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Sunday, June 29, 2008

On Energy Independence: If McCain = Cheney then Obama = Carter

Joe Conason continues the liberals full court press to make everything that John McCain has done nothing more than a Bush third term with this piece on energy.

On June 16 in Texas, McCain called for increased offshore oil drilling, although when he appeared a week later in California, the straight talker quickly added that issuing actual drilling licenses should be the sole prerogative of state governments. Addressing the same politically sensitive subject, the Cheney task force struck a reticent note, perhaps because the president's brother Jeb was then governor of Florida, where offshore exploration is deeply unpopular. In veiled language, the task force merely recommended that the president direct the secretaries of commerce and interior to "reexamine" federal laws and regulations to "determine if changes are needed regarding energy-related activities and the siting of energy facilities in the
coastal zone and on the Outer Continental Shelf." But everybody understood what was meant by the report's mush-mouthed phrasing: Prepare to drill offshore wherever we can get away with it -- which is essentially what McCain was urging in Houston, to the applause of oil executives.


Like Cheney, McCain is also a great enthusiast of "clean coal," a contradictory term usually referring to technologies that remove sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, rather than the carbon dioxide released by mining, processing and burning that abundant but highly toxic fuel. (Schemes to minimize or eliminate the greenhouse effects of coal-fired power plants are entirely theoretical.)

The vice president's task force too gave high priority to promoting "clean coal," specifically recommending that the federal government spend $2 billion between 2002 and 2012 to support research into clean-coal technology and to subsidize electricity produced from "biomass co-fired with coal." (Mentioning green-sounding "biomass" in the same sentence with coal was typical of the Cheney report's deceptive rhetorical style.)


Finally, McCain has vowed as president to practice what he preaches by requiring federal agencies (except the Pentagon) to purchase fuel-efficient fleets of cars -- a move that might drive up their cost, since consumer demand already outpaces supply. More broadly, McCain said he would propose "to put the purchasing power of the United States government on the side of green technology." The Cheney task force likewise paid lip service to green initiatives by federal agencies, and urged President Bush to command greater conservation efforts across the government.

Interestingly enough, Conason also displays what most liberals believe is the right way out of our energy crisis...

Where McCain may honestly differ with Cheney and Bush is in his attitude toward energy conservation. While the vice president openly mocked conservation as "a sign of personal virtue," the Arizona senator has at least recognized conservation as worthwhile in an era of global warming and insecure foreign fuel supply. Although he often pours scorn on the "failed policies" of the 1970s, McCain could have more in common with Jimmy Carter than he wishes to admit.

Of course, ironically enough, this is not the first time that Conason references Jimmy Carter...

If McCain is serious about fighting climate change and improving our security as well as our environment, he should stop imitating Cheney and pay more respect to Carter instead.

Now, the idea that someone uses Jimmy Carter as the model for energy policy in any way shape or form speaks for itself. Besides presiding over gas shortages it is unclear exactly what Jimmy Carter did for our environment, energy independence, and national security relating to energy independence. Yet, that is the model that folks like Conason use in determining energy policy.

The first problem with the comparison between Cheney and McCain is that most of Cheney's rhetoric didn't actually translate into policy. We have heard seven plus years of talk about drilling in all sorts of places and we've had absolutely no drilling. Coal and nuclear power have become nothing more than applause lines in speeches.

I have found that neither party has very many answers on energy. I find talk about so called "alternative energy" nothing more than talk. Neither has any good answers to control oil speculation. Neither party has any answers in containing the oligopoly that big oil has on gasoline. Neither has a policy on alternative energy that I think will work.

That said, McCain wants to drill. That will make substantive difference in the market for oil futures. Furthermore, whatevery flaws McCain's plan has, Obama's plan is non existent. The sum total of Obama's so called energy policy is encouraging people to use less of it (or forcing them through taxes and mandates), and taxing the oil companies even more and investing that in alternative energy. Of course, we have seen this policy once before, but more on that later.

Here is how McCain characterized Obama's energy policy.

The reality is that the sum total of Barack Obama's energy policy is a strong push for conservation. This is exactly what failed under Jimmy Carter's administration in the late '70's. Conservation is a lofty goal. It should be something the government encourages, though it should be something we all do without encouragement. That said, to make conservation the center piece of government policy is to explore past policy failures. What Barack Obama would have us do is the equivalent of putting on a sweater and turning off the air conditioning, and he will combine this with a big fat new "windfall profits" tax. Both of these are nothing more than a rehash of another President's failed policies...Jimmy Carter.

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