The Presidential Candidates on Energy Issues

Find out where the candidates stand on oil dependence, global warming and more.
By Aubrey Vaughn
Oct. 24, 2008
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Energy —  how we make it, where we get it and how we use it — is at the center of many of today's hot issues, from foreign policy to climate change.
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All roads lead to energy. Roller coaster gas prices, rising home heating costs, uneasy foreign policy relations, chaotic financial markets, concerns about climate change … all of these issues have direct or indirect links to energy — how we make it, where we get it and how we use it. Given that the presidential election is less than two weeks away, deciphering the various energy plans and positions of the candidates has become quite literally a hot topic. So before you head to the ballot box, here’s a look at some of the key energy positions of Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.

Drilling for Oil

McCain has said he supports offshore drilling, but opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). He also opposes taxing oil companies on windfall profits.

From Campaign Issues 2008, McCain voted:

  • For oil drilling in ANWR (2000)
  • Against oil drilling in ANWR (2002)
  • For banning drilling in ANWR (2005)
  • Against reducing oil usage by 40 percent by 2025 (2005)

Obama has said he opposes lifting the ban on new offshore drilling, but that he would accept offshore drilling if it’s necessary for enacting a comprehensive energy plan. He opposes drilling in ANWR, and supports a tax on windfall oil profits. He says that he will require oil companies to develop the land that they are currently leasing but not yet using for drilling (i.e., “use it or lose it.”).

Obama’s voting record from Campaign Issues 2008:

  • Obama voted for banning drilling in ANWR (2005)
  • For reducing oil usage by 40 percent by 2025 (2005)
  • For removing oil and gas exploration subsidies (2007)

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The candidates agree that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and both propose mandatory cap-and-trade systems to reduce carbon emissions. John McCain’s plan calls to reduce emissions to 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, suggesting that “an increasing fraction of permits for emissions could be supplied by auction.” Barack Obama’s plan includes a reduction to 80 percent below 1990 levels in the same time frame, calling for 100 percent of permits for emissions to be purchased via auction.

Fuel Economy

John McCain currently says he supports increasing the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFÉ), without specifying what the new efficiency standard should be. He proposes a Clean Car Challenge which includes a $5,000 tax credit for every consumer that purchases a zero-emissions vehicle, and applies a graduated standard for other vehicles so that the credit increases as emissions decrease. He proposes to increase production of flex-fuel vehicles and notes the potential of alcohol-based alternative fuels, while calling to “eliminate mandates, subsidies, tariffs and price supports that focus exclusively on corn-based ethanol.”

McCain says he will propose a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that opens the door for full commercial development of plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles, and that the battery should “deliver a power source at 30 percent of the current costs.”

Barack Obama says that he will increase fuel efficiency standards by 4 percent each year, and provide the United States auto industry with $4 billion to refit their manufacturing facilities in order to build the more efficient vehicles. He proposes getting 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015, and says that work should be done to ensure these cars are built in the United States.

Obama also says he will create a $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of “advanced” vehicles, as well as establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) to reduce the carbon in fuels 10 percent by 2020. He says he will “require 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels to be phased into our fuel supply by 2030. 

More Information

You can find out more about the proposed Obama and McCain energy policies, including those for nuclear, coal and renewable energy sources, at Campaign Issues 2008. The New York Times offers a succinct look at the candidates’ proposed plans, and you can get additional information straight from the sources at the campaign Web sites for Barack Obama and John McCain.

Also, check out The Candidates Discuss Energy Issues and Grist’s interviews with (and fact sheets on) both Obama and McCain.

Still want more? As is becoming increasingly apparent, energy policy and the health of the environment are inextricably linked. Find out what the candidates are saying about the environment in A User-Friendly Guide to the Candidates’ Environmental Stances and  Where do the Presidential Candidates Stand on Environmental Issues? 

(Ready to vote, but not sure where to go or if your registration is current? Be sure to read Get Ready to Vote on Election Day.)

Climate change, foreign policy, domestic drilling, windfall taxes — what do you think? Which energy measures do you think make the most sense? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below.


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Post a comment below.

 

goat_wrestler_2
10/31/2008 9:40:26 AM
The article was well written and stated the facts. Solely because you do not agree with those facts does not make them nonfactual. Gordon- your commentary will certainly not be missed upon the cancellation of your membership.

Mikki
10/30/2008 12:29:14 PM
I agree, although seeing as this was never meant to be a novel including the reasoning behind each vote, along with an in-depth analysis of the bill/issues themselves would have pushed this article way beyond its original intent, which was to create awareness of the candidate's positions and to offer ways that interested parties can delve deeper. I still see no bias whatsoever.

