Obama,Clinton top McCain on environment votes: report
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - All three top U.S. presidential contenders tout their environmental credentials, but Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton cast far more "green" votes in Congress than John McCain, a conservation group reported on Thursday.
Sen. McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican nominee, rated a zero out of 100 for his votes on environmental issues last year, the League of Conservation Voters said in the group's national environmental scorecard.
Over the course of his Senate career, his score was a 24 percent, compared to lifetime scores of 73 percent for Clinton and 67 percent for Obama, both Democrats.
The Democratic candidates did even better in 2007, with Sen. Clinton of New York scoring 87 percent for her votes and Sen. Obama of Illinois getting 86 percent, the report found.
McCain has sponsored legislation to combat climate change, and is described on his campaign Web site, www.johnmccain.com, as having a "record of common sense stewardship" of the environment.
However, he missed all 15 environmental votes for 2007 that were tallied in the report, including a vote on repealing billions of dollars in tax breaks for big oil companies, a measure that failed by one vote, the report said.
By contrast, Obama and Clinton each missed four of the 15 key votes on the environment last year, and both were on hand to vote for a version of an energy bill that would have repealed the oil companies' tax breaks.
Missing Capitol Hill votes is an occupational hazard of presidential candidates on the campaign trail, the report's authors noted.
The environment has rarely been seen as a pivotal election issue in the United States, but that may be changing, said Gene Karpinski, the league's president.
Pointing to results in congressional elections in 2006, Karpinski said independent voters moved in significant numbers to vote for Democrats, and "by far the single biggest reason was the issue of energy policy," which is closely linked to environmental policy.
"Clinton and Obama talk about global warming policy every day," Karpinski said at a briefing. "They've made this issue a priority because they know that's what voters want to hear."
The report noted an apparent shift along with the change from Republican to Democratic leadership after the 2006 elections.
"2007 may well be remembered as a turning point for the environment, and especially for clean energy and global warming," the report's overview said.
Following years of what the report called "backward-looking legislation" on the environment, the U.S. Congress in 2007 passed the first increase in automobile fuel economy standards since 1975. This was part of an overall energy bill that also contains energy efficiency standards buildings and lightbulbs.
(Editing by Jackie Frank)
(For more Reuters information on the environment, see http://blogs.reuters.com/environment/)