Comparing the Obama and McCain Energy Plans

As we press up against the hard geological limits of peak oil, the energy policies of the next administration will shape our future like no other.  Will we lose another eight years?  Will we lose another chance to seriously begin the transition to a renewable and sustainable future?   Our planet will only get one chance and the longer we wait to take decisive action, the more painful and uncertain that transition becomes.

One of my favorite financial wags jokes that the two candidates are just auditioning to be “captain of the Titanic” and the ongoing meltdown of our financial markets indicates that whoever is elected will have their hands tied by monumental fiscal problems inherited from the current occupant.  However, on top of what amounts to a national bankruptcy, the next administration will no doubt be the first to face the energy trifecta of $200/barrel oil, natural gas shortages and price shocks, and an unstable and failing national electric grid.

With that cheery backdrop, I decided to take a serious look at the candidates proposed energy policies and attempt to make an apples-to-apples comparison.  I found that both candidates have an “issues” link on their respective web sites that lead me to information about their energy policies.  On Obama’s site I found an eight page pdf document that outlined his policies and proposals in great detail including quantifiable and date stamped goals.  On McCain’s site I found a summary of what he calls the Lexington Project and the text of his speech on that topic.  In his Lexington Project speech McCain commits to “achieve strategic [oil] independence by 2025”.  Unfortunately, the U.S. consumes 25% of the world’s oil, and by 2025 the available global oil flows will have declined by well over 25%.  In addition, McCain doesn’t define what strategic independence means, nor does he offer much in the way in detail on how he will achieve this independence.

In my opinion, Obama’s plan offers both breadth and considerable substance and begins to build the foundation for a sustainable energy future.  In contrast, McCain’s plan offers little more than unsupported assertions, token statements of support for renewables,  and campaign slogans.  In it’s current form, it is a plan lacking in measurable and quantifiable goals and substance.

Click here to download a pdf file comparing the two plans

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5 responses to “Comparing the Obama and McCain Energy Plans

  1. This is from the October 3rd New Yorker magazine endorsement of Obama:

    “On energy and global warming, Obama offers a set of forceful proposals. He supports a cap-and-trade program to reduce America’s carbon emissions by eighty per cent by 2050—an enormously ambitious goal, but one that many climate scientists say must be met if atmospheric carbon dioxide is to be kept below disastrous levels. Large emitters, like utilities, would acquire carbon allowances, and those which emit less carbon dioxide than their allotment could sell the resulting credits to those which emit more; over time, the available allowances would decline. Significantly, Obama wants to auction off the allowances; this would provide fifteen billion dollars a year for developing alternative-energy sources and creating job-training programs in green technologies. He also wants to raise federal fuel-economy standards and to require that ten per cent of America’s electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2012. Taken together, his proposals represent the most coherent and far-sighted strategy ever offered by a Presidential candidate for reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.
    There was once reason to hope that McCain and Obama would have a sensible debate about energy and climate policy. McCain was one of the first Republicans in the Senate to support federal limits on carbon dioxide, and he has touted his own support for a less ambitious cap-and-trade program as evidence of his independence from the White House. But, as polls showed Americans growing jittery about gasoline prices, McCain apparently found it expedient in this area, too, to shift course. He took a dubious idea—lifting the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling—and placed it at the very center of his campaign. Opening up America’s coastal waters to drilling would have no impact on gasoline prices in the short term, and, even over the long term, the effect, according to a recent analysis by the Department of Energy, would be “insignificant.” Such inconvenient facts, however, are waved away by a campaign that finally found its voice with the slogan “Drill, baby, drill!”

  2. I guess that funny cowboy hat is covering your big head, too bad its full of nothing. Our decision to drill here in the USA has greater international impact then just lowering the price at the pump but you liberals just don’t get it. If we can eliminate our dependence of foreign sources of energy we will be able to stop being involved in foreign political problems. Using the natural resources in our own country will certainly help gas prices(ask the other guy at the DEA) and give us breathing room to implement some real energy saving plans that work now not twenty years from now. Just one other thing, as long as assholes like yourself keep trying to politicize all our problems instead of working toward a real solution of which you have no clue then I agree “drill baby, drill”. What is your plan?

  3. Thanks for your comment Jack,

    Oil production peaked in the U.S. in 1970 not due to politics, but as a function of geological limits. If we open up every additional U.S. drilling opportunity (on and offshore) we will see a small increase (blip) in our falling national production sometime around 2020.

    Since at that point, worldwide flows of oil will be in significant decline, I agree that we should start drilling now, because by 2020 we will be desperate for oil at any price.

    I’m curious, did you bother to download the pdf?

  4. Jack, I am continuously disappointed in the way many conservatives in this country, like you, lash out with personal attacks at people who have a different point of view than you. It is easier to call them unintelligent than to respond to the substance of their statements. And one doesn’t have to dig very deep to find a curse-word to demonstrate emotions, but what progress does that create, Jack? The solutions to our problems will be slower in coming if we don’t all put our best foot forward. I ask you stow your playground tactics and apply some real brain power to your passion.
    On the subject of drilling…we have other alternatives, sources of energy that will never get used up, that will not pollute the environment, and that will ease the stress on our energy infrastructure. We have a plan, but the fossil fuel companies have lobbied more successfully for governmental protections and support than the alternative industries have, for reasons I hope you understand. We have a plan, it will work, but we HAVE TO STOP PROTECTING THE OLD WAYS.
    One more thing, Jack. When did you come to the realization that energy independence would make us less interested in foreign political conflicts? Maybe it was when you figured out that it is bad for the US and bad for the world when the US uses its military to interfere in other countries’ business. I think your liberal friends have known that for a while now. Now we all ‘get it.’

  5. This is from an Obama interview with Joe Klein on October 22nd.

    “The engine of economic growth for the past 20 years is not going to be there for the next 20. That was consumer spending. Basically, we turbocharged this economy based on cheap credit.” But the days of easy credit are over, Obama said, “because there is too much deleveraging taking place, too much debt.” A new economic turbocharger is going to have to be found, and “there is no better potential driver that pervades all aspects of our economy than a new energy economy … That’s going to be my No. 1 priority when I get into office.”

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