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Sorting out the truth on energy

Cheerleading for drilling is new

The issue

On offshore drilling.

John McCain The ruling

McCain's headline-making speech in June in which he made a pitch for lifting a federal moratorium on offshore drilling, drew some opponents to say McCain reversed his position on the federal ban. But McCain's record is not so clear. About the closest we could come to finding an inconsistency in McCain's position was two newspaper articles from the presidential race in 1999 — one from the San Francisco Chronicle, the other from the Ventura County (Calif.) Star — in which reporters paraphrase McCain's position as supporting the moratorium on offshore drilling. In 2000, the Associated Press listed McCain's position on offshore drilling as "Supports state wishes over federal fiat in oil drilling." But nowhere in those interviews or in speeches prior to Houston does McCain actively advocate for states to permit offshore drilling. Nor does he talk about creating incentives to encourage them to do it, as he did in June. That's why the speech made for front-page headlines. Yes, McCain has long been in favor of letting states ultimately decide whether to drill, but he's now become a cheerleader for the cause. If it's not a change in position, it's at least a change in posture. So we rate McCain's position a Half Flip. More compromise than change of heart

The issue

On offshore drilling.

Barack Obama The ruling

In Chicago in June, Obama was unequivocal about his opposition to offshore drilling off Florida's coast. "And when I am president, I will keep the moratorium in place and prevent oil companies from drilling off Florida's coasts," Obama said. He said McCain's proposal to lift a moratorium on offshore drilling "will only worsen our addiction to oil and put off needed investments in clean, renewable energy." But then in August, Obama gave his support to a bipartisan energy plan that would allow offshore drilling within 50 miles of the Florida coast. Asked whether his support for the plan was a flip-flop, Obama said that he remained highly skeptical about drilling off Florida's coast but that big steps toward energy independence may require compromise: "If we can come up with a genuine bipartisan compromise, in which I have to accept some things I don't like and the Democrats have to accept some things they don't like, when it's actually moving us in the direction of energy independence, I'm open to that." Obama hasn't sounded like someone who has changed his mind on the issue, so much as someone willing to consider swallowing some offshore drilling as a compromise to get other energy initiatives he really wants. So we rule it a Half Flip.

There isn't any juice behind this claim

The statement

Says Obama opposes innovation, the electric car and "clean, safe, nuclear energy."

John McCain, June 25 in a Web ad The ruling

Let's take electric cars first. To back this up, the McCain campaign cites Obama's statement that McCain's $300-million prize for improving car batteries was "a gimmick." But that doesn't prove Obama said "no" to electric cars. In fact, Obama has said his energy plan will lead to more electric cars. In a speech on June 16, Obama said his proposal to invest $150-billion in energy programs would lead to new jobs "that will be created when plug-in hybrids or electric cars start rolling off the assembly line here in Michigan." That doesn't sound like "no" to us. Against innovation? An 11-page account of Obama's plan includes incentives for communities to invest in biofuels refineries, more emphasis on clean coal and "safe and secure nuclear energy." That sounds to us like a pretty significant attempt at innovation. Which brings us to the McCain ad's last point, that Obama said "No To Clean, Safe, Nuclear Energy." To the contrary, it's right there on page 4 of Obama's energy plan: "Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy." So McCain is way, way off with these charges. He has completely distorted Obama's positions. It's so wrong we have to set the meter ablaze: Pants on Fire.

McCain has a mixed record

The statement

McCain "said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars."

Barack Obama, Aug. 28, in a speech to the Democratic National Convention in Denver The ruling

Last year, Congress passed the first increase in fuel-efficiency standards in decades. McCain missed the final vote in December 2007 and missed other votes in June. In 2005 and in 2003, McCain voted against an amendment that would have increased fuel-economy standards on a set timetable. At the time of the 2005 vote, McCain declared himself a supporter of higher standards. The Obama campaign also points to McCain's vote against a 2002 energy bill that would have directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set new standards for Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE). But that was a watered-down version of a bill that would have increased the standards through legislation. McCain was one of just six Republicans who voted no, but he and Democrat John Kerry were the driving forces behind the tougher language. Obama makes it sound as though McCain opposed raising fuel-economy standards for cars, and there are votes to support that claim. But in 2002, McCain wanted tougher standards than most of the Senate did. Obama gives a misleading picture of a senator who has been a notable advocate of higher standards. We rate this Barely True.

Their past positions and their plans

John McCain

• An "all of the above" approach that favors expanded offshore drilling and encourages other domestic sources, including natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power.

• Opposes new taxes on oil companies such as a windfall profits tax.

• Sets a goal for 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030, with an ultimate goal of 100 nuclear power plants. Supports the Yucca Mountain project to store nuclear waste.

• Supports a cap-and-trade mechanism that would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow companies to buy and sell rights to emit.

• Earlier this year, favored suspending federal gas taxes as a way of helping consumers.

Barack Obama

• Urges $150-billion in public investment to accelerate clean energy such as electric cars, clean coal, renewable fuels and upgrading the nation's electricity grid. This initiative would result in 5-million new jobs, Obama said.

• Opposes expanded offshore drilling in principle, but would accept it as part of comprehensive energy legislation.

• Says nuclear power should be part of the domestic energy supply, but opposes the Yucca Mountain project to store nuclear waste.

