Obama vs. Romney: On Protection from Toxic Pollutants

           We’ve now had two conventions and three presidential debates to familiarize ourselves with the candidates running for office of U.S. president.  Having said that, and given that Election Day is just around the corner (Tuesday, Nov. 6th don’t forget!!), I thought I’d dedicate this brief blog to comparing the two candidates’ proposed policies and track records as they relate to preventing toxic pollution and in turn protecting human health.  While the candidates differ in many other ways with respect to domestic and foreign policy, here are their key differences solely in terms of their impact on pollution in the United States.


  • Has passed what are currently the strongest regulations enacted against toxic mercury, lead, soot, and arsenic emitted from dirty power plants
  • Has invested in and expanded clean wind-energy
  • Signed key land-protection legislation, safeguarding a million acres around the Grand Canyon from uranium mining
  • Implemented new standards to double average fuel efficiency of new vehicles, in turn saving twelve billion barrels of oil from combustion


  • Opposes various regulations for protecting against toxic pollutants
  • Proposes to dismantle parts of the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act
  • Wants to end wind energy Production Tax Credit, bringing growing wind industry to a standstill
  • Wants to overturn fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles
  • Will approve the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline, extending from Canada to Texas

What Will this Mean?

           Under Romney’s plan, weaker pollution standards translate to higher levels of pollution in the United States and therefore a greater health risk to the population.  If you’re wondering why it would make sense to lower pollution standards, it’s because the energy plan proposed by Romney favors fossil fuels such as coal and oil.  Since these fuels produce a high amount of pollution, it’s difficult to expand the industry without lowering pollution standards.  Unfortunately, however, these standards were put in place for a reason, that is, to protect our health.  Lowering these standards is essentially prioritizing dirty energy (when other options exist) over the health of our population.  Other proposals by Romney, such as lowering fuel efficiency standards and permitting the Keystone pipeline similarly prioritize the fossil fuel industry at the expense of human health.  If you’ve forgotten how fossil fuels directly affect human health, refer to my earlier blog entitled Conserving Energy for Better Health at:
            On the other hand, by increasing automotive fuel efficiency, investing in clean energy, and enacting stringent pollution emission standards, Obama’s plan will continue to establish a much cleaner environment for us to live in.  If you think the health effects of air pollutants are overstated, keep in mind an estimated 60,000 American deaths each year are associated with inhaling particulate matter such as that produced by fossil fuel combustion.  Furthermore, by investing in green technology early on, we’re not only reducing pollution, but in fact securing our energy independence in the long run; especially given that fossil fuels are a finite resource and that global political pressure to mitigate climate change is inevitably shifting the energy industry towards green technology.

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                                                                                           - Shahir Masri, MS


  1. Reading this article made me aware of the solutions that were suggested by the candidates on the debates on regards of the possible protection from the toxic pollutants, which affect our health in a serious way. After reading it, I have learned the important of having these regulations in place in order to prevent the pollution, which now in day is a severe problem; because it is associated with over 60,000 deaths and uncountable illnesses each year through the United States, in addition of affecting the climate. I believe that following and implementing Obama’s plan will make a difference, in the environment and the well-being of each one of us; in addition we need to do our part as individuals, we need to make changes as well on the practices of recycling or making simple changes in our own house in order to reduce the use of energy. Now my question: are these regulations and acts implemented through all major industrial polluters?

    Gloria Fajardo (COH 608 Public Health and the Environment)

  2. As I read this article, I have to admit I was not completely aware of the Obama’s and Romney’s plans pertaining to the environmental pollution and safety. Although, knowing how Republicans think, I am not surprised to see him propose plans that weaken the pollution standards. I cannot exactly blame him for wanting to make such changes though. Let’s look back at what was going on during the 2012 election. Obama did place stricter standards and pushed toward more green energy. The problem was that oil prices were hovering around $100 a barrel and cost of living was difficult for the middle class. Obama’s plan did nothing to help control the price of oil which shot up during President George W. Bush’s administration. Romney on the other hand wanted to lighten up restrictions making oil more accessible, hence the Keystone XL oil pipeline, in hopes of reducing the price of oil and gasoline middle class workers put in their cars to make a living.
    Fast forward 4 years to 2016. Oil prices are at a 9 – 10 year low ranging around $40 - $50 a barrel and oil drillers are going out of businesses because the price of oil cannot keep up with the expenses of extracting the oil. Romney was clearly focused on the crisis of high oil prices while Obama was focused on the environment. Clearly Obama made the best call knowing what we know now.
    If looking back at history is a good indication of how the economy works, during the OPEC oil embargo there was a major oil crisis in the 1970’s. After that passed there was a major glut of oil and prices fell. Had Romney paid more attention to trends and history, would he have fared better with democrats wanting to protect the environment? What if Romney’s initiatives had gone through? Would we be in a major oil glut that more companies would have filed for bankruptcy? Especially with the rise of more hybrid and electric cars on the road, had that been the focus and foreseen in 2012, how would the Republicans strategies have changed and would we have seen more pollution? Did capitalism (supply and demand) solve the problem?