Schwartz: GOP environmental policy is confused, harmful

In the 2012 election season, like those of the past, one of the primary issues in the discussion of the presidential candidates is the environment.

The Republican viewpoint that America needs more jobs and that projects such as the Keystone XL pipeline and hydrofracking create them is understandable, but it is difficult to condone these methods for creating jobs. The environment cannot be thrown by the wayside in a desperate search for methods of job creation; innocent people will be hurt in the process. Jobs can be created in other ways, like funding green energy projects which will not harm the environment and those who live in it.

Across the republican field, the candidates want to either shut down or greatly limit the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, an organization that oversees much of the conservation efforts of the government. They are also generally in support of any and all efforts to increase American oil production, even at a potentially great cost to the environment. Lastly republicans would prefer to search for more oil rather than to invest in green energy industries like solar and wind power.

President Obama and the democrats have a very different view of these issues, but simultaneously face tough decisions. While they support the EPA and oppose a number of oil-related initiatives, they know their actions are limited. Republicans clearly embrace any and all issues that drilling would cause for the environment because they feel that it is worth it to get the oil. While Obama opposes many oil-related measures, he does realize that America needs oil and that some sacrifices need to be made.

That said, the republican candidates have come out in support of some outrageous projects that cannot be allowed to begin or, in some cases, continue. First, the Keystone XL pipeline project would create a pipeline that took oil from Canada across the American Great Plains and down to refineries in Texas.

Many have come out in support of Keystone because it has been said that it will create many jobs. There is an issue that many forget though. It would be built on top of the Ogallala Aquifer, the primary source of water for a good portion of the states west of the Mississippi River. Pipelines of this sort also have a history of accidents leading to the chance that this important source of groundwater could actually be polluted. As it stands, groundwater is rapidly depleting, and the pipeline should not be built.

Then there is hydraulic fracturing, a process of retrieving oil sands by means of pumping toxic chemicals into the ground which could potentially create jobs and income for those who have oil sands underneath them. There have, however, been reports of hydrofracking polluting groundwater and people actually getting sick from this pollution. These issues are not about keeping the land beautiful; they are about keeping American citizens safe. Allowing for such projects to continue will surely mean the poisoning and possible deaths of many Americans.

That cannot be considered sane policy by anyone.