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Friday, May 02, 2008

McCain Energy Policy Watch

On September 30th, 2000, a mere 38 days before the Presidential election, then Presidential hopeful George W. Bush put forth the energy policy. Barely a month before the election, and a full three months after Al Gore laid out his energy proposals, the American public hardly had a fair chance to evaluate the merits (or lack thereof) of his proposals. The question of whether the media or the public were interested in evaluating the merits of either proposal is another one entirely, with a probably depressing answer.

Nonetheless, if Americans are to form educated opinions about the candidates, then it is incumbent upon those that seek the Presidency to make clear the policies for which they would advocate.

The second paragraph of a New York Times story, September 30th 2000:

"Mr. Bush said the plan, which also included incentives for developing alternative energy sources and clean-burning fuels, reflected his determination to limit the country's vulnerability to the international oil market and to avert escalating prices and energy shortages."
Let that paragraph sink in for a moment.

John McCain has now been officially running for president this cycle for more than a year, and he has yet to put forward any concrete or specific policy proposals regarding America's energy challenges. I first noticed this some months ago, reading his issues pages and realizing that nowhere does he address energy issues. There is an environment page which is entirely devoid of policy proposals, and several places he refers to the importance of reducing reliance on foreign oil, usually in a national security context. But nowhere does he have any proposals to do that. See for yourself.

The absence of his solutions to such an important problem is made all the more stark by the depth and quality of proposals from both Democratic candidates.

McCain wants people to think that he's on top of the energy issue when in fact it's apparently not as important to him as border security and gun rights. So the Drexel College Democrats are initiating the "McCain Energy Policy Watch" which will, in the grand tradition of political watches, feature a ticking flash counter keeping track of how long he has been running for president without an energy policy.

So where do all three candidates stand?

Barack Obama

Here is his energy policy.

I hesitate to try to sum up the proposals, but here are the bullet points:
  • Reduce Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2050 by
    • Cap and Trade with 100% auction
    • Confront Deforestation and Promote Carbon Sequestration

  • Invest in a Clean Energy Future
    • Invest $150 Billion over 10 Years in Clean Energy
    • Double Energy Research and Development Funding
    • Invest in a Skilled Clean Technologies Workforce
    • Convert our Manufacturing Centers into Clean Technology Leaders
    • Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund
    • Require 25 Percent of Renewable Electricity by 2025
    • Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology (with low carbon technologies, not just low particulate)

  • Support Next Generation Biofuels
    • Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol
    • Expand Locally-Owned Biofuel Refineries
    • Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard
    • Increase Renewable Fuel Standard

  • Set America on Path to Oil Independence
    • Increase Fuel Economy Standards

  • Improve Energy Efficiency 50 Percent by 2030
    • Set National Building Efficiency Goals
    • Establish a Grant Program for Early Adopters
    • Invest in a Digital Smart Grid

  • Restore U.S. Leadership on Climate Change
    • Create New Forum of Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitters
    • Re-Engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change

I stripped each of those items of the detail, so go read the policy yourself to be informed. Anyone can download the pdf of the plan from his website.

Hillary Clinton

Here are the bullet points of her plan, from her website:
  • A new cap-and-trade program that auctions 100 percent of permits alongside investments to move us on the path towards energy independence;

  • An aggressive comprehensive energy efficiency agenda to reduce electricity consumption 20 percent from projected levels by 2020 by changing the way utilities do business, catalyzing a green building industry, enacting strict appliance efficiency standards, and phasing out incandescent light bulbs;

  • A $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund, paid for in part by oil companies, to fund investments in alternative energy. The SEF will finance one-third of the $150 billon ten-year investment in a new energy future contained in this plan;

  • Doubling of federal investment in basic energy research, including funding for an ARPA-E, a new research agency modeled on the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

  • Aggressive action to transition our economy toward renewable energy sources, with renewables generating 25 percent of electricity by 2025 and with 60 billion gallons of home-grown biofuels available for cars and trucks by 2030;

  • 10 "Smart Grid City" partnerships to prove the advanced capabilities of smart grid and other advanced demand-reduction technologies, as well as new investment in plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies;

  • An increase in fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030, and $20 billion of "Green Vehicle Bonds" to help U.S. automakers retool their plants to meet the standards;

  • A plan to catalyze a thriving green building industry by investing in green collar jobs and helping to modernize and retrofit 20 million low-income homes to make them more energy efficient;

  • A new "Connie Mae" program to make it easier for low and middle-income Americans to buy green homes and invest in green home improvements;

  • A requirement that all publicly traded companies report financial risks due to climate change in annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission;

  • Creation of a "National Energy Council" within the White House to ensure implementation of the plan across the Executive Branch.

  • A requirement that all federal buildings designed after January 20, 2009 will be zero emissions buildings.

Again, you can download her plan in greater detail here.

John McSame McCain


Since McCain still hasn't released his energy policy, we can't really compare him. He did give a speech last April on energy policy, but it was conspicuously lacking in proposals. He speaks frequently of the need to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, but you know what? So did George W. Bush. And Bill Clinton. And George H.W. Bush. And Ronald Reagan. And Jimmy Carter.

There are plenty of YouTube clips from townhalls and rallys where McCain has said that he takes global warming seriously and our energy problems seriously, but taking things seriously means more than just speaking about them with a furrowed brow (which, admittedly, McCain excells at). Tackling issues seriously means putting forward policy proposals and defending them.

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