The Pros and Cons of Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton’s VP Pick

by Ryan Schleeter

July 22, 2016

Kaine gets a yes for his opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and a big fat no for his support of fracking and offshore drilling.

Hillary Clinton Campaign Rally in Virginia

Kaine speaks at a Clinton rally in Fairfax, Virginia before the state's primary contest in March 2016.

Earlier today, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton announced Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. Kaine’s an established Democrat, having served as Governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2010, Chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2009 to 2011, and Senator since 2013.

Clinton has stated her commitment to acting on climate change numerous times on the campaign trail, and voters want to see her honor those promises should she be elected in November. Choosing Kaine as her vice presidential nominee doesn’t cast doubt on those commitments, but it does raise a few questions.

When this election is over, we need an administration that is completely committed to fighting climate change. One that will take action from day one to keep fossil fuels in the ground and promote renewable energy.

Here’s how Kaine stacks up against that challenge.

Pro: He was an early opponent of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Kaine came out early and forcefully against the proposed pipeline project in 2013, urging President Obama to veto the first chance he got. In fact, Kaine was one of the most outspoken on the issue in the Senate, penning this op ed in the Washington Post pointing to the dangers of the tar sands oil KXL would have transported.

Tar sands oil emits more carbon, is more polluting for the local environment, and more difficult and costly to extract than conventional oil.

Con: He voted against regulating fracking and is a “fan of the natural gas revolution.”

But it’s not all good. Despite his Keystone XL stance, Kaine positions himself as a “pro-pipeline Senator” who wants to make extracting and burning fossil fuels cleaner while pursuing renewable sources.

That approach should present a few obstacles for Kaine, beginning with the fact that there is no such thing as a “clean” fossil fuel.

His support for natural gas as a bridge fuel (again, that’s not a thing) has also led him to support fracking, which has devastating consequences for the climate and public health. Kaine says he’s a “fan of the natural gas revolution,” he supported the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to allow fracking in the George Washington National Forest, and he has pushed the misconception that natural gas is responsible for the United States’ decrease in carbon emissions in recent years. Just last year, he voted against regulating fracking under the Clean Water Act.

Clinton has quite a history of her own with fracking, making this issue a top concern should she and Kaine be setting the direction of the country’s energy policy for the next four years.

Pro: He’s focused on making coastal communities more resilient to climate change.

Earlier this year, Kaine came out in support of a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) program to help coastal communities build their resilience to the impacts of climate change, particularly sea level rise.

The Hampton Roads area of Virginia is experiencing the highest rates of sea level rise along the East Coast. Kaine has wisely used the example of his state and its challenges with climate impacts to make the case for more federal action on climate change.

Con: He’s in favor of offshore drilling.

UPDATE: Shortly after this blog was published, Kaine reversed his position on Atlantic oil drilling. In August, he told a 350 Action activist that he agrees with the Obama administration’s decision to scrap plans for drilling in the Atlantic earlier this year. As documented below, he had previously advocated for offshore drilling in the region. 

Kaine set himself at odds with Clinton and President Obama by pushing to open the southeast Atlantic Ocean to oil drilling earlier this year despite considerable grassroots resistance. When POTUS and friends said ‘no thanks’ to drilling in the Atlantic, Kaine, unfortunately, did not take the hint.

This is one of the few areas in which Kaine doesn’t line up with Clinton, who came out against drilling in the Atlantic and the Arctic in February.

Pro: He’s an actual believer in climate science.

We shouldn’t have to do this in 2016, but we do (thanks Koch brothers). After watching the GOP take any ideas you had about their party acting on climate and lighting them on fire this week, even the basics matter.

Editor’s note: This blog was updated to reflect Kaine’s shift in his position on offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. 

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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