Each Saturday from now until the NOv. 3 election, The Sun...

CAMPAIGN ISSUE: ENVIRONMENT

October 24, 1992|By Peter Honey | Peter Honey,Washington Bureau

Each Saturday from now until the NOv. 3 election, The Sun i examining the stands of the presidential nominees on major issues.

WHAT IS AT STAKE.

When you talk about the environment you can't avoid the "vision" thing, as President Bush once termed the ability to see beyond immediate problems.

Public opinion polls show consistently that Americans care strongly about the environment, and that a large majority would make economic sacrifices to protect the environment.

The polls also show that Americans are overwhelmingly concerned about economic growth.

The solution, then, is to spur growth and employment and protect the environment -- not to play off one against the other.

That requires vision, and that is what is at stake.

For example, the future president will have to find ways to discourage industries from fleeing anti-pollution regulations in America for capital-starved Third World countries more willing to offer cheap labor and waive or ignore environmental restraints.

He will have to establish incentives for car-buyers and manufacturers to choose more fuel-efficient automobiles; electricity-users and suppliers to cause less air pollution; chemical manufacturers and oil refiners to use more efficient and cost-effective containment methods for toxic emissions.

These are among numerous environmental issues that no president will be able to avoid, and which will require more urgent attention in time.

It would be misleading to say that voters are offered a clear choice between pro-environmental and anti-environmental positions in this election. But few issues reveal the differences between the candidates, and there are pros and cons in the records and intentions of each.

What is clear is that economic and job growth are paramount issues, and that environmental protection is increasingly seen as unavoidable. Just how much these elements can be reconciled may well be the primary challenge for all presidencies of the '90s.

WHAT THEY HAVE SAID.

Bush:

"I'm an environmental man, but I'm not going to throw every worker out of work because there's some snail darter or some smelt or some owl."

Clinton:

"We believe that environmental protection is fundamental to America's national security -- and that we must reject ... attempts to force a false choice between environmental protection and economic growth.

Perot:

"Conservation makes basic economic sense. Pollution equals waste. A competitive economy depends on a clean environment.... Overregulation only fouls things up."

WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.

Bush:

Mr. Bush began his presidency as if intent on carrying out his promise to be "the environmental president." He appointed a respected conservationist to head the Environmental Protection Agency; issued a 10-year moratorium on offshore drilling off parts of the East and West coasts. He proposed, championed and signed sweeping amendments to the Clean Air Act. Since then, however, his administration has backslid or undermined several initiatives.

Clinton:

Mr. Clinton has favored voluntary guidelines and tax incentives over regulations to encourage business to adopt environmentally sound practices. Critics say his hands-off approach subordinated the state's natural assets to industrial interests. Nonetheless, during his governorship Arkansas improved from near last to above average in environmental performance. Last year Mr. Clinton helped shepherd a broad package of environmental legislation through the state legislature.

Perot:

Mr. Perot has not held public office. But as a presidential candidate he has enthusiastically endorsed waste recycling and energy-efficiency. He is a fiery critic of environmental overregulation, but has given no indication of how far he would go to cut existing regulation.

WHAT THEY WILL DO.

Bush:

A second Bush presidency could be expected to renew attempts to open the Alaskan Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. It would likely support some energy-saving measures such as more efficient light bulbs, but it would oppose congressional efforts to raise average auto fleet fuel efficiency levels to 40 mpg.

President Bush would seek to rewrite the Endangered Species Act to remove alleged conflict between species preservation and jobs, economic growth.

Clinton:

He would probably seek to raise all energy-efficiency standards and set average fuel efficiency standards at an average 40 mpg for new car fleets by 2001, and would promote the use of natural gas, while opposing efforts to open Alaska's Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. He would propose economic incentives, job retraining and community development to phase out logging in virgin forests, and would maintain strong protection of endangered species.

Perot:

A businessman first and foremost, Mr. Perot approaches conservation as resource management. But he has yet to offer detailed proposals. "Recycling and conservation are morally and economically sound policies," his campaign manifesto states. He promises to stop subsidizing inefficient, destructive activities in the mining and timber industries and says he would help communities to disengage from dying industries.

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