Jon Huntsman launches bid for President

Huntsman offers an optimistic pitch, but his religion and links to Obama could hurt him in the prima

Jon Huntsman has declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination. Against a backdrop of the Statue of Liberty, the former US ambassador to China made his announcement to a smallish crowd of supporters and curious passers-by. His pitch, overall, was optimistic. "I'm from the American west, where the view of America is limitless with lots of blue sky," he declared.

Huntsman pointed to his record as Governor of Utah and - like Romney did in his first two campaign adverts - focused on the US's persistently high unemployment, which will undoubtedly play a major role in 2012.

We must reignite the powerful job creating engine of our economy - the industry, innovation, reliability, and trailblazing genius of Americans and their enterprises -- and restore confidence in our people.

We did many of these things in Utah when I was governor. We cut taxes and flattened rates. We balanced our budget. Worked to maintain our AAA bond rating. When the economic crisis hit, we were ready. And by many accounts we became the best state for business and the best managed state in America. We proved government doesn't have to choose between fiscal responsibility and economic growth. I learned something very important as Governor. For the average American family there is nothing more important than a job.

Unlike his fellow candidates during the first proper Republican debate, Huntsman did not attack Obama directly. The two have had many kind words to say about each other in the past. After one bout of praise, Obama sarcastically remarked:

I'm sure him having worked so well with me will be a great asset in any Republican primary.

To deal with this potential issue, however, Huntsman has pitched his candidacy as a civil one, one that will attempt to avoid cheap jibes.

I don't think you need to run down anyone's reputation to run for President. Of course we'll have our disagreements. I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the President. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President; not who's the better American.

Whether this will continue for long during the primaries - who will want to hear Obama's name kicked and spat upon by potential candidates - remains to be seen.

Huntsman's good relationship with Obama is not his only disadvantage, however. Like Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon candidate, which puts off many American voters - 22 per cent, in fact. Huntsman also starts with very low name recognition, according to the Gallup poll below.

Gallup, 21 June

Not even the right-wing press are that interested in him, according to Politico.

For all the attention Huntsman's gotten from the MSM, his profile in the conservative press has been considerably more muted. Unlike other potential Republican candidates, Huntsman didn't get cover stories in the Weekly Standard or National Review. Fox has mostly ignored him. He's taken some heat from talk radio, but far less than you might expect for a GOP candidate coming out of the Obama administration.

This will change in the first few weeks, but it could be difficult to gain traction without resorting to the cheap "money blurts" favoured by Michelle Bachmann and co.

On the whole, however, Huntsman is a credible candidate with a strong domestic record and - just as importantly - a vat of foreign policy experience, which he concentrates on in his first campaign video. He is a real contender in a Republican race sadly lacking in truly strong candidates. His entry will do the Republican race the world of good.

Watch his full speech below.

 

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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.