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Choosing Our Future: A Debate on U.S. Energy & Climate Policy

Although candidates Jared Polis, Will Shafroth and Joan Fitz-Gerald agreed on a wide range of issues, this debate revealed substantive differences in their underlying governing philosophies and prescriptions for global warming.

While one emphasized her legislative accomplishments, another focused on breaking lobbyists’ hold on Congress and on finding practical means of financing the move to renewable energy and carbon reduction.  The candidates discussed “clean coal”, biofuels, nuclear energy, cap-and-trade, carbon taxes and rebates, carbon emissions from developing countries, population growth, congressional earmarks, and working across the aisle.

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Colorado's Congressional
Candidates & the Environment

How often does a veteran climate scientist get to question political candidates about renewable energy and climate change?

Dr. Tom Wigley asks 2nd Congressional District candidates Will Shafroth, Jared Polis and Joan Fitz-Gerald about "ideal" environmental policy versus realpolitik, "glamorous" policies versus effective ones, and where climate change fits into their broad agendas that include education, the military and health care.

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Economic Stimulus

Question: Will the current actions by the Federal Reserve and Congress be sufficient to avoid a severe recession?

The federal funds rate is the main instrument of the Federal Reserve for stimulating the economy, yet the greatest threat to business activity is the freezing of the credit markets due to uncertainties in mortgage-related asset valuations.

The House’s version of the stimulus package foregoes extending unemployment benefits in favor of tax rebates, which are inefficient and delayed stimuli to consumer spending.  Meanwhile, the $1200 maximum rebate will do little to mitigate the negative-wealth effect of falling home prices.

How serious are the recession risks, and how much will these stimuli help?

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Victory in Iraq?

Question: Should the United States prosecute the war in Iraq until victory is achieved?

Should the U.S. attempt to persevere in Iraq until "victory" is acheived? What would such as victory look like, and what would be the consequences of trying? What are the consequences of failing to try?

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Single-Payer Health Care

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Health care in the United States is in crisis. Many claim that medical crises are driving Americans into bankruptcy and are making American business uncompetitive. Many go without health insurance while many suffer from delayed and inadequate care.

Is a single-payer system the solution to these problems? Should this be the responsibility of government, or should individuals have the responsibility of assuring their own medical care? Can the U.S. afford a single-payer system?

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The "Surge" is reportedly decreasing the level of violence in Iraq. Supporters of the Bush administration claim that this justifies the continued presence of American combat troops and continued funding of the occupation.

Others contend that the drop of violence is artificial, the product ethnic cleansing and contrived measures of violence. The arming and funding of former Sunni insurgent groups may also be fueling a future open civil war aganst the Shia.

Are America's interests being served by the Surge, and can America afford to hold its present course in Iraq?

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The defenders of globalized trade under the WTO claim that the world's economies are more efficient with reduced trade barriers and freer flow of capital. Basing their conclusions on neo-classical economics, they believe that the globe can reach its "pareto optimal" only through unfettered international trade.

Critics contend that globalization is destroying America's industrial base, leading to perennial trade deficits that are bankrupting the U.S. and are decimating its middle class. They claim that the post-World War II prosperity of the Pacific Rim was created behind protectionist barriers, just like America's properity was built in the 19th Century. Which side is right?

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Alternative designs promise to eliminate our stockpile of nuclear waste and produce 100 times the energy. Moreover, they are reported to be inherently safer and non-proliferating.

Question: Should fast-neutron and ATW nuclear plants be part of the solution to global warming?

Two alternative nuclear technologies bypass the problems of current commercial nuclear plants, while extracting one-hundred times the energy per unit weight of fuel. Since this correspondingly reduces their carbon-load per megawatt, their carbon footprint is more competitive with solar, wind and geothermal power than conventional nuclear plants.

Some believe, however, that all nuclear plants leak and that there is no "safe" level of radiation. Many contend that all nuclear designs are inherently too complex to operate safely and too capital-intensive to fight global warming. Do these designs deserve consideration in the fight against global warming?

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