Today in Lansing, MI Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama unveiled his energy plan and his campaign debuted a television ad that charged John McCain with being in the back pocket of big oil.
Obama’s energy plan itself, is much the same as the one he proposed during the primary with a few minor but significant changes. Obama now supports opening up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Obama now says that he would use some light crude oil in the reserve, and replace it with heavier crude oil later, “We should sell 70 million barrels of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve for less expensive crude, which in the past has lowered gas prices within two weeks.” This is an idea that Nancy Pelosi has been pushing the House, that Obama originally rejected.
Only July 7 Obama said, “I have said and, in fact, supported a congressional resolution that said we should suspend putting more oil into the strategic oil reserve, but the strategic oil reserve I think has to be reserved for a genuine emergency.” I think that Obama should have stuck to his original position. Just as it doesn’t make sense to keep filling the Reserve, it makes even less sense to deplete the reserve for a couple of weeks of relief at the pump, then have to refill it with more expensive oil. I criticized McCain’s gas tax holiday, and this Democratic is also stupid. It was born out of poll numbers and election year pressure.
The other new parts of Obama’s plan are the emergency energy rebate. Obama would rescind billions in tax breaks for the oil companies, and use the money to provide energy rebates $1,000 per couple and $500 per individual to the American people, and a use it or lose it provision for oil and gas leases on federal land, “I also believe that in the short-term, as we transition to renewable energy, we can and should increase our domestic production of oil and natural gas. But we should start by telling the oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres they currently have access to but haven’t touched. And if they don’t, we should require them to give up their leases to someone who will.”
The nuts and bolts of the plan remain the same as the one that he touted during the primary, increased fuel efficiency and more hybrid cars, a cap and trade system to reduce greenhouse gases, a requirement for more electricity to come from renewable sources, and the creation of five million new jobs by investing in clean energy.
Obama also criticized McCain for selling himself to the oil companies, “In fact, he raised more than one million dollars from big oil just last month, most of which came after he announced his plan for offshore drilling in a room full of cheering oil executives. His initial reaction to the bipartisan energy compromise was to reject it because it took away tax breaks for oil companies. And even though he doesn’t want to spend much on renewable energy, he’s actually proposed giving $4 billion more in tax breaks to the biggest oil companies in America – including $1.2 billion to Exxon-Mobil.” This criticism is also repeated in a new ad released by the Obama campaign this morning.
Here is the new ad:
Even with these minor strategic shifts by Obama on offshore drilling and the Strategic Reserve, the contrast between the two candidates remains stark. McCain wants to keep doing what we are already doing on energy, with the addition of drilling for more oil, while Obama has a goal of eliminating our dependence on foreign oil in a decade. One candidate has a comprehensive plan, while the other is offering cosmetic change. That in a nutshell is the early story of this election between John McCain and Barack Obama.
You can read the full text of Obama’s speech here.