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Oil, Coal, Nuclear Power are Cornerstones of McCain Energy Plan

By June 19, 2008

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It has been a big week for energy policy and Republicans. On Tuesday, GOP presidential candidate John McCain gave a speech that outlined his energy vision for America—a policy that seems designed to please everyone, but is likely to satisfy no one.

As McCain sees it, we need more conservation and renewable energy, but we also need more domestic oil production, clean coal, and nuclear power plants.

"In the face of climate change and other serious challenges, energy conservation is no longer just a moral luxury or a personal virtue," McCain said. "Conservation serves a critical national goal." According to McCain, so does the resumption of offshore drilling and the construction of dozens of new nuclear reactors.

While urging conservation, McCain also called for an end to the offshore drilling moratorium that has protected most U.S. waters since the early 1980s, saying it would help lower energy prices, but he restated his opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

McCain Tries to Distance Himself from Bush in Energy and Environment
McCain took the expected swipe at Barack Obama for not supporting domestic oil production and a gas-tax suspension, but more interesting was the candidate’s obvious attempt to distance himself from the Bush administration. That effort included a new McCain campaign ad focused on climate change in which the narrator says, "John McCain stood up to the president and sounded the alarm on global warming five years ago. Today, he has a realistic plan that will curb greenhouse-gas emissions."

Almost immediately, President Bush joined McCain in calling for an end to the offshore drilling moratorium, which didn’t exactly make Bush and McCain look as though they were miles apart on energy policy. Meanwhile, Bush blamed the Democrats in Congress for high oil prices, which seems to be his standard response to almost anything that goes wrong on his watch.

Ironically, oil industry analysts estimate that ending the offshore drilling ban now wouldn’t increase domestic oil supplies for at least seven to 10 years. And opponents argue that, even then, it wouldn’t do much to lower energy prices or increase energy independence.

McCain Goes Nuclear
At a campaign stop in Missouri on Wednesday, McCain called for 45 new nuclear reactors to be built in the United States by 2030, and he outlined a goal of 100 new reactors long-term. Currently, the United States gets about 20 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, but no new U.S. reactors have been built since the 1970s. Huge construction costs combined with public concerns about radiation hazards and nuclear waste disposal have sidelined any new plans for expanding the use of nuclear energy, but McCain argues that politics is the real obstacle.

If we're looking for a vast supply of reliable and low-cost electricity, with zero carbon emissions and long-term price stability, that's the working definition of nuclear energy," McCain said.

McCain also praised clean-coal technology and promised to set aside $2 billion annually in federal spending to “make clean coal a reality.”

None of this did much to impress or persuade environmentalists, who argued that McCain’s energy plans would continue to enrich oil companies that are already raking in record profits while doing little to help American consumers or protect the environment.

In a statement, Sierra Club President Carl Pope said: "While he refuses to support the incentives for renewable energy needed to make the clean energy future a reality, Senator McCain wants more of the same reckless and outdated energy policies that President Bush and his allies in Congress have pushed for the past seven years: more ‘traditional coal,’ more oil, and more nuclear power. These disastrous policies have enriched special interests while devastating both our economy and our environment.”

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

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Comments

June 22, 2008 at 5:55 pm
(1) Erica says:

How will we decide where the Nuclear plants will be built? Has anyone actually said they wouldn’t mind having one built in there hometown?

June 26, 2008 at 10:05 am
(2) guidoLaMoto says:

Both candidates are avoiding emphasis on the only real solution: conservation.

Obama’s “plan” (?) is to tax the oil companies. Won’t they just pass that along to the consumers?

McCain: increase offshore drilling: really just a drop in the bucket with no long term inpact on supply. But it is much safer than tree-huggers think. Anybody see any envir. disasters in the Gulf of Mex. even during the Katrina calamity?
Nuclear: 5 yrs of haggling with tree-huggers in court before licensure, then 15 yrs to build before a plant comes on line.too little, too late. At least nuclear is the safest industry going: Except for Chernobyl, a stupid mistake, no real problems. EVER.
Contest for developing a better battery: now we’re getting somewhere. We need an all-out effort ala’ the “Space Race” in the 60s for energy R & D.

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