The presidential hopefuls are sharpening their duels on the issues — and amid high gas and fuel costs, climate and energy policy are emerging as top talking points. In one of the latest forays, likely GOP nominee Sen. John McCain took to the stage Tuesday to announce his plans to try and reverse a ban on offshore drilling if elected in November while calling for a clean break from Bush administration energy policies.
The Arizona senator was set to deliver a speech in Houston Tuesday afternoon, where he was expected to tell audiences that “the stakes are high for our citizens and for our economy, and with gasoline running at more than four bucks a gallon, many do not have the luxury of waiting on the fair-off plans of futurists and politicians,” according to advance copies of his speech.
In a divergence from the energy policies of President Bush, McCain proposes a plan to let states decide if they would like to explore offshore drilling.
“We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States,” the speech said. “But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production.”
Along with his speech, the McCain camp released a new ad, entitled “Global,” touting differences between their candidate’s plan and the current administration.
Likely Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama lashed back at McCain Tuesday, noting McCain first supported President Bush’s moratorium on offshore drilling, “but his decision to completely change his position and tell a group of Houston oil executives exactly what they wanted to hear today was the same Washington politics that has prevented us from achieving every independence for decades,” according to a statement released by his campaign.
Obama took the opportunity to emphasize his focus on reducing America’s dependence on oil. “I believe we should put in place a windfall profits tax that will help ease the burden of higher energy costs on working families, and we should invest in the affordable, renewable sources of energy that Senator McCain has opposed in the past,” Obama said in the statement.
In his speech in Texas, McCain planned to take aim at his Democratic rival, saying Obama “supported the energy bill of 2005 — a grab bag of corporate favors that (McCain) opposed. And now he supports taxes on energy producers,” according to the released excerpts. “If the plan sounds familiar, it’s because that was President Jimmy Carter’s big idea too — and a lot of good it did us.”
Obama earned a nod this week from a notable name in both political and climate policy circles: former vice president and turned global warming fighter, Al Gore.
“For America to lead the world through the dangers we’re facing, to seize the opportunities before us, we’ve got to have new leadership,” Gore said in an appearance with Obama in Detroit on Monday night. Gore’s endorsement is the second big endorsement announcement — the first was from former Democratic opponent Sen. John Edwards — to be held in the crucial general election state of Michigan.
Obama was happy to accept Gore’s support, calling him “a visionary, not just for the party, but for the country.”
Despite the lavish fanfare paid to the event by the Obama campaign, many political pundits questioned why Gore waited for so long — nearly two weeks after Obama clinched the party’s nomination — to make the announcement. Choosing to hold the event in Detroit was also seen as a politically risky choice.
“Maybe he just wanted to go to Michigan where his prize-winning environmental pitch is so very less welcome than other places that don’t make so many large cars,” the Los Angeles Times’ Andrew Malcolm wrote.
“Gore’s stances on auto emissions are NOT popular with the auto industry, MSNBC’s political bloggers wrote. “Having Gore endorse Obama in Michigan, of all places, might have been a risk for the campaign. But it was a risk it thought was worth taking.”