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October 30, 2008 — Echoing his party’s vice-presidential nominee, Republican congressional candidate Scott Starin Wednesday told RealVail.com he does not believe global climate change is caused by man.
Starin, a Lafayette aerospace engineer who’s running against Boulder Democrat Jared Polis for the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Mark Udall, sounded a lot like Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who said during her recent vice-presidential debate with Joe Biden that she was uncertain of man’s role and that cyclical weather patterns may be responsible.
“Anybody who claims to know the answer on that is either not being scientific or they’re basing their opinions on popular consensus,” Starin said. “There’s a lot of evidence that suggests climate change is not due to carbon emissions.”
Of course, there’s a lot of evidence, especially in recent years, that global warming is caused by carbon emissions from the ongoing burning of fossil fuels, including reports by the National Academy of Sciences and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“At the federal level, I always am hesitant to amend the Constitution; there’s a reason it’s only been amended a few times in our 230-year-plus history,” said Starin, who’s running against openly gay Democrat Jared Polis in the left-leaning district that includes Boulder.
“I have stated that I would support a simple amendment stating that marriage is between one man and one woman, but you know, really, I don’t think that’s the pressing, burning issue of our time right now, and we’ve got more important things that the Congress and the states need to address right now.”
On that topic at least, Polis and Starin agree.
“It’s always overblown as a political issue,” Polis said. “There are a few extremists that care a lot about denying equal rights to Americans, but most Americans are very tolerant and respectful of people who are different from them.”
Polis supports states deciding whether to legalize same-sex marriage, but maintains there should be full-marriage equality for gay couples on federal issues such as taxes, discrimination and immigration. He adds that the federal Defense of Marriage Act should be overturned so that gay marriages granted in states where it’s legal are recognized in other states.
Starin, who has a wife and two children, accuses Polis of largely ducking the issue until he had safely won his bitterly contested Aug. 12 Democratic primary against former state Senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald and conservationist Will Shafroth.
“[Polis] said he was openly gay but really didn’t play that up much in the primaries at all till the night he was he was elected and made statements to the effect that this was a referendum on gay issues, and I do not agree that that was the auspice under which he was elected,” Starin said. “I’ve had many people come up to me still not aware that he was gay until they saw that [Aug. 15] Rocky Mountain News article that showed him on stage with his life partner.”
In fact, numerous articles prior to the primary had dealt with Polis’ sexual orientation, including a June RealVail.com story, but the candidate himself chose to campaign on issues such as his plan to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, education reform, universal health care and the environment.
Acknowledging the country is facing much more pressing problems and that the issue of gay rights has not had the prominence of past elections, Polis still would like to see a more robust debate on the topic.
“Certainly among our national candidates I’d like to see a little more enthusiasm for an equality agenda,” Polis said. “At least [Sen.] Joe Biden came out in support of civil unions, which is certainly a step toward equality for the relationships that our gay and lesbian Americans have.”
Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, said during his only debate with Republican VP candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that he and his running mate, Sen. Barack Obama, do not support gay marriage at the federal level. But he challenged Palin on whether she and Sen. John McCain favor making any civil rights distinctions between heterosexual and gay couples.
“Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage, and my answer is the same as his, and it is that I do not,” Palin said, ducking the question. However, she did say she is tolerant of same-sex couples and has a very diverse family and set of friends.
“Tolerance is a step away from accepting, but at least it’s a step in the right direction,” said Polis, who would become Colorado’s first openly gay member of Congress and only the third currently serving. Both Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) are openly gay and seeking re-election.
Finally, Starin objected to a May ruling by the California Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage by overturning a ban approved by voters in 2000. Now the ban is back on the Nov. 4 ballot as Proposition 8.
“One thing that really concerns me is the California court overturning a referendum that a marriage is between one man and one woman,” Starin said. “I’ve got a big problem with that. We can’t have courts overturning the popular will of the people. That was way out of their jurisdiction.”
Pressed on the issue, Starin, who supports stepped-up oil and gas drilling on Colorado’s Western Slope and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf, clarified and cited a recent set of questions posed by Dr. Richard Keen, a climatology professor at the University of Colorado.
“It doesn’t matter whether I believe in it or not, and if you want to know, I do not believe that climate change is due to manmade carbon emissions,” Starin said. “And it just so happens that the climatologist professor at Colorado University agrees with me.”
Polis is at the opposite end of the spectrum with regard to energy policy and climate change.
“The answer is not more drilling,” Polis said. “When you’re talking about offshore platforms and more drilling, you’re talking about six, eight, 10 years before any of that oil comes online. How far down the road would we be toward real energy independence if we took that same time and effort and capital and devoted it toward renewable energy and solar and wind energy over the next six, eight, 10 years? We’ll be a lot further down the road in ending our reliance on oil.”
Starin said Polis’ emphasis on renewable energy flies in the face of the technological limitations of wind and solar.
“He’s of the mindset of the idealistic wind and solar is going to serve all of our needs, but wind and solar are not mature enough from a cost-viability standpoint or energy storage standpoint to be primary sources of our energy,” Starin said.
“We’re not going to overnight abandon our fossil fuels, and regardless of whether you believe that global warming is manmade or not, we need to transition off of fossil fuels because there are other undisputed, tangible environmental impacts from hydrocarbon emissions.”
But Starin then contradicted himself on the question of oil-shale production, arguing that commercial leasing should be allowed to proceed with that unproven source of energy in order to keep all of the nation’s domestic energy production options open.
Polis countered that Starin and most Republicans are still in denial on the global-warming issue.
“’Drill, baby, drill,’ or ‘drill here, drill now’ is not a solution to climate change,” Polis said. “It’s really the biggest part of the problem about climate change. We have to change our attitudes; we have no choice. We’ve seen the devastating impacts of climate change right here in the 2nd Congressional District with the pine beetle epidemic and the fact that we haven’t had a cold enough winter to kill the pine beetle larvae in a number of years.”
Polis also said Democrats need to get tougher with big oil and gas. He said some Dems running for re-election are making too many concessions on drilling issues, including allowing bans on offshore drilling commercial oil-shale leasing to expire.
“During these political seasons there’s a lot of paranoia on both sides of the aisle as far as what the political ramifications of our positions will be, and I think the Democrats should hold the line on preventing any new drilling,” Polis said. “There are already enormous areas of land that are permitted for drilling, and those should continue to be exploited before we even have discussions about new drilling.”
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