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Best policy is made at equator, not poles

Nonpartisan efforts for the environment must not be done in by extremists.

Last update: June 13, 2008 - 9:04 PM  Minneapolis Star Tribune

While some Republicans have forgotten that conservation is conservative, the environment is not a matter reserved for Democrats. Republicans and Democrats have traditionally collaborated on major environmental initiatives like passing the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act. Minnesota enacted the Clean Water Legacy Act of 2006 with bipartisan support. With our future at stake, we cannot afford having the environment treated like a partisan football.

Sen. John McCain continues nonpartisan leadership on environmental stewardship, along with many distinguished Republicans, including our Gov. Tim Pawlenty, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP), a national organization dedicated to restoring the GOP's great conservation traditions, publishes a wealth of information on its website, www.rep.org.

Where does McCain stand? His 1996 op-ed in the New York Times, "Nature Is Not a Liberal Plot," sums up his thinking today: "Republicans should not allow the fringes of the party to set a radical agenda that no more represents the mainstream of Republicans than environmental extremists represent the mainstream of the Democratic Party. ... Our nation's continued prosperity hinges on our ability to solve environmental problems and sustain the natural resources on which we all depend."

As REP founder Martha Marks said in May, "America, the world's richest and most powerful nation, must be the world's leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and minimizing the risks that climate change poses to the environment and security. Yet America and its allies cannot solve this problem alone."

Bipartisan environmental initiatives might include verifiable cap-and-trade systems that lower overall pollution levels by using the market to reward the most economically efficient methods without excessive government controls.

A cap-and-trade system abated acid rain by reducing sulfur-dioxide emissions, a primary cause of the problem. After initial skepticism, the program met its pollution reduction goals quicker than expected and for a quarter of the original estimated cost. A similar system can also work to encourage green energy and to protect climate by driving down carbon-dioxide emissions.

McCain wisely advocates reducing our dependence on oil as quickly as possible. Oil as a strategic commodity is bad for America's economy, prevents timely and necessary innovation of alternative fuels, increases health-care costs, and hurts U.S. national security and that of other nations. Even putting aside environmental, global warming and peak-oil issues, we must quickly replace oil to stop bankrolling terrorists and dangerous regimes fueled by oil revenues.

Clean energy, water and air are achievable, basic necessities. Independents, Republicans and Democrats nationwide should collaborate on these critical environmental issues, regardless of the political season.

Brian H. Davis, St. Paul, works on business and environment at Environmental Advantage Law and is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.



   

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