17 October 2008 ~ 0 Comments

The Candidates on Energy

The remaining presidential candidates agree that increasing energy independence is critical to national security. Both have co-authored legislation related to conservation, such as improving auto gasoline efficiency, developing alternative energies, such as ethanol, or expanding fossil-fuel exploitation, such as offshore drilling. As natural resources become depleted, and relations between the United States and some important oil-producing countries become increasingly strained, energy policy has emerged as a crucial campaign issue.

Democratic Candidates on Energy Policy

Barack Obama

Obama has been critical (AP) President Bush’s energy policy. “Saying that America is addicted to oil without following a real plan for energy independence is like admitting alcoholism and then skipping out on the twelve-step program,” Obama said in 2006. In August 2008, Obama unveiled his “New Energy for America” plan, which includes measures to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to provide “short-term relief to American families facing pain at the pump” due to high gas prices. According to the plan, Obama would impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies and use the proceeds to provide a $1,000 tax rebate for married couples and a $500 tax rebate for individuals. Those rebates would “offset the entire increase in gas prices for a working family over the next four months; or pay for the entire increase in winter heating bills for a typical family in a cold‐weather state,” Obama said.

Obama also said in August 2008 that he supports the sale of 70 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve “for less expensive crude, which in the past has lowered gas prices within two weeks.” This statement signaled a shift of position for Obama, who in July 2008 said he did not believe the United States should use that reserve supply.

Obama says he will attempt to reduce oil consumption by 7.64 million barrels a day by 2025 from current levels. He also says he would invest $150 billion over 10 years (PDF) toward new alternative energy technology, and to “accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid.”

Obama has said Americans will have to change their behavior (AFP) to reduce energy consumption. “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times…and then just expect that other countries are going to say okay,” Obama said at a May 2008 campaign rally in Oregon.

Obama has also said that he supports tax breaks and loan guarantees for users of clean energy sources like ethanol and blended fuel E85. More controversially, Obama, whose home state of Illinois has a large coal-mining industry, supported coal- | to-liquid (CTL) fuel legislation under consideration in Congress, even though some experts say CTLs might cause even more carbon dioxide pollution than gasoline. He explained his support for CTLs, saying they “will create jobs and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.” Obama broke ranks from many of his fellow Democratic senators voting for the 2005 Energy Policy Act. He believes that a “strong carbon cap” (Grist) is better than a freeze on development on a particular type of energy.

At a debate in January 2008, Obama said he would support more nuclear power if it could be made cost-efficient and safe, and the waste stored effectively. He noted, if that can be done, “then we should pursue it because what we don’t want is to produce more greenhouse gases.”

In June 2008, Obama said he would close the “Enron loophole,” a legislative provision pushed through Congress by Enron lobbyists in 2002 that Obama says allows oil speculators to escape federal regulation and gouge fuel prices. Obama said that loophole prevents the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from effectively overseeing the oil futures market and investigating “cases where excessive speculation may be driving up oil prices.”

Obama has also said he would implement a windfall profits tax on oil companies. Revenue from that tax would be invested in “mechanisms to reduce the burden of rising prices, such as expanding resources for the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, increasing federal support for state and local-level efforts to relieve the burden of rising energy prices on low and moderate-income families, and helping permanently expand the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps families pay their heating and cooling bills,” the Obama campaign said in June 2008.

Obama has criticized proposals for a gas-tax holiday, which he says would “take $3 billion a month out of the Highway Trust Fund and hand it over effectively to our oil companies.” Obama also opposes domestic oil exploration (CNN), arguing that it will not immediately lower gas prices for American consumers. Still, in August 2008, Obama said (AP) he might be willing to support some offshore drilling as part of a broader compromise on energy policy. “My interest is in making sure we’ve got the kind of comprehensive energy policy that can bring down gas prices,” Obama said (AP). “If, in order to get that passed, we have to compromise in terms of a careful, well thought-out drilling strategy that was carefully circumscribed to avoid significant environmental damage – I don’t want to be so rigid that we can’t get something done.”

Obama co-authored the Fuel Economy Reform Act with Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), among other senators. The act, which did not reach a vote, would have made all automobiles manufactured for 2012 meet the fuel economy standard of 27.5 miles per gallon. He did not attend the vote on the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007. That bill passed.

Obama’s energy plan can be viewed here.
Joseph Biden Jr.

Sen. Biden (D-DE) has called energy security his “first priority.” In spring of 2007, Biden called the energy crisis the “single most consequential problem we can solve.”

Biden opposes offshore drilling. In a July 2008 op-ed, Biden argued that the oil companies are not drilling on a large portion of the leases they already have access to. “Assuming oil companies drilled in new areas, it would take at least a decade for new production to begin,” Biden wrote. Biden said tax breaks for oil companies should be rescinded, and has called for a windfall profits tax “to fund everything from mass transit to high-speed rail to the next generation of safe, efficient cars.”

