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Obama v. Romney on Science

Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

US President Barack Obama listens as Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks to the press in the Oval Office. The two presidents discussed energy during their White House meeting in April.

With Obama’s speech topping off the Democratic National Convention tonight, the campaigns will start swinging through the swing states. That means ads, campaign stops, and lots of talk about jobs. Don’t expect much talk about science. But to quench your thirst for a scientific debate, ScienceDebate.org has put together a series of questions on scientific topics for the two candidates, and published their answers. The format of their site is difficult to manage, with the length of Romney’s responses at times doubling or tripling Obama’s, but here are some of the highlights:
Climate Change: Obama says it’s one of the “biggest challenges of this generation.” He talks about his efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions through his new mercury rules for power plants, and fuel efficiency standards for cars. Romney carefully states that global warming is a problem, and “human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences.” But Romney also says the scientific community lacks consensus on the extent and the impacts of climate change. He says science should contribute to policy but not dictate specific policy. He opposes a carbon tax, and Obama’s mercury rules. He supports new investments in nuclear power.

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Coal miners in Beallsville, Ohio listen to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speak at a campaign rally at American Energy Corporation in August.

Research Dollars: Both candidates agree that money should be spent on scientific research. Obama points to the stimulus funds that supported all kinds of projects, including green energy. But Romney says Obama wasted the money on clean energy projects promoted by his cronies.

Energy: Obama touts his “all of the above” strategy, saying he’s made the largest investment in clean energy in American history. He also points to his Clean Energy Standard proposal, which has the goal of generating 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy by 2035, which he defines as wind, solar, clean coal, and natural gas. Obama says the U.S. is poised to become a world leader in clean energy. Romney says Obama has stalled the development of domestic energy resources, pointing to his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. He calls Obama’s “all of the above” strategy “hodgepodge.” He wants to work with Canada and Mexico to become energy independent by 2020. And he wants to make the U.S. an “energy superpower.”
Romney also says he wants to open up offshore drilling, and allow states to control their energy resources, including those that lie within federal lands. In the midst of answers to several questions, Romney talks about limiting the power of regulatory agencies, and says Obama has used environmental regulations to block resource development.
For more on the two candidates’ responses to questions on science education, food, public health, space exploration, and public policy, click here.

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