Side by side energy policy comparison

Since this is one of this cycle’s top 5 issues, a brief breakdown in descending order of importance:

Offshore drilling – McCain supports in light of energy crisis. Before the energy crisis he opposed it. Obama supports it as of last week, but it is not clear why. He stated that it would be necessary to reach compromise with Republicans. He has since hedged his commitment to offshore drilling a bit stating that it should only be allowed when we have exhausted all the federally leased acres and only if environmentally sound. (The environmental provision would effectively result in a parallel to what has prevented most domestic drilling, as any environmental group can hold the drilling up in court for the entire lease period without ever necessarily getting to the merits of a case). Precipitating Obama’s switch was public polling in favor of offshore drilling by a 59%-23% margin. This is likely to be perhaps the largest single action we can take to increase our energy independence at this time. Previously Obama attacked this idea since he believed it would not increase our oil supply for 5 years.

Nuclear power – McCain has called for 45 new nuclear plants to be built to generate huge amounts of energy for America. Nuclear energy is generally thought to be good, clean, safe, and cheap energy. In Europe, they have drastically reduced their energy costs and proven safe. Obama opposes developing any nuclear power plants.

Coal – Both candidates have supported expansion of coal, and development of clean coal technology. Even if Pennsylvania were not a swing state, this would still be a good policy.

Alternative energy sources – Sun, wind, and rain can all be converted into energy. Both candidates support greater utilization of these energy sources and investment in them. McCain states his is an “all of the above” approach to comprehensive energy solutions. Obama states that these technologies could create 5 million new American jobs.

Domestic drilling – Though 5th on the list, it is a major factor to my mind. With brand new drilling sites through the midwest, particularly in North Dakota, this could perhaps even be the largest source of energy. We won’t know unless we allow more oil exploration. McCain supports drilling wherever we can find oil. Obama opposes expanded domestic drilling. His caveat is that if we use all the 68 million acres that are already leased by oil companies, (which are already incentivized to find oil where they can except they are held up in court often by environmentalists), then new lands could be considered. In short, he won’t allow it. While making fun of McCain from the stump, Obama stated that McCain keeps saying “Let’s drill here” even though he was inside once when he said it. Again, when Obama goes even a little off message, it often does not come off well.

Alaska pipeline and ANWR – It is well known that ANWR has enough oil to satisfy our energy needs for the whole country for several years, but both candidates oppose drilling there. McCain has hinted though that he might reconsider that stance if he felt the national interest and national security required it. Both candidates praised the construction of a pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48 states that Governor Palin and the Alaskan legislature approved and funded this week.

Inflate the tires – Obama has pointed out, correctly, that AAA and Nascar recommend we inflate our tires. He incorrectly asserts, however, that this could save more energy than offshore drilling could at 3-4%. McCain made fun of Obama on this point which irked Obama greatly. While its true we can inflate our tires, I don’t exactly see that as a policy that will achieve resolution. Its not even a policy initiative. Its just an observation. To offer this instead of drilling is a really poor attack on his opponent’s centerpiece to the energy crisis solution.

Windfall profits tax – Obama has proposed taxing oil companies on “windfall profits” and called John McCain the best friend of oil men and beholden to big oil. The Center for Responsive Politics, however, pointed out that it is actually Obama who has received more money from oil company executives than John McCain. Since this would invariably raise gas prices and eliminate the profit incentive for oil companies to drill in any new places, as well as increase our dependence thereby on foreign oil, I mark this as a terrible idea, perhaps the very worst proposal of his campaign.

Gas tax holiday – McCain (and Clinton) supported a gas tax holiday which would lower gas prices by the amount of the tax – a good 20-30 cents per gallon, throughout the summer. Obama opposed this as he did not believe it would be a long term solution.

Energy credit – Obama has proposed giving every working family a $1000 energy credit. This would not lower gas prices, but it would help somewhat with the pain at the pump. McCain has neither endorsed nor rejected this view but has indicated he would be open to measures that would help working families with their pain at the pump as well.

Entrepreneurial incentives – While both candidates have supported some incentives that would encourage scientific innovation, McCain has put more money there than Obama, including a $300 million dollar prize for someone who can perfect an economical electric engine for our cars, (which would save our country billions, perhaps trillions). Obama opposed that initiative.

Fuel efficiency standards – Obama has also proposed increasing the fuel efficiency standards on cars to in the neighborhood of 40 MPG. Short of market regulation, this would never happen, as the market clearly shows no signs of jumping there at this time. While this would save Americans on gas mileage, the downside is the R&D necessary to create those cars and the likely cost of the vehicles themselves would mean we’d all have to buy our cars for about an extra $20,000. Can’t exactly regulate the market into creating economical fuel efficient cars.

Congressional action – As the Democratic majority Congress, (which since 2006 has seen gas prices rice from $2.30 to $4.10), takes its recess vacation, GOP Congressmen are staying on the Hill demanding the Democrats return. McCain has pledged that he would as President force the Congress back into session (The President has authority under the Constitution to convene emergency sessions of Congress during the recess) to solve the energy crisis. Obama has not criticized his fellow party members for taking the paid vacation while the pain at the pump continues across the country and we continue our dependence on foreign oil.