Even with the economy and the war in Iraq dominating the discourse surrounding the presidential elections, environmental concerns and energy policy could potentially become major issues by the end of the summer. Oil prices hit record highs seemingly every week, and young voters—who have been a crucial demographic in several primary states—tend to see the environment as one of the most crucial challenges facing the country.

As Newsweek points out, only around 10 percent of voters said they would weigh a candidate’s environmental positions in the last two elections, but this year that number has jumped to 30 percent.

Each of the three remaining candidates have made efforts to be perceived as “forward thinking” environmental issues, and if Americans are paying in excess of $4.50 per gallon for gasoline by the end of the summer, it’s likely that both nominees will scramble to create proposals to ease the burden. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have both already outlined major energy and transportation initiatives designed to stimulate public transportation, plug-in hybrid technologies and biofuels.

Obama

Obama’s energy plan would allocate $150 billion over ten years to help build a green energy sector and dramatically increase current fuel efficiency standards by 2018—even beyond new CAFE levels. Obama says his goal is to reduce oil consumption the United States by at least 35 percent by the year 2030. Last year, the senator introduced a bill that would pay as much as 10 percent of retiree health care costs for auto companies that were willing to invest half of those savings into hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles.