Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Presidential Candidates and Energy

The NY Post editorial section properly takes the presidential candidates to task for their evolving positions on energy issues. However, they correctly point out that while Sen. McCain's position on offshore drilling has changed due to the facts on the ground (high gas prices), Sen. Obama's views have apparently changed due to more political factors. These changed positions include a call for releasing oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve (which is supposed to be for national emergencies, not to manipulate prices) AND now include being "open" to additional drilling if it is coupled with additional subsidies for alternative energy and higher mileage vehicles. He also still wants a windfall profits tax on large energy companies, which is counter productive and leads to higher consumer costs. The Post appears quite suspicious of the Illinois Senator's new views, and spells out the reasons for their skeptism.

"Obama, by contrast, still opposes drilling - but says he'll back it if it leads to a deal on legislation pushing fuel-efficient cars and alternative energy. Right. That might be believable if he hadn't also made popular turnabouts on many other issues, like NAFTA, the terror-monitoring bill and talking to Iran. Obama's new view on drilling, of course, is welcome; environmental concerns pale next to the need for more oil.

His switch on SPR oil, on the other hand, is not. The reserve is meant for national emergencies, not as a tool to ease prices - as even he once noted: "The reserve should only be used in the event of an emergency," he said, not "to provide a small, short-term decrease in gas prices." And he's U-turning on yet a third oil issue: He wants a windfall-profits tax on oil companies, even as he voted to give them breaks in '05. McCain voted against the breaks but is against hikes now....But here's the more important question: What does Obama stand for, besides whatever's popular at the moment?"

Indeed, this has been my question since mcuh earlier in the year. Perhaps due to this issue, Mac has pulled almost even with Obama (only a point or two down, well within the margin of error) in the latest Gallup and Rasmussen temperature checks, and McCain is ratcheting up the pressure on Congress by calling for both houses to return from vacation and address these issues. He is also handing out free tire pressure gauges for a $25 donation (see WSJ article here) after Obama suggested keeping your tires properly inflated as a means of saving energy - which is correct in a sense, but the math he spouted off on how much gasoline it would save was a bit off (he claimed it would save as much as we would ever get from drilling - not likely).

Meanwhile, the House Republican revolt led by Indiana Congressman Mike Pence and Georgian Tom Price Friday against the Wicked Witch of the West appears to be gathering some steam as well, with around twenty Congress critters meeting in the darkened halls of the District on Monday and more likely to join, as witnessed by Human Event's Jed Babbin, article here:

"The Republicans’ action began as a stunt on Friday and by Monday had evolved into a well-organized effort that might just succeed: if enough pressure were brought on Pelosi to force a vote on a comprehensive energy package, she might have to budge either by bringing Congress back in August (admittedly a very long-shot) or by holding a vote when the House reconvenes in September.

Republicans, as Hensarling said, define “comprehensive” as not “drill or, but drill and”, meaning that they would couple conservation measures with opening offshore drilling and on-land oil reserves such as the Colorado oil shale.

By Monday, Pence and Price had gotten about twenty fellow Republicans to come back for the new debate, and more were still being rounded up. As many as one hundred may be back by week’s end. If they are successful in building momentum this week, the debates will go on -- possibly -- all the way into September."

High energy prices and the Democratic leaderships intransigence on the issue may just be the road the Republicans need to turn things around come November.

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