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Grist Magazine Interviews Green Party Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney

Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney sums up her energy policy with a simple, memorable rhyme: "Leave the oil in the soil."

"Right now we've got two energy policies in this country," McKinney told Grist. "One is war, the other is drilling. And neither one of them works." It's a message she hopes will win over voters who have tired of both the Democratic and Republican parties.

McKinney was a Democrat herself for years, representing Georgia's 4th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2003, and again from 2005 to 2007. She was the first African-American woman to represent her state on the federal level. During her time in the House, McKinney was active on environmental issues, particularly those related to human health.

Her legislative efforts included lead sponsorship of the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act, which would have eliminated commercial logging on federal public lands. In 2001, she introduced a bill that would have suspended use of depleted uranium munitions until their health effects could be studied further. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, McKinney was a vocal critic of the Bush administration's failure to help residents of New Orleans, and she pushed for comprehensive environmental testing of flooded areas.

McKinney lost her bid for reelection in 2006, and in September 2007 announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party. She soon launched a campaign to become the presidential nominee of the Green Party, and in July the Greens gave her the official nod at their convention in Chicago. McKinney tapped hip-hop activist and indie journalist Rosa Clemente to run as her VP candidate.

Grist caught McKinney by phone at her current home in California, where she's pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley.

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