2016 US Presidential Hopefuls: Position on Clean Energy and Climate Change

Solar panels on the roof of the White House in the 1990s
Solar panels on the roof of the White House in the 1990s

Every free and democratic election in the world carries its unique issues and undertones that influence the voting pattern of an election. The United States is no exception. For example, the average American voter is very keen on the comments that a particular candidate makes concerning job creation and job security as well as taxation.

However, environmentalists have cried foul over the fact that the issue of clean energy and climate change has just but taken a periphery role in US elections. The 2016 presidential elections will be different though. Climate change and clean energy will command a lot of authority in the voting behavior. It is worth exploring the position of each presidential candidate concerning climate change and clean energy.

Democratic Party Presidential Hopefuls

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Analysts have evaluated the position of Hillary Clinton on the issue of climate change and clean energy. Back in the 2008 presidential election, Hillary Clinton expressed her support for cap and trade. She has also been a strong disciple of the science of climate change. Moreover, there is all the probability that Clinton will not want to alienate Obama’s policy on clean energy and climate change but rather carry on with it, or at least adopt some elements of it. After all, Hillary Clinton was the secretary of state in the first term of Obama’s first term and was therefore instrumental in defining national policy by then. It goes without saying that saying that she endorsed legislation and policy concerning clean energy and climate change.

However, Clinton’s stand concerning climate change and clean energy is not immune to criticism. Green activists are accusing her of exploiting the issue due to its status as a safe political terrain while at the same time using vague terms instead of a clear language in communication. Bill McKibben, an author and founder of 350.org, states gives a scathing attack on Clinton’s stand on climate change by citing that she has never taken a stand on the Keystone pipeline and has chosen not to in order to avoid the political consequences that may come with taking a stand. He therefore gives her a poor score in the approach towards the environment.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is flirting with the American voters as the greenest presidential candidate and a climate hawk. For example, he has emerged a strong support of consumption of solar energy instead of over-reliance on a monopolistic utility company. In an interview with The Washington’s Post, he gives the following provisions for a better planet: massive investment in geothermal and solar energy, taxation on carbon, and breaking down dependency on auto mobiles.
Sanders background shows a man who has a good knowledge of what exactly constitutes climate change and the factors contributing to the same. He therefore passes as a man who is showing willingness to tackle the climate change problems now and also for the future generation.

Al Gore

Al Gore has been taunted as a formidable presidential candidate for the 2016 US presidential elections. He is the chairman of the board of directors of the Climate Reality Project. He has stated that he was very glad to witness the launch of the Deep Sea Climate Observatory that will help the global community see the beauty and fragility of planet earth.

Al Gore’s voyage of environmentalism started all the way in 1976 as a freshman in congress. Later on, he took part in efforts to help developing countries achieve economic growth while at the same time balancing is with environmental protection. Gore has stated that his desire to protect the environment has prompted dietary modification in his eating lifestyle.

The public has given Al Gore credit for his efforts in institutionalizing the issue of climate change and the use of renewable energy by offering a conceptual framework and a well grounded methodology on how to tackle climate change. In other words, he strikes a good balance between theory and practice in responding to climate change issues as well as energy.

Critics have stated that Al Gore is not walking the talk about the environment. They accuse him of the following: profiting from his advocacy, high energy consumption through private jets, and high electricity consumption in his big and multiple homes across the country.

Republican Party

Ben Carson
Ben Carson shows one of the poorest records in his approach to climate change and clean energy. In an interview in Iowa, he said that as far as he was concerned, global warming was irrelevant and inconsequential. Carson was quoted as saying:

There’s always going to be cooling or warming going on. As far as I’m concerned, that is irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our environment.

For this reason, his campaign has been pressured to explain more about his stand on climate change. It has been reported that Ben Carson rejects the science of climate change despite sufficient body of literature and empirical studies on the same.

Rand Paul
Paul voted yes for a Republican-sponsored resolution that stated that “human activity contributes to climate change.” In addition to that, he has supported cleaning up of the environment through regulation of emissions and taking care of issues that are related to clean water.

However, Paul has raised eyebrows because of some of the positions that he has taken. For example, it has been reported that he doubts that the science of climate change is conclusive. He has also come under attack due to his claim that children are being coerced to believe that pollution is becoming worse whereas according to him there is an improvement in tackling the problem of pollution of the environment.

Rick Santorum

Santorum does not see major changes in the climate in the contemporary society. According to him, the climate has always undergone changes. He says thus:

Pick a moment in history where you haven’t seen a change in climate. The climate always does change.

In an interview with CNN, he argued that climate change is real but the global community can do nothing about the emergence of such phenomena.


A vote carried out by Climate Hawks Votes ranked Bernie Sanders as the greenest and the most conscious presidential candidate in matters of the environment. Generally, democrats are fairing far much better than the Republicans in their approach to clean energy and climate change.

In particular, how the next president will use the Environmental Protection Agency will have a major influence on making steps in clean energy and climate change. Before the election date, it is worth noting the changes in policy among the individual candidates and how such changes will impact on the election. Overall, clean energy and the dynamics of climate change will be a much debated issue prior to the elections.

The question maybe answered with a simple observation after the election as to whether the solar panels on the roof of the White house are still there they are replaced by a pipeline or pile of coal.

About Gordon Smith
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.