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Candidates Stump in Battleground Western States

June 23, 2008 at 6:30 PM EDT
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Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain took shots at each other over energy policy as they each toured Western states, hoping to drive home their message in what could be new battlegrounds this campaign season.

KWAME HOLMAN: Barack Obama and John McCain resumed their debate today over how best to address the rising cost of fuel.

McCain held a town hall in Fresno, Calif., where he proposed giving car buyers a tax credit on alternative fuel, hybrid and electric vehicles, and a prize to the inventor who develops a better car battery.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Ariz.: For every automaker who can sell a zero-emissions car, we will commit a $5,000 tax credit for each and every customer who buys that car.

For other vehicles, whatever type they may be, the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.

And these large tax credits will be available to everybody, not just to those who have an accountant to explain it to them.

I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost, and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.

That’s $1 for every man, woman and child in the U.S., a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency, and should deliver a power source at 30 percent of the current costs.

KWAME HOLMAN: One questioner asked McCain if he thought speculation by energy traders was to blame for higher fuel costs.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: And there’s no doubt that the amount of speculation has gone up dramatically. The question is, is how much effect has that had on the price of a barrel of oil? And I don’t know the answer to that.

I don’t think, from talking to wise people all over this country, that it is 50 percent or 30 percent, but if it’s 1 percent, then people — if it’s artificially driving up the cost of a barrel of oil and a gallon of gas at the gas station, then it seems to me there should be a thorough and complete investigation.

Candidates trade jabs on energy

KWAME HOLMAN: On Sunday, Obama said he would beef up government oversight of energy traders. Today, in Albuquerque, N.M., he took aim at two pieces of McCain's energy plan: off-shore drilling and a federal gas tax holiday.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Ill.: We're having a debate right now about energy, John McCain and myself, you know. And the truth is, is that I want to give a tax break to help offset rising gas costs, but we're not going to bring down gas prices easily, quickly.

The only way to do it is to reduce demand over the long term in a serious way. And so when John McCain says, "Well, we're going to drill our way out of the problem," or, "We're going to give a tax cut -- or suspend the gas tax for 60 days, which would save you 30 cents a day for 90 days for a grand total of $28," you know, then I say, "That's a gimmick. You're not being serious."

And so I try to be honest with people. It's going to take some time. It's going to be hard.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama toured an Albuquerque cafe in the morning and later held a discussion there with working women. He looked to relate their concerns to his as a father.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: See, I want my daughters to grow up in an America where they have the exact same opportunities as the boys have, opportunities that are greater than their mother had, or their grandmother, or their great-grandmother, an America where they truly have the same opportunities as sons.

And standing here today, I know that we've drawn closer to this America because of extraordinary women, women like the lieutenant governor and your first lady, the extraordinary woman who I've shared a stage with so many times throughout this campaign, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In the months and years ahead, I look forward to working with her and to women all across this country to make progress on the issues that matter to American women and to all American families, health care and education, support for working parents, and an insistence on equality, because I want Sasha and Malia to grow up in an America where both work and family are part of the American dream and where that dream is available to all. That's why I'm running for president of the United States.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama will campaign tomorrow in Las Vegas, while McCain has a second day of California events planned.