The vice presidential candidates squared off Thursday in a much-anticipated debate that leaves much for pundits to discuss Friday morning.
We'll stick to a quick look at what the candidates had to say about energy and environmental issues.
Sarah Palin, John McCain's running mate, had the chance to repeat her standard line on global warming in Thursday's debate: Essentially that climate change is happening, that it is having effects in Alaska more than any other U.S. state and that we need to do something about it, but that she doesn't blame it on burning fossil fuels.
"I'm not one to attribute every man -- activity of man to the changes in the climate. There is something to be said also for man's activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet.
"But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don't want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?
We have got to clean up this planet. We have got to encourage other nations also to come along with us with the impacts of climate change, what we can do about that."
Joe Biden, Barack Obama's running mate, pointed out the flaw in her thinking, if one sides with the world's scientists, and the rigors of the scientific method:
"If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That's the cause. That's why the polar icecap is melting."
Palin also touted her creation of a sub-cabinet on climate change in Alaska. Several other states have similar advisory commissions that go by various names. Alaska's sub-cabinet has focused primarily on developing strategies for adapting to real-time changes brought on by the warming climate, and less on reducing emissions that cause global warming. Palin's July 2008 report on the sub-cabinet has a similar focus.
Alaska hasn't joined with any of the regional carbon cap-and-trade regulations, though Palin signed on as an observer to the Western Climate Initiative, which includes seven Western states and four Canadian provinces (Alaskan neighbor British Columbia among them).
While both tickets support a cap-and-trade regulation to rein in carbon dioxide emissions, the Obama-Biden energy plan has a tougher goal (80% reduction) that matches with the goals of United Nations scientists. The McCain goal (60% reduction) is also aggressive, but more modest than the Democrats' goal. Both vice presidential candidates reiterated their running mates' support for cap-and-trade rules Thursday.
Palin reiterated the McCain ticket's support of offshore oil drilling, and reiterated that she would argue for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling, even though McCain has opposed doing so.
"The chant is 'drill, baby, drill.' And that's what we hear all across this country in our rallies because people are so hungry for those domestic sources of energy to be tapped into. They know that even in my own energy-producing state we have billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of clean, green natural gas. And we're building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline which is North America's largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets.
"Barack Obama and Senator Biden, you've said no to everything in trying to find a domestic solution to the energy crisis that we're in. You even called drilling -- safe, environmentally-friendly drilling offshore as raping the outer continental shelf.
"There -- with new technology, with tiny footprints even on land, it is safe to drill and we need to do more of that. But also in that 'all of the above' approach that Senator McCain supports, the alternative fuels will be tapped into: the nuclear, the clean coal."
Biden, meanwhile, focused on the realities of oil supply and demand, and on alternatives to fossil fuels.
"Now, let's look at the facts. We have 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. We consume 25 percent of the oil in the world. John McCain has voted 20 times in the last decade-and-a-half against funding alternative energy sources, clean energy sources, wind, solar, biofuels.
"The way in which we can stop the greenhouse gases from emitting. We believe -- Barack Obama believes by investing in clean coal and safe nuclear, we can not only create jobs in wind and solar here in the United States, we can export it.
"China is building one to three new coal-fired plants burning dirty coal per week. It's polluting not only the atmosphere but the West Coast of the United States. We should export the technology by investing in clean coal technology.
"We should be creating jobs. John McCain has voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources and thinks, I guess, the only answer is drill, drill, drill. Drill we must, but it will take 10 years for one drop of oil to come out of any of the wells that are going to begun to be drilled.
In the meantime, we're all going to be in real trouble. ...
"But here's the bottom line, Gwen: How do we deal with global warming with continued addition to carbon emissions? And if the only answer you have is oil, and John -- and the governor says John is for everything.
Well, why did John vote 20 times? Maybe he's for everything as long as it's not helped forward by the government. Maybe he's for everything if the free market takes care of it. I don't know. But he voted 20 times against funding alternative energy sources."
The candidates sparred over windfall profits for oil companies, and tax policy in general.
Palin touted her stance as governor that tapped into oil company profits for public state projects.
"Senator Biden, you would remember that, in that energy plan that Obama voted for, that's what gave those oil companies those big tax breaks. Your running mate voted for that.
You know what I had to do in the state of Alaska? I had to take on those oil companies and tell them, 'No,' you know, any of the greed there that has been kind of instrumental, I guess, in their mode of operation, that wasn't going to happen in my state.
And that's why Tillerson at Exxon and Mulva at ConocoPhillips, bless their hearts, they're doing what they need to do, as corporate CEOs, but they're not my biggest fans, because what I had to do up there in Alaska was to break up a monopoly up there and say, you know, the people are going to come first and we're going to make sure that we have value given to the people of Alaska with those resources.
And those huge tax breaks aren't coming to the big multinational corporations anymore, not when it adversely affects the people who live in a state and, in this case, in a country who should be benefiting at the same time. So it was Barack Obama who voted for that energy plan that gave those tax breaks to the oil companies that I then had to turn around, as a governor of an energy-producing state, and kind of undo in my own area of expertise, and that's energy. ...
"It's a nonsensical position that we are in when we have domestic supplies of energy all over this great land. And East Coast politicians who don't allow energy-producing states like Alaska to produce these, to tap into them, and instead we're relying on foreign countries to produce for us.
"We're circulating about $700 billion a year into foreign countries, some who do not like America -- they certainly don't have our best interests at heart -- instead of those dollars circulating here, creating tens of thousands of jobs and allowing domestic supplies of energy to be tapped into and start flowing into these very, very hungry markets.
"Energy independence is the key to this nation's future, to our economic future, and to our national security. So when we talk about energy plans, it's not just about who got a tax break and who didn't. And we're not giving oil companies tax breaks, but it's about a heck of a lot more than that.
"Energy independence is the key to America's future."
Biden disputed Palin's account of Obama's voting record, and attacked the McCain campaign's support for tax cuts on wealthy Americans and corporations.
"Again, let me -- let's talk about those tax breaks. Barack Obama -- Obama voted for an energy bill because, for the first time, it had real support for alternative energy.
"When there were separate votes on eliminating the tax breaks for the oil companies, Barack Obama voted to eliminate them. John did not.
"And let me just ask a rhetorical question: If John really wanted to eliminate them, why is he adding to his budget an additional $4 billion in tax cuts for ExxonMobils of the world that, in fact, already have made $600 billion since 2001?
"And, look, I agree with the governor. She imposed a windfall profits tax up there in Alaska. That's what Barack Obama and I want to do.
"We want to be able to do for all of you Americans, give you back $1,000 bucks, like she's been able to give back money to her folks back there.
"But John McCain will not support a windfall profits tax. They've made $600 billion since 2001, and John McCain wants to give them, all by itself -- separate, no additional bill, all by itself -- another $4 billion tax cut.
"If that is not proof of what I say, I'm not sure what can be. So I hope the governor is able to convince John McCain to support our windfall profits tax, which she supported in Alaska, and I give her credit for it."
After being challenged by Palin, Biden also sought to step away from a comment he made that seemed to mean he and Obama do not support clean coal -- a technology under development that would bury carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.
"My record, just take a look at the record. My record for 25 years has supported clean coal technology. A comment made in a rope line was taken out of context. I was talking about exporting that technology to China so when they burn their dirty coal, it won't be as dirty, it will be clean."
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