Obama/McCain energy policies: A survey of comparisons

VP candidate Sarah Palin made an energy-only policy speech Wednesday at an Ohio solar panel company, so we thought it might be a good time to revisit the McCain/Obama energy positions…. or rather revisit others spelling out the differences between the two.

whats_really What’s really separating the two candidates when it comes to energy policy?

Many Houstonians may remember McCain comparing Obama’s energy policy as being too much like Jimmy Carter’s when he visited town back in June.
But both camps continued to tweak their plans, as we noted in August. And the mud slinging between the two camps continued:

“The McCain campaign, for instance, handed out tire gauges labeled “Obama energy plan” to mock Obama’s suggestion that Americans try to improve their gas mileage by inflating their tires.
In hopes of linking McCain in the public eye with a widely unpopular oil industry, Democrats have launched what they call the ExxonMcCain’08 campaign, featuring a logo that turns the GOP elephant into a gas tank.
The McCain camp, meanwhile, in a striking twist, has tried to tie Obama to the Bush administration’s energy policies.
McCain campaign officials repeatedly point to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a sprawling energy package written by a Republican-controlled Congress, which they have branded the “Bush-Cheney energy bill.”
McCain voted against that bill, decrying what he called giveaways to “big business and oil companies.”

Here’s a chart we ran comparing policies in August: View image
Some think the tweaking continues, with McCain and Palin backing off on previous statements about green house gas regulations.
More recently the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted “No matter who wins on Nov. 4, the next president promises to chart a different course on energy and the environment than President Bush.”

Milwaukee Sentinel’s graphic on energy-related campaign contributions.

“Unlike Bush, Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain both oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Both support tapping alternative energy sources. And both have endorsed plans to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other emissions from power plants, factories and motor vehicles.”

The Wall Street Journal notes: “So does that mean that America will get the same energy strategy no matter which candidate wins? Not by a long shot.”

“Sen. Obama is pushing a bigger government role in fostering the development of technologies to reduce emissions and alternatives to fossil fuels. Sen. McCain, meanwhile, argues for a more hands-off approach, saying “unintended consequences” can result from wrongheaded interference in the marketplace.”
“For example, while Sen. McCain says he favors an effort to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, his voting record shows a reluctance to support mandates, tax credits and other policies often touted by other politicians, including Sen. Obama, as ways to spur greater use of alternative energies and energy efficiency.”

Over at Heretical Ideas, the writers favor Obama’s more aggressive green house gas reduction goals but prefer McCain’s methods of using tax incentives instead of subsidy payments. The writers also prefer a straight out tax on carbon instead of the cap-and-trade system both have proposed, but…

“Unfortunately, a carbon tax is a political non-starter, so cap and trade it will be. Which is too bad, because in theory you could just offset a carbon tax with other tax cuts, thereby creating a great tax incentive to use less energy and develop non-carbon energy in a manner that is transparent and distorts the market as little as possible.”

Over at the Huffington Post, Peter M. Haas writes that one of Obama’s favorite causes, ethanol “… is domestic agricultural policy masquerading as energy policy.”
The Coolerplanet Blog summarized an energy debate between the candidate’s two energy advisors held at MIT in earlier in October. James Woolsey represented McCain and Jason Grumet represented Obama.
The big difference between the two camps, Coolerplanet says, “… was in emphasis – how much money each candidate would invest in new technology, what initiatives each would pursue.”

“For example, take oil. Woosley explained that McCain’s plan would reduce the United States’ foreign dependence on oil by increasing fuel economy standards, introducing more hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles, and drilling into our own offshore oil reserves. Grumet argued that Obama too wants to increase fuel economy standards and has proposed to create a mandate that requires fuel economy standards in vehicles increase 4% a year (essentially a mile per year) as well as to put money toward R&D for advanced biofuels. The solution to the oil/energy problem Grumet explained comes not only from a substantial commitment from the federal government, but also from the American people to do things that are “ridiculed as silly” such as giving people opportunities to get air in their tires.”

Here’s another item on the MIT meeting from the Medill School at Northwestern University, complete with some sound bites.
CNNMoney.com had both candidates answer a series of questions on specific policies, including:

“Should fuel efficiency standards be raised more? Congress hiked them last fall for the first time in three decades, from 25 miles per gallon to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Where should they go beyond 2020?”
McCain: See how automakers do with the new rules before passing new ones.
Obama: Wants to double fuel economy standards within 18 years to 50 mpg by 2026.

Over at PopularLogistics.com, (which describes itself as “the intersection of emergency preparedness, public health and environmental policy”) the preference is for Al Gore’s plan of “100% Clean and Green by 2018.” But they have a nice summary of the two candidates’ positions on the topic at the bottom of the post.
Here’s the Cato Institute’s take on the two candidates and clean coal.
Finally, here’s McCain’s energy plan, the “all of the above” plan, and here is the Cliff’s Notes version of Obama’s or the slightly more detailed 8-page version.