There were no surprises in last night’s presidential debate when it came to energy policy. Both President Obama and Governor Romney stuck to their campaign talking points.
Unfortunately, it also wasn’t surprising that environmental stewardship did not come up once during the debate. Not in the questions asked by moderator Jim Lehrer. Not in any of the candidates’ remarks. No mention of how we can keep air and water clean. No discussion about conserving America’s great heritage of open space, wildlife, and parks. Not a word about climate change.
The prevailing narrative is that the environment is a low-profile issue for most voters. The economy, budget, health, and education rank higher in most voters’ minds, and appropriately those issues receive most of the attention. Still, poll after poll shows that voters of all political stripes expect their leaders to be responsible stewards whose policies deliver clean air, clean water, and common-sense energy efficiency.
Debates are the best opportunity Americans have to hear from the candidates about these important stewardship issues. A strong economy, good health care, and a high quality of life depend on a clean environment and conserving our country’s immense natural endowment. We need to hear, in an unscripted forum, the candidates’ ideas about stewardship.
By working together, our country has made great progress in reducing pollution and protecting our natural heritage, but the work remains unfinished. It will be on the plate of whoever is elected president in five weeks. There will be one more chance, on October 16 at New York’s Hofstra University, for the presidential candidates to talk about their environmental views at a debate. Let’s hope that chance is not missed.