Greenwashing McCain and Obama
Greenwashing McCain and Obama
By Tony Palmeri
In his book Crimes Against Nature, Bobby Kennedy Jr. calls George W. Bush “the worst environmental president in our nation’s history.” Kennedy told Mother Jones magazine that the Bush administration uses Orwellian newspeak to hide their true agenda: “When they want to destroy the forests, they call it the Healthy Forest Act; when they want to destroy the air, they call it the Clear Skies bill. Most insidiously, as part of this stealth attack, they’ve put polluters in charge of the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution . . . these individuals have not entered government service for the public interest, but rather to subvert the very laws they’re now charged with enforcing.”
As I write this column in mid-May Senator Clinton has yet to throw in the towel, but let’s assume that Barack Obama will be the Democratic Party nominee. Obama or his Republican rival John McCain will be better than George W. Bush on environmental and energy issues, though both are too cozy with the culture of official Washington that stands in the way of meaningful reform. By exaggerating the environmental records and proposals coming from the McCain and Obama, mainstream media is “greenwashing” the campaigns.
Greenwashing is defined as “act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.” A Greenpeace sponsored website, http://www.stopgreenwash.org/, shows how big business polluters would much rather clean up their image instead of their act.
Let’s stop greenwashing the presidential campaigns. John McCain has been able to cultivate the maverick, “not a rubber stamp Republican” image on the environment even though his track record is hardly green. He says that global warming presents a test of political courage, yet eagerly signed on to a “gas tax holiday” proposal. He supports taxpayer subsidies for the nuclear industry while claiming, “nuclear power is green.” He promotes oxymoronic “clean coal” technologies as a partial solution to our energy needs. McCain opposed Bill Clinton’s “roadless rule,” which put nearly 60 million acres of pristine national forests off-limits to most logging and road construction. He has a lifetime score of 24 percent from the League of Conservation Voters.
The most unappealing part of McCain’s environmental record is that, like most mainstream Republicans, he espouses the free market as the ultimate solution. According to John Nichols in the Nation Magazine, McCain in Oregon tried to present himself as some kind of new era eco-warrior at the same time failing to embrace genuine green proposals. Nichols concludes:
“He’s not really serious about climate change. What he’s serious about is neutralizing the environment as an issue in a presidential campaign season that will see millions of American voters — including a great many wavering Republicans — treat climate-change as an exceptionally serious election issue.”
Barack Obama, mimicking plans that were originally put forward by John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, wants to spend $150 billion to create 5 million “green-collar jobs.” Another $60 billion would go toward the creation of a “National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank” to rebuild bridges, highways, and other public infrastructure.
Writing for Bloomberg News, Lorraine Woellert tried to discover what the green-collar job proposal entails. It’s not all rosy: “Even advocates say there's no guarantee that many of the new jobs will require much skill or pay a livable wage. `Green'’ jobs can encompass solar-panel installers and bio-diesel mechanics; they can also include security guards at wind farms, bicycle messengers and even maintenance workers.”
Woellert spoke to Dana Stein, executive director of Civic Works Inc., a green-jobs-training program in Baltimore, who said his employees start at $7.50 an hour. Upon graduation, some work in positions that are low paying and not even “green.” She also spoke to Bracken Hendricks, an Obama advisor and founder of the Apollo Alliance, a San Francisco based advocacy organization dedicated to the proposition that “going green” is good economics. Hendricks said that a job shouldn't be called ``green'' unless it pays a livable wage or offers career advancement. We’re still waiting for Barack to tell us what percentage of the green-collar jobs he is proposing to create will be living wage, family sustaining positions.
Though he has tried to present himself as an opponent of official Washington culture, Obama’s track record suggests something different. Writing for Counterpunch, Joshua Frank argues “Obama’s ties to the nuclear industry are stronger than any other candidate in the hunt for the White House this year.” His campaign has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from employees of Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power plant operator. Why do they like Obama? Because he took the teeth out of a bill that he himself had introduced, a bill that would require nuclear facilities to immediately notify state and federal agencies of all leaks, no matter how big or small. Frank concludes that the nuclear industry pulled from this episode “the Obama machine was worth investing in.” The Senator is also a proponent of “clean coal” and voted for Bush’s horrendous 2005 corporate giveaway Energy Bill.
Though better than Bush, McCain and Obama are too much a part of mainstream Washington culture to be taken seriously as green reformers. Mainstream media should stop greenwashing their records and proposals.
As usual, you have to go to Canadian media to get a good explanation of something, in this case greenwashing: