ST. LOUIS, Missouri, October 10, 2016 (ENS) – Democrat Hillary Clinton confirmed her intention to fight climate change, while Republican Donald Trump affirmed his dedication to a fossil-fueled economy as the two candidates faced off on Sunday night in the second presidential debate of the 2016 election.
In the Town Hall-style debate at Washington University in St. Louis, with “undecided” members of the audience asking most of the questions, the climate change issue came up near the end of an evening filled with an exchange of vicious personal attacks over sex, lies and videotape.
It was an energy question that did not mention the planet’s rising temperature even as the East Coast struggles to cope with the extreme weather and destruction from Hurricane Matthew, and Haiti buries its more than 1,000 citizens killed by the storm.
“What steps will your energy policy take to meet our energy needs,” audience member Ken Bone asked, “while at the same time remaining environmentally friendly, and minimizing job loss for fossil power plant workers?”
Trump expressed his concern for energy companies, saying, “… energy is under siege by the Obama administration. Under absolutely siege. The EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, is killing these energy companies. And foreign companies are now coming in buying our – buying so many of our different plants and then re-jiggering the plant so that they can take care of their oil.”
“We are killing – absolutely killing our energy business in this country. Now, I’m all for alternative forms of energy, including wind, including solar, et cetera. But we need much more than wind and solar,” said Trump.
“And you look at our miners. Hillary Clinton wants to put all the miners out of business. There is a thing called clean coal. Coal will last for 1,000 years in this country. Now we have natural gas and so many other things because of technology. We have unbelievable – we have found over the last seven years, we have found tremendous wealth right under our feet. So good. Especially when you have $20 trillion in debt.”
“I will bring our energy companies back,” declared Trump. “They’ll be able to compete. They’ll make money. They’ll pay off our national debt. They’ll pay off our tremendous budget deficits, which are tremendous. But we are putting our energy companies out of business. We have to bring back our workers.”
“You take a look at what’s happening to steel and the cost of steel and China dumping vast amounts of steel all over the United States, which essentially is killing our steelworkers and our steel companies. We have to guard our energy companies. We have to make it possible,” he said.
Trump reiterated his long-standing determination to get rid of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As he told the TV audience for Fox News Sunday on October 18, 2015, “Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations. … We’ll be fine with the environment. We can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”
In debate last night Trump said, “The EPA is so restrictive that they are putting our energy companies out of business. And all you have to do is go to a great place like West Virginia or places like Ohio, which is phenomenal, or places like Pennsylvania and you see what they’re doing to the people, miners and others in the energy business. It’s a disgrace. … It’s an absolute disgrace.”
Clinton mentioned climate change in her answer, but only after she addressed the steel and oil and gas industries.
“First of all,” said Clinton, China is illegally dumping steel in the United States and Donald Trump is buying it to build his buildings, putting steelworkers and American steel plants out of business. That’s something that I fought against as a senator and that I would have a trade prosecutor to make sure that we don’t get taken advantage of by China on steel or anything else.”
“We are now for the first time ever energy-independent,” Clinton said. “We are not dependent upon the Middle East. But the Middle East still controls a lot of the prices. So the price of oil has been way down. And that has had a damaging effect on a lot of the oil companies, right? We are, however, producing a lot of natural gas, which serves as a bridge to more renewable fuels. And I think that’s an important transition.”
“We’ve got to remain energy-independent,” she said. “It gives us much more power and freedom than to be worried about what goes on in the Middle East. We have enough worries over there without having to worry about that.”
“So I have a comprehensive energy policy, but it really does include fighting climate change, because I think that is a serious problem,” said Clinton. “And I support moving toward more clean, renewable energy as quickly as we can, because I think we can be the 21st century clean energy superpower and create millions of new jobs and businesses.”
Clinton expressed her commitment to supporting coal miners and their families as the country turns from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“I also want to be sure that we don’t leave people behind,” Clinton said. “That’s why I’m the only candidate from the very beginning of this campaign who had a plan to help us revitalize coal country, because those coal miners and their fathers and their grandfathers, they dug that coal out. A lot of them lost their lives. They were injured, but they turned the lights on and they powered our factories. I don’t want to walk away from them. So we’ve got to do something for them.”
“But the price of coal is down worldwide. So we have to look at this comprehensively. And that’s exactly what I have proposed,” Clinton said.
And that was the full extent of the debate on climate change – one mention, and no questions on the subject from moderators Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raditz of ABC.
That is still the case despite a months-long campaign by environmental groups to prod the moderators of all three debates into exploring the candidates’ positions on climate change, which President Barack Obama and other heads of state and government have called the greatest long-term threat facing the world.
During his two terms as President, Obama has enacted regulations to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and coal-fired power plants. He supports the Paris climate agreement, the first global accord committing nearly every country to cutting emissions.
The Paris Agreement will enter into force on November 4, just days before the U.S. general election on Tuesday, November 8. Its outcome will determine the fate of this vulnerable planet.