Kerry’s Energy Plan

Election Matters

by MARK HERTSGAARD

THE NATION

[from the August 30, 2004 issue]

In the 1960s John F. Kennedy inspired America with his pledge to put a man on the moon in ten years. Now, John F. Kerry is invoking that proud history to promote his own plan to end US dependence on Middle East oil. “This is the great project for our generation,” Kerry declared in May, and his recent comments suggest it will be a major theme in the fall campaign as well. During Kerry’s speech at the Democratic convention, for example, he mentioned the environment only in passing. But he spoke at length about freeing the country from Middle East oil, winning some of the strongest applause of the night by promising to rely on American “ingenuity and innovation–not the Saudi royal family.”

Elevating energy over the environment is shrewd politics for Kerry. True, George Bush has compiled the worst environmental record in modern American history, while Kerry has earned a 96 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters, a nonpartisan group in Washington that has now endorsed him. But the Kerry campaign recognizes that the environment is not a decisive issue for most voters. According to Gallup’s Earth Day poll, the environment ranks eighth among issues the voting public worries “a great deal” about–behind healthcare, terrorism, the economy, illegal immigration and unemployment.

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