John McCain, in formally accepting his role as Republican presidential nominee, emphasized his service to the country, his willingness to take on corruption in his own party and his desire to shake up Washington politics.
He didn't focus much on specific policies. Pundits and voters will be left to wonder whether his omission, for instance, of any mention of global warming, immigration or other issues for which his views differ from the GOP base, was a signal that he would toe the party line or his own. After all, he emphasized his willingness to stand up for what he believes in, but when it comes to the signature environmental issue of our times, global warming, he didn't challenge his party to hear his plan.
What McCain did say about energy policy was focused not on global warming but on energy independence, particularly on independence from foreign oil. Here's what he had to say:
My fellow Americans, when Im President, were going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades. We are going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that dont like us very much. We will attack the problem on every front. We will produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and well drill them now. We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology. We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles.
Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power. But Americans know better than that. We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and to restore the health of our planet. Its an ambitious plan, but Americans are ambitious by nature, and we have faced greater challenges. Its time for us to show the world again how Americans lead.
This great national cause will create millions of new jobs, many in industries that will be the engine of our future prosperity; jobs that will be there when your children enter the workforce.
Independence from foreign oil is an issue that energizes all political parties, since it's obvious that our reliance on Middle Eastern oil supports regimes that support terrorists. Creating jobs by investing in energy is a page out of Obama's campaign playbook, and of course plays well with anyone interested in employment, like some swing state voters we can think of.
But independence from foreign oil as good as it sounds leaves out some important caveats.
The bigger issue is that the world's reliance on oil at all props up oil-rich regimes regardless of where American oil comes from (relatively little comes from the Middle East, but we contribute mightily to world demand for oil, meaning that Middle Eastern oil is still very much in demand).
Another larger issue associated with oil, also tied up in the world market, is that supply may be at or near a peak, meaning investing any more time in running our economy on oil is shortsighted. McCain acknowledged that offshore oil drilling is more of a stopgap than a longterm strategy.
Global warming, finally, is the mother of all larger issues. Continued reliance on oil, wherever it's pumped from, means burning more fossil fuels, filling the atmosphere with more carbon dioxide, and buying the world more decades of climate change. Global warming, just like propping up volatile oil regimes, will lead to political instability and national security risks. Major think tanks and national security experts of various political ideologies agree on that, including some of McCain's advisers. But that likelihood goes unacknowledged even by a Republican convention focused on national security.
So where does offshore oil fit? Is it an essential stopgap on the way to a future fueled largely by nuclear power and buffeted by renewable fuels, as McCain envisions? Is it a political ploy meant to distract from the larger challenge investing heavily in renewable energy technologies as Obama believes? Either way, offshore oil is a central part of McCain's energy policy.
And will McCain continue to champion global warming as a cause, if his party does not support it, given that his vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, has said she doubts humans even contribute to the problem, and the GOP platform includes only tepid acknowledgment of the issue's importance?
Voters will have to decide.
Miss his speech? Watch it now:
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