McCain promises 'bold' energy program

US Sen. John McCain endorsed ending federal embargoes of offshore drilling, temporarily removing federal taxes on gasoline, and the increased construction of nuclear plants to help reduce high energy costs.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, June 17 -- Speaking in Houston, "the oil capital of America," US Sen. John McCain, the apparent Republican nominee for president, endorsed ending federal embargoes of offshore drilling, temporarily removing federal taxes on gasoline, and the increased construction of nuclear plants to help reduce high energy costs.

McCain said, "We must be bold in our plans to break our strategic dependence on oil, and over the next 2 weeks, I'll be offering a vision that will be bold. But we must also address the concerns of Americans, who are struggling right now to pay for gasoline, groceries, and other necessities of life." He said, "These citizens believe their government has a duty to finally assure the energy security of this country, and they are right."

McCain supports the pragmatism of bringing more fossil fuels to market until other alternative forms of energy are developed. "We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion bbl in the US. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use," he said.

Those states that permit offshore exploration should get a bigger share of the royalties from those leases. "As a matter of fairness to the American people, and a matter of duty for our government, we must deal with the here and now, and assure affordable fuel for America by increasing domestic production."

While he supports drilling off all US coasts, McCain reiterated his opposition to opening the Artic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration. "Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed," he said.

McCain noted, "There's so much regulation of the industry that the last American refinery was built when Jerry Ford was president." He said, "We haven't built a new reactor in 31 years. In Europe and elsewhere, they have been expanding their use of nuclear energy. But we've waited so long that we've lost our domestic capability to even build these power plants."

High oil prices "may come as good news in Moscow, Riyadh, or Caracas, where economic growth and rising oil prices are more or less the same thing," he said, adding, "But their oil prosperity is our energy vulnerability. And the jobs, family budgets, and futures of the American people should not depend on the whims of foreign powers."

NAFTA support
McCain used the occasion to reiterate his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico—two of the largest suppliers of oil and gas to the US. "There is a world of difference between relying on two democratic neighbors and partners in NAFTA, and relying on often hostile and undemocratic regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere. When critics of trade talk about unilaterally renegotiating NAFTA, as my opponent has done, that's one more concern they might want to keep in mind," he said.

McCain said, "Whoever controls oil controls much more than oil. And in our time, much of the world's oil supply is controlled by states, regimes, and a cartel for which America's well being is not exactly a priority. Many occupy a violent part of the world—a region all the more violent for the influence of oil wealth. Their opinion of America runs the full spectrum from indifference to hatred. And yet these regimes are today the masters of the oil market."

He decried, "The vast wealth we shift to the Middle East, Venezuela, Angola," and other producing countries "to enrich undemocratic, unjust, and often corrupt regimes." He said, "Some of the most oil-rich nations are also the most stagnant societies on earth. …In effect, our petrodollars are underwriting tyranny, anti-Semitism, the brutal repression of women in the Middle East, and dictators and criminal syndicates in our own hemisphere."

He charged, "Somehow the US—in so many ways the most self-reliant of nations—has allowed and at times even encouraged this state of affairs." However, he said, "Starting in the term of the next president, we must take control over our own energy future, and become once again the master of our fate."

Blaming speculation
McCain acknowledged the growing demand for oil outside the US. "When demand exceeds supply, prices always rise, and this has happened very dramatically in the demand for oil," he said. "Two powerful forces in the oil market today are China and India, nations in which a third of humanity is suddenly entering the industrial era—with all the cars, construction, and consumption of oil that involves."

But he joined others—including ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries—in blaming speculation for pushing up energy prices. "We all know that some people on Wall Street are not above gaming the system," McCain said. "Investigation is under way to root out this kind of reckless wagering, unrelated to any kind of productive commerce, because it can distort the market, drive prices beyond rational limits, and put the investments and pensions of millions of Americans at risk. Where we find such abuses, they need to be swiftly punished. And to make sure it never happens again, we must reform the laws and regulations governing the oil futures market, so that they are just as clear and effective as the rules applied to stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments. In all of these markets, reform must assure transparency, prevent abuse, and protect the public interest."

McCain also wants to reduce energy demand while increasing supply in an environmentally friendly way. "In the face of climate change and other serious challenges, energy conservation is no longer just a moral luxury or a personal virtue. Conservation serves a critical national goal. Over time, we must shift our entire energy economy toward a sustainable mix of new and cleaner power sources. This will include some we use already, such as wind, solar, biofuels, and other sources yet to be invented. It will include a variety of new automotive and fuel technologies, clean-burning coal and nuclear energy, and a new system of incentives, under a cap-and-trade policy, to put the power of the market on the side of environmental protection."

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