LOS ANGELES – On a day when a U.N. panel warned of growing peril from climate change, John Edwards accused the oil and gas industry Saturday of deploying hundreds of lobbyists to Washington to resist efforts to free the nation from its dependence on fossil fuels.
"Right now, we're not just turning a blind eye to the crisis of global warming. We're also missing an opportunity to lead the world and reclaim the spirit of American ingenuity that has driven great advances and helped us overcome great challenges in the past," the Democratic presidential candidate said, according to excerpts from a speech he is scheduled to deliver at a climate conference in Los Angeles.
"I see the oil and gas companies blocking progress by spending millions of dollars and deploying hundreds of lobbyists to Washington to make sure that America stays addicted to foreign oil and fossil fuels," Edwards said.
"We know the need for action is urgent. And we know that the steps we need to take are sitting right in front of us. But Washington is not taking them," the former North Carolina senator added.
Edwards and rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Dennis Kucinich are scheduled to appear Saturday afternoon at the forum, sponsored by Grist, an online environmental magazine, and Public Radio International's "Living on Earth," a nationally broadcast program on environmental concerns, in partnership with the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund and other environmental groups.
Edwards' comments on lobbyists appeared aimed at least partly at Clinton. He has accused her of being beholden to corporate interests that have contributed lavishly to her campaign. Clinton has accepted $567,950 from lobbyists, while Edwards' has accepted $18,900, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
In Valencia, Spain, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that as early as 2020 Africa will suffer water shortages, residents of Asia's megacities will be at great risk of river and coastal flooding, Europeans can expect extensive species loss, and North Americans will experience longer and hotter heat waves and greater competition for water because of global warming. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called on the United States and China — the world's two biggest greenhouse gas emitters — to do more to fight it.
Edwards was endorsed last month by Friends of the Earth Action, the San Francisco-based political arm of Friends of the Earth. The group credited him with acting early to outline proposals to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, push for a global climate change treaty and create 1 million new jobs by investing in clean, renewable energy.
In a speech in Nevada Friday, Clinton urged the development of alternative energy to cut down on greenhouse gases, create American jobs and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
She is calling for the creation of a $50 billion strategic energy fund, coupled with tougher fuel efficiency standards financed in part by $20 billion in "green vehicle bonds." Her energy package calls for cutting greenhouse gases by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 and cutting oil imports by two-thirds by 2030.
In a statement, California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said Clinton has a "record of opposing renewable energy, especially ethanol" and has voted for and against a measure that would increase fuel-efficiently standards up to 25 mpg, and then 40 mpg, by 2015. She "continues to change her positions," he said.