SR Davis
10/30/2008 10:57:19 AM
Very good article. I don't understand where the bias is - the FACTS have been well outlined. I think the best man for the job is going to win. This election has brought out some truly bitter, angry, bordering hateful speech from a lot of people. It amazes me that here on Mother Earth News those same people would post. I have always thought that those of us who read MEN are the best of what this country has. That we are open to others ideas and opinions, supportive of eachother in wanting to protect our earth, go back to living off the land, and becoming self sufficient - I guess I was wrong. When someone resorts to saying that others don't believe in God because they have a different view it is frightening. I love Mother Earth News - keep up the great work!

desiree_1
10/30/2008 12:41:38 AM
How about a mention of some third party candidates and their policies? Just to get some more info out there...

Another Tree Hugger
10/29/2008 1:08:36 PM
I find it interesting that this article was found to be bias, offensive, and leftist. Stating the facts about where BOTH candidates stand is not any of those. The fact is that Obama is genuinely concerned for the environment, our future, and the future of those after us. McCain has been seen dancing around issues and changing his stance throughout his campaign to be what he thinks will get him the vote. Obama has stood fast on where he stands and his plans. I do agree that the voting of the candidates does not show enough in the article. There are reasons why both candidates voted the way they did. All bills that go through (or get turned down) have little things attached to them. There may have been too many not so good things attached that the best thing to do was turn the bill down and wait for a better version to come through. That is how our houses have always worked. I would do the same if I were going to vote for something really good but in order to get that really good bill pushed through, I had to also agree to the really bad things added onto it, I would vote no too. It should not be a trade off to get a good thing only because you allow the bad things to come with it.

Gordon_2
10/28/2008 11:23:51 PM
Talk about biased and offensive. I have been a subscriber for years but that ends here. Hope you are as happy with your leftist empty suit four years from now. God help us, but then you don't believe in God, do you!

larry rock_1
10/28/2008 6:59:30 PM
since you asked ...methane is being formed everyday when we capture this and replace gasoline with methane we are taking alot of pressure off our fuel crisis. we can use this same gas to power an electric generator and supply our own power to our homes. this same gas will heat our food and our homes. we don't need much more than this to survive. all of this can be supplied from our own waste.

Julie Casey
10/28/2008 10:13:48 AM
To list voting records without the looking into the reasons a congressman votes that way is showing bias and not giving the full information. McCain is famous for voting against a bill he believes in because it has added pork which would cost taxpayers money for unnecessary or unwanted things attached to the bill. His voting record alone does not mean he supported or didn't support the main part of the bill. The same goes for Obama, as when he voted for a bill that gave big tax breaks to oil companies, he was actually voting for the alternative energy portion of the bill. Therefore, it is both bias and not at all helpful to look at voting records when trying to decide on a candidate's stance on policies. Both candidates have decent proposals and can give lip service all day long, but it will ultimately depend on Congress as to what gets passed.

Ronald Matthews_2
10/28/2008 10:12:57 AM
I could not find any comments about Slow Volcanos, the geothermal sources of power.

Davey Jones
10/27/2008 12:02:07 PM
One more comment, I forgot to mention - based on what I have read here on motherearth news. Obama seems to have a stronger support of caring for the environment and alternative energy sources compared to McCain. Assuming that we the readers of M.E.N. care about alternative clean energy and natural living, we should elect a leader who is supportive of our interests and that is Obama. Thanks! Dave

Davey Jones
10/27/2008 11:58:41 AM
Well, They asked for our opinions, and I lean towards Obama, I think he is very thoughtful, intelligent and caring and prudent in his decisions and actions. This demonstrates he will make best choices for Americans as a whole. McCain based on his voting record compared to his recent campaign speeches shows he is "flip flopping" now to get votes because he is desperately losing the race. It makes me sick to see him play so dirty and it shows his true face as an untrustworthy politician. I doubt he has the brains to make the right choices for our nation when the time comes. I see he has a record of doing one thing and saying another. This shows a lack of integrity. Don't fall for his crap claims about lowering taxes. Think of it as bribery to get votes, trying to buy your votes by dangling money in front of you like a carrot on a stick. Don't fall for it. Obama is more honest, more intelligent, and more caring. He will do the right thing for our nation. Thanks for reading - don't forget to register and vote!

