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Democratic Platform Pledges to Mitigate Climate Change, Promote Natural Gas Use

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Democrats pledged to continue efforts to combat climate change and called for the increased use of natural gas in their 2012 party platform expected to be approved Sept. 4 by delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

The support for climate change mitigation efforts included in the 70-page document, which lays out the positions and goals of the Democratic Party, comes as congressional action on the topic has stalled, and sets up a stark contrast to their Republican opponents, whose own party platform ignores global warming.

“We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation--an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making,” the Democratic platform said. “We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.”

In addition, the document, which was made public Sept. 3, calls for international leadership in obtaining an agreement with emerging nations to set greenhouse gas emissions limits, as well as action to reduce emissions at home.

“Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically--through regulation and market solutions--is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue,” the platform said.

Advocating Use of 'Clean' Natural Gas

In addition, the document calls for the increased use of natural gas, especially as a transportation fuel, a nod of support that comes as the Democratic Party remains divided on the role natural gas and hydraulic fracturing should play in energy development.

“We will continue to advocate for the use of this clean fossil fuel, while ensuring that public and environmental health and workers' safety are protected,” the platform said.

Technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing have made recovery of natural gas from shale formations more feasible and cost-effective, leading to dramatic increase in gas production as well as a sharp decline in natural gas prices.

However, many environmental groups, a key Democratic constituency, have remained opposed to natural gas playing an expanded role because of concerns about the so-called fracking process that involves injecting water, sand, and chemicals deep underground, and also because of concerns about the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its use.

“I think there is a host of people who won't particularly like they are saying natural gas is good,” Frank Maisano, an energy expert with the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani LLP, said in an interview. “I think there is support for natural gas from Democrats because there has to be. It will single-handedly get us closer to energy independence.”

In addition to natural gas, the Democratic platform calls for an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that includes wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, hydropower, nuclear, oil, and clean coal.

Global Warming Ignored by Republicans

While the Republican National Convention 2012 platform, adopted Aug. 28, also supports the development of natural gas--as well as a dramatic expansion of domestic fossil fuels--it ignores global warming (167 DEN A-15, 8/29/12).

The only mention of climate change in the 62-page document uses it as an example of the Obama administration's “failed national security strategy” and criticizes the Obama administration for elevating climate change it to a “severe threat” to national security.

“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans, and to heal the planet,” the former Massachusetts governor said during his nomination acceptance speech Aug. 20. “My promise is to help you and your family.”

While the global warming language in the Democrats' 2012 platform is not as aggressive as the 2008 version that specifically called for cap-and-trade legislation, the statement is still “fairly sophisticated,” Manik Roy, vice president for outreach at the nonpartisan Center for Climate and Energy Solution, said in an interview.

Preview of Administrative Action

Although action on climate change remains an “unchecked box” in Congress, there are still steps the Obama administration could take to address climate change, such as fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles and the regulation of greenhouse gases by the Environmental Protection Agency, Roy said.

“When I see this [platform] it makes me think they will move forward on these sorts of initiatives,” Roy said.

Other environmental highlights of the Democratic Party platform includes increased use of clean energy and energy efficiency; cutting emissions of mercury, particulate matter, and other pollutants; and restoring the Great Lakes, the Florida Everglades, and the Gulf of Mexico.

“Our opponents have moved so far to the right as to doubt the science of climate change, advocate the selling of our federal lands, and threaten to roll back environmental protections that safeguard public health,” the platform said.

By Ari Natter  


The 2012 Democratic Party platform is available at http://assets.dstatic.org/dnc-platform/2012-National-Platform.pdf.

The 2012 Republican Party platform is available at http://www.gop.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2012GOPPlatform.pdf.