By Zach Bernstein
Every year, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) holds a summit to discuss and plan strategies for creating a greener, fairer economy that works for everyone. This year’s will be held after the midterm elections, at the White House and other locations in DC, and space is still available for those who would like to join the discussion.
A lot will depend on how sustainability-minded candidates do in November. Policies that support sustainable businesses can move the economy in a sustainable direction. And those policies depend on policy makers who understand the importance of sustainability – economically and socially as well as environmentally.
Unfortunately while many campaign ads tout a candidate’s economic bona fides, often the reality and the rhetoric don’t match up.
That’s why the ASBC Action Fund decided to take a look at a few races across the country to see how the solutions match up with the rhetoric. Some are big time races; others are less-well-known. Some are federal elections, and others are more local. All of them, however, will mean a lot for the future of our economy. They will determine who takes the reins at all the different levels of our government, and thus imply which policy paths we can take to move the economy forward.
Both McConnell and Grimes have announced their opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rules on existing power plants, which would require coal plants to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Both have argued the rules will be economically devastating. But in fact, the rules are a necessary step to fight back against climate change, which poses challenges like infrastructure damage, higher energy and health costs, and coastal flooding. Small businesses agree something has to be done -- unfortunately, these candidates are not listening.
Peters’ campaign website also details his support for clean air and water, promotion of clean energy and hybrid vehicles, and expanding access to capital for small businesses. Meanwhile, Land’s website explains that she wishes the 2014 Farm Bill, which she would have supported, had offered more support for family farms. She also backs changes to the gas tax in order to help the state pay for more infrastructure repairs.
However, Land states that she is in favor of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport dirty crude oil and bitumen from Canada and exacerbate climate change -- bad news for the economy and the planet. Meanwhile, there’s little independent evidence that it would have any meaningful impact on job growth.
There are other differences. Shaheen supports the EPA’s proposed carbon rules, while Brown released a white paper saying the rules would “result in job losses for energy workers and higher utility costs for homeowners.” His energy plan includes more oil and gas development on federal lands and the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Romanoff’s website touts support for a number of environmental initiatives, including protections for air and water, support for renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Coffman’s website? Not a word - either on environmental protection or the jobs that would result from investments in clean energy.
Neither side offers many specific policy proposals, but there are some clear differences. For example, Comstock’s website explains that she will work to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, though does not offer many specifics on what the replacement would be; Foust’s website says he supports the law, though he feels it was “less than perfect.” Comstock also supports offshore drilling for oil and gas, which is controversial at best; Foust’s website does not directly address the issue.
With congressional action on these issues stalled in recent years, this represents an opportunity for voters to push these policies forward and show Congress how out of step it is. Especially on issues like the minimum wage, there’s strong business support.
Elections have consequences. As business leaders -- and voters -- it’s crucial Americans make sure this one sends the message that it’s time to build a sustainable economy.
Zach Bernstein is a Research Associate with the American Sustainable Council Action Fund.
The <a href="http://asbcouncil.org">American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC)</a> is a network of companies and business associations. Its column, Policy Points, identifies public policies where a business voice, grounded in principles of innovation, fairness and environmental stewardship, can make an essential difference in the advocacy process. The goal is to arm readers with information and specific actions to take. As business leaders, we can and must support policy change to help make the economy more green and sustainable. The column editor is Richard Eidlin, ASBC's Vice President - Public Policy and Business Engagement.