Best bet to turn the White House green?

WASHINGTON Fri Sep 5, 2008 1:06am EDT

1 of 3. A National Park Service employee mows the lawn outside the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, June 25, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Who's best equipped to turn the White House green -- John McCain or Barack Obama? Both have made energy security and environmental stewardship part of their presidential campaigns.

Both favor curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that spur climate change. Both say they want to stop U.S. "addiction" to imported oil.

Obama, an Illinois Democrat, has the support of most U.S. environmental groups. McCain's stance on global warming led Republicans to hope they could sway environmentally inclined independent voters.

Early in the campaign, both were seen as being an improvement over the current administration on the environment, but the difference between these two "green" candidates became more apparent after the Arizona senator advocated more drilling for oil off the U.S. coastlines and chose controversial Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

"Unfortunately it's becoming more and more clear that the McCain-Palin ticket will continue the failed policies of the Bush administration and their Big Oil friends," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, which has endorsed Obama.

Palin, who has drawn the spotlight for her distinctive "hockey mom" persona and anti-corruption moves in Alaska, favors offshore and onshore drilling for oil and gas, opposed the listing of the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act -- even though U.S. scientists found its icy Alaskan habitat was melting away -- and has questioned whether human activities spur climate change.

Jim DiPeso, policy director of Republicans for Environmental Protection, discounted what might be thought of as the Palin factor in McCain's environmental policies.

MCCAIN'S SPEAR-CARRIER

"Our position is that Sarah Palin really was not put on the ticket to be a policy advisor to John McCain on these issues," DiPeso said by telephone from the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. "She will be a McCain administration spear-carrier on reform in (Washington) DC."

DiPeso said McCain is "exactly the kind of leader that the Republican party needs to get right with the American people on environmental issues."

McCain has been at pains to distance himself from the environmental record of President George W. Bush that has left the United States isolated among the world's major developed countries and at odds with developing powerhouse economies like China and India over how to limit climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

"The Bush administration frankly has been a series of disappointments, chiefly, most specifically on energy and climate policy, but with a new guy at the top who has very different views and very different experiences on these issues, he can start moving the party back where it needs to be," DiPeso said.

In accepting the Republican nomination on Thursday, McCain mentioned the environment as part of his plan to wean the United States off foreign oil: "We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and restore the health of our planet."

That statement came only a few moments after he assured the cheering crowd, "We will drill new wells off-shore, and we'll drill them now. We'll drill them now."

In Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Denver last week, he vowed to end "dependence on oil from the Middle East" in 10 years if he is elected president and said offshore drilling was a "stop-gap measure, not a long-term solution."

Obama wants to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, supports a 52 mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard by 2026, and said he would invest $150 billion in the next decade in renewable energy including wind and solar power and biofuels.

Contrasting with McCain's vice presidential pick, Obama's running mate is Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, whose rating by the League of Conservation Voters is identical to Obama's: both voted for the environment 67 percent of the time in 2007. McCain's rating by the league is zero for last year.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)