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For Sarah Palin, It's Not So Easy Being Green

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Sarah Palin is feisty, gives a dynamite speech, and the camera loves her--not surprising, since she's a dead ringer for Tina Fey. She's positioning herself to run for president in 2012--but why is she still pushing fossil fuels when much of corporate America is going green?

The Alaska governor has actually said that climate change is harming her state.

"We Alaskans are living with the changes that you are observing in Washington," Palin said. "The dramatic decreases in the extent of summer sea ice, increased coastal erosion, melting of permafrost, decrease in alpine glaciers and overall ecosystem changes are very real to us."

Still, she is calling for increasing domestic oil production. ("Drill, Baby, Drill!") And she claims not to believe that climate change is man-made.

Is Palin trying to walk a tightrope between American voters increasingly concerned about the survival of the planet and the extreme Christian right that forms the base of her most enthusiastic support?

This will require fancy footwork, because the far right is vehemently opposed to taking climate change seriously--even when fellow Christians do it.

When the National Association of Evangelicals raised global warming as a serious issue, a group of right-wing Christian leaders, including James Dobson, Gary L. Bauer, Tony Perkins and Paul Weyrich, signed a letter that chastised the group for its concern. They said such concern "distracts the faithful from more pressing issues" and that global warming was being used "to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time."

What issues? A campaign against abortion and same-sex marriage and promoting "the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children."

In fact, some on the religious right welcome climate change, because it might hasten Armageddon, when Christ will return to lift the faithful to heaven, and drown all the unbelievers along with the polar bears.

Palin is a political creature of the religious right. Jane Mayer reported in the New Yorker that arch conservatives from a breakaway Episcopal church in Virginia, including a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, pushed Palin onto the GOP ticket. (Falls Church Anglican bitterly opposed consecration of a gay Bishop, Rev. V. Gene Robinson, in 2003)

So which way will Sarah Palin jump if many evangelicals as well as corporate honchos are turning green?

Among the well known leftists worrying about climate change are the U.S. Army, Mobile Oil and the American Trucking Association, notes Amy Zuckerman. She is the executive editor of Footprint, a new global web magazine devoted to the issues of greenhouse gases, transportation and climate change.

When "left wing extremists" like General Electric (having a bulb give-away for this Earth Day) are touting green, one has to wonder who is hanging Sarah out to dry. "Even Jeb Bush banned offshore oil drilling when he was governor of Florida," says Zuckerman. She is the co-author of the new book "2030: A Day in the Life of Tomorrow's Kids" - which depicts an eco- and tech-friendly future that Sarah Palin has yet to embrace.

While arch conservatives rail about "left wing environmentalists," the U.S. Army worries about a future in which all its tanks, humvees and aircraft run out of fuel. Today, the American Trucking Association and the U.S. Army are teaming up to research synthetic rubber and synthetic oil and a vast array of lightweight structural materials. The green vehicle of the reasonably near future not only will be highly fuel-efficient, it also could capture its own energy output for feedback into its electrical system, and its surface coatings, made of nanomaterials, could heal damage to itself.

Move out 20 or more years, and U.S. trucks may flow along magnetic highways, barely touching the ground and using only minimal fuel, reports Zuckerman.

Much of corporate America sees Greenbacks in going Green. Even the Fox Network has actors from its entertainment shows touting concern about climate change in its PSAs.

So Palin has a choice. Will she stick to the narrow base of her party, the anti-green, fundamentalist Christian crowd that loves her? If she does, she has no shot at becoming a viable candidate, since increasingly, independent and minority voters will control the future.

The ball is in Palin's court--a court that is becoming increasingly green around her.

Boston University Journalism professor Caryl Rivers is the author of "Selling Anxiety: How the News Media Scare Women."

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