regulation of industry would be portrayed as a job-killer.”

Meanwhile, Obama’s name has been added to a lawsuit filed after the US Committee on Foreign Investment ruled in September that a Chinese-owned company could not proceed with its proposal to develop four wind farms in Oregon that are near to restricted Navy airspace.

According to Bloomberg, Ralls Corp., a company owned by China’s largest machinery maker, said Obama’s decision that the proposed wind farm facilities are a national security risk violated Ralls’ constitutional rights.

It is the first time in 22 years that a President had blocked a transaction on national security grounds, Bloomberg said, pointing out that the lawsuit comes at a time when Romney has been claiming that Obama is too soft on China.

A new national poll added another dimension to US politics this week by reporting that despite all the anti-wind publicity recently attributed to Romney, 82% of Americans are very or somewhat favourable to wind energy. Only solar, at 85%, beats wind power.

The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, found that only 43% of Americans favoured nuclear energy, 42% believed in oil, and 32% supported coal.

The poll also revealed that 74% of those canvassed say that energy is one of the most important issues during this year’s election campaign.

In terms of tax subsidies and other incentives, the poll found that 57% of the respondents believe wind power should be supported. Once again, only solar, at 64%, had a higher approval rating. Nuclear support was at 16%, oil at 13% and coal was at 8%.

Stay tuned as the clock races down to election day on 6 November. Between now and then, many extremely counter-intuitive developments are sure to occur as the Presidential candidates seek to offend as few voters as possible on the road to the White House.

By Chris Rose,