Rudy Niederer_1
10/27/2008 11:45:21 AM
To whom it may concern The addressing of the railroad transportation nationwide, including regional and local is a must for our country and its survival. We must address the overall national transportation energy consumption and also include the consequential national security. Also not to be overly dependent on outside manipulations, therefore shift the transit to the electrification where ever possible; by energy produced here at home for our nation. This diverse source electrical power will be produced in the USA, therefore providing an immense amount of domestic employment, a thing we need nowadays. This will be costly for the country, but the ultimate benefit will be enormous for all of us! We must address the environmental consequence, land use included. Burning evermore oil is not the answer since this energy cost will ever increase due to the evermore scarcity of the oilfield reserves. Extracting oil from oil shell material is also expensive; all this also will still produce more pollutants, a thing we want to reduce. We must provide the general public with affordable, clean, enjoyable, quick and safe from point to point transit as well as preserving energy by doing so. We must create new national modern speedy routes for passengers and freight rail lines. This will be by boring tunnels in specific territories throughout our country; we do have the equipment nowadays to do such, i.e. the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM). This tunneling will straighten and shorten the rail lines and will in many cases also reduce elevation climbs. Lower elevations will result in lesser snow removal expense and also provide the line more dependable for consistence all weather service. Lesser elevation climbs will reduce energy consumption and make rail very competitive versa highway transport. Straightening of the lines will allow us to increase speed. Less curve rich lines will save on tracks and equipment wear and tear, therefore saving us money in the operation realm.

Mikki
10/27/2008 11:40:33 AM
First, I 'd like to thank the author for her informative article. Also, I'd like to know WHERE exactly the above individuals are finding "bias" in this article. Where has she stated her own opinion or the opinion of any so-called "left"? The only information she has included has been FACT. The voting record and policies of the two parties is the ONLY real evidence of their stance because what comes out of their statements is entirely catered to winning a certain type of voter. No she did not reiterate every word McCain has said regarding his environmental policy, nor has she included all of Obama's propositions. She HAS given a brief overview AND links where readers can investigate further. As for quoting the NYTimes, what "unbiased" news source would you prefer she use? I honestly don't know any. Where would you prefer we find our pure political news? Fox? CNN? Let me know when you find an unbiased bi-partisan news source, I'd love to be re-informed. Honestly the only bias I am seeing here is in the comments above. Keep it up Aubrey!

Rudy Niederer_1
10/27/2008 11:32:45 AM
To whom it may concern The addressing of the railroad transportation nationwide, including regional and local is a must for our country and its survival. We must address the overall national transportation energy consumption and also include the consequential national security. Also not to be overly dependent on outside manipulations, therefore shift the transit to the electrification where ever possible; by energy produced here at home for our nation. This diverse source electrical power will be produced in the USA, therefore providing an immense amount of domestic employment, a thing we need nowadays. This will be costly for the country, but the ultimate benefit will be enormous for all of us! We must address the environmental consequence, land use included. Burning evermore oil is not the answer since this energy cost will ever increase due to the evermore scarcity of the oilfield reserves. Extracting oil from oil shell material is also expensive; all this also will still produce more pollutants, a thing we want to reduce. We must provide the general public with affordable, clean, enjoyable, quick and safe from point to point transit as well as preserving energy by doing so. We must create new national modern speedy routes for passengers and freight rail lines. This will be by boring tunnels in specific territories throughout our country; we do have the equipment nowadays to do such, i.e. the Tunnel Boring Machines (TBM). This tunneling will straighten and shorten the rail lines and will in many cases also reduce elevation climbs. Lower elevations will result in lesser snow removal expense and also provide the line more dependable for consistence all weather service. Lesser elevation climbs will reduce energy consumption and make rail very competitive versa highway transport. Straightening of the lines will allow us to increase speed. Less curve rich lines will save on tracks and equipment wear and tear, therefore saving us money in the operation realm.

Mary Thompson_1
10/27/2008 11:19:38 AM
I agree with the first two posters. DON'T get envolved with the politics of this. The left is not the only ones who care about the environment even though they want to make you think they are. We on the right are just as passionate about it AND our politics as those on the left. I also enjoy this newsletter. Please don't ruin it for me!

Tim Burden_2
10/27/2008 10:19:43 AM
I agree wholeheartedly with Joe. There is enough anti-McCain trash going around without you getting into the mix. I doubt you are concerned about increased taxes to pay for it all since taxes are passed on down to the consumer by corporations anyway. Your credibility wanes by quoting the NY Times. If your internet base means anything to you, please stay out of the political arena and keep it friendly to all people of all political persuasions.

Joseph Monagle
10/26/2008 6:37:28 AM
I do not feel you have been accuarate in describing Senator McCain's energy policies. He supports an all of the above including renewable engery sources solution. Your referencing the NY times as reference also is biased. Please do not become partisan. I am a new subscriber and enjoy your magazine. I hope your customers also look elsewhere for the political news. This article was another sad example of bias in the media.








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