Dems back off on climate policy

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The Democratic Party of 2012 is less ambitious on climate policy than the Democratic Party of 2008.

I'm referring specifically to the party's platform, which it approved yesterday, the first day of its national convention. It's available here in PDF and ebook formats.

In some areas, the platform makes commendable progress; the call for marriage equality comes to mind. But on climate issues, the party has taken a couple of steps backwards.

Yesterday, the Washington Post's Brad Plumer published a helpful analysis on the changes between 2008 and 2012.Among the changes: the party drops its call for a greenhouse gas-emissions cap and trade program, Plumer says.

President Barack Obama made cap and trade a priority issue during his 2008 campaign, but it's no surprise that the party is abandoning that idea. Obama and top Democratic Congress members put a lot of muscle into the legislation, only to see it repeatedly weakened and ultimately killed. Several other analyses of the platform, like this one from Reuters, say that the Dems have scaled back their climate policy ambitions because of the hostile political environment. Obama has, however, used executive orders to advance new vehicle emissions and fuel efficiency requirements and to implement some greenhouse gas regulations.

And while the party recommits to clean energy technology like wind and solar, it is also widening its embrace of fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, Plumer writes.

"We will continue to advocate for the use of this clean fossil fuel [natural gas], while ensuring that public and environmental health and workers’ safety are protected," says the platform document.

That policy ought to catch the interest of New York Democrats, not all of whom will agree with embracing natural gas development. The state will soon decide whether to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. The administration of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo has floated a plan for limited fracking in parts of the Southern Tier.

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