John McCain vs. Barack Obama On Energy Policy

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The differences are almost as simple as saying that McCain wants to burn domestic oil and trusts the free market to provide energy, while Obama would rather watch windmills go around and around to inspire him to think of new ways for the government to get involved in the energy sector.

They are, though, a bit more nuanced than that. But not by much.

While both oppose opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development, McCain is in favor of drilling in sectors of the Outer Continental Shelf that had been for years under executive and congressional moratoriums. McCain wants the drilling to be at least 50 miles from shore and the states whose coasts will be involved have to agree.

Obama, however, has merely said he will "look at" drilling, a craven sidestep by a candidate cowed by extremists, which McCain rightly called him on in the last debate.

When Obama says that we can't drill our way out of our energy problems, he is either ignorant or being dishonest. The OCS holds an estimated 115 billion barrels of oil and another 635 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. To put that in perspective, consider that the U.S. burns about 7.3 billion barrels a year. Taking what the Earth gives right off of our coasts will help us cut our imports from hostile nations and drive down prices.

The candidates have significant differences on nuclear power, as well. On this, McCain's position is clear. He has proposed building 45 new nuclear plants by 2030. They would generate enough electricity to power more than 33 million homes.

Obama's views on nuclear power are muddled. In a classic dodge, he said during the Democratic debates that "we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix," but he has tended to follow up this qualified support with nonsense about renewable and alternative sources.

Obama also wants to be sure nuclear energy is safe and clean before we go forward. We suggest that by merely checking the record — more than a half century of use without a single domestic death or combustion emission — Obama could clear up any questions he has.

Just as he did with drilling, Obama gives the appearance of one who favors nuclear power, yet he allows himself plenty of wiggle room to abandon his "support" in deference to environmentalists.

Anyone who thinks energy will be more plentiful and cheaper under an Obama presidency should familiarize themselves with his plan to gouge U.S. oil companies — and by extension consumers — with a Hugo Chavez-style 50% windfalls profit tax. Why can't a major-party candidate for president of the United States understand that confiscating energy company profits ruins those companies' incentives for bringing more oil to the market? If Obama would read the Congressional Research Service's study on Jimmy Carter's 1980 windfall profits tax on oil companies, he would learn that it cut domestic crude production by as much as 6% and increased imports by 8% to 16%.

Most middle-school kids will grasp, when told, the laws of supply and demand and will acknowledge that commodity prices rise when supplies fall and can't keep up with the demand. Yet the man that the media have almost elected seems unable to comprehend a basic lesson.

McCain wisely opposes a windfall profits tax on oil companies because he knows their impact — curtailed investment in exploration and additional production — would be counterproductive. The Democratic Party says McCain "refuses to crack down on profits made by oil companies." That Obama's party would treat profit as a crime that has to be cracked down on tells voters all they need to know about this and all the other issues of the 2008 presidential campaign.

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