In 2006, Biden voted against the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which allowed for new drilling for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico. That bill passed. Early in 2007, Biden, with Barack Obama (D-IL) and several other senators, reintroduced the Fuel Economy Reform Act, which is aimed at annually increasing fuel economy standards by four percent for cars built between 2009 and 2011. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 (PDF) was voted on twice in the Senate. Although Biden initially supported it, he voted against the act the second time it was introduced. The act included provisions for tax credits for fuel cell vehicles, certain energy saving household appliances, and increased use of biofuels. The act, which also calls for the extension of Daylight Savings Time, passed in Congress.

In a September 2007 interview with Grist.org, Biden said he does not think clean-coal or coal-to-liquid technologies would be preferable in the United States, “because we have other, cleaner alternatives.” He also says automobiles should reach a 40 miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard within ten years.

Republican Candidates on Energy Policy

John McCain

Sen. McCain (R-AZ) has said the next president “must be willing to break with the energy policies not just of the current administration, but the administrations that preceded it, and lead a great national campaign to achieve energy security for America.” McCain says he supports an “all of the above” approach to energy security, meaning he will “support the development of alcohol-based fuels, establish a permanent research and development tax credit to support energy innovation, and will encourage an even-handed system of tax credits for renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and biomass,” McCain campaign foreign policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin wrote in an August 2008 memo (Chicago Sun-Times). Under a McCain presidency, the United States will “stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much” in exchange for oil, McCain said in his September 2008 speech at the Republican National Convention.

In June 2008, McCain unveiled his “Lexington Project” energy plan. The Lexington Project, named for the site of the first battle in the Revolutionary War, calls for the expanded use of the U.S. domestic oil supply, among other proposals. He said he would lift federal restrictions on domestic oil exploration in the United States. Although he has stressed the importance of refuges like the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, he said in June 2008 that the “stakes are high for our citizens and for our economy.” As a result, he said, a “broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.” .

McCain is a strong proponent of nuclear energy, and pledged in a November 2007 Foreign Affairs article to “greatly increase the use of nuclear power.” According to the Lexington Project, McCain will “put his administration on track” to build 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030 “with the ultimate goal of eventually constructing 100 new plants. He is in favor of storing nuclear waste at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain site. “I have supported storage but I also am cognizant and respectful about the environmental and other provisions that have to be met in order for Yucca Mountain to be a suitable place for storage of spent nuclear fuel,” McCain said in June 2008. McCain also says he would help create an international nuclear waste repository, but has not indicated where it would be located.

He also supports federal subsidies (WSJ) for the nuclear industry, although he opposes similar subsidies for solar energy or ethanol. McCain, alongside Joe Lieberman (I-CT), proposed the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act. The act, which would have established a “market-driven system of greenhouse gas tradeable allowances,” aimed to limit emissions and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. That act was never passed. In early 2007, McCain and Lieberman reintroduced the act (BosGlobe), saying that it would “harness the power of the free market and the engine of American innovation to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough and quickly enough to forestall catastrophic global warming.” Later versions of the McCain-Lieberman legislation included billions of dollars in subsidies for nuclear energy companies.

McCain opposes proposals to impose a windfall profits tax on oil companies. “All a windfall profits tax will accomplish is to increase our dependence on foreign oil, and hinder exactly the kind of domestic exploration and production we need,” he said in June 2008. In spring 2008, McCain called for a suspension of the gas tax (MSNBC) between Memorial Day and Labor Day. He has called high gas prices “a regressive tax,” disproportionately affecting the “lowest income Americans.”

In June 2008, McCain said he planned to issue a “Clean Car Challenge” to encourage U.S. automakers to create a car that does not emit carbon. He said he would offer a $5000 tax credit to each consumer who purchases such a car, when it exists.

McCain also proposed a $300 million “prize” for the development of a car battery that “has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars,” he said in June 2008.

McCain did not attend the vote on the Renewable Fuels, | Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007. That bill passed.
Sarah Palin

Gov. Sarah Palin emphasizes U.S. energy security and advocates domestic drilling for oil to help free the United States from dependence on foreign energy sources. “With Russia wanting to control a vital pipeline in the Caucasus, and to divide and intimidate our European allies by using energy as a weapon, we cannot leave ourselves at the mercy of foreign suppliers,” Palin said in her September 2008 speech before the Republican National Convention. “To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly one-fifth of world energy supplies, or that terrorists might strike again at the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia, or that Venezuela might shut off its oil deliveries, we Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas,” she said.

Palin supports drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [ANWR]. In an August 2008 interview with Business Week, Palin said she thinks some members of Congress “have misconceptions” about ANWR, and described the area of energy focus as “a swath of land that’s about 2,000 acres in size—and that’s out of a 20 million-acre plain that has been set aside.” Palin also said the wildlife in the area would not be harmed by drilling because the state of Alaska has stringent oversight and would “even ramp up that oversight to a greater degree if people would understand the importance of unlocking that swath of land and let the development begin.”

From 2003 to 2004, Palin chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. She resigned from that position amid concerns (FOX) about ethical violations by her fellow Republicans on the commission.

In August 2008, the Alaska Senate authorized the TransCanada Corporation to build a 1,700-mile natural gas pipeline that will cost an estimated $30 million. Palin had pushed for the pipeline’s approval, saying it will allow Alaskan gas to “provide aid to those in the Lower 48, who are turning to Alaska, waiting and wanting Alaska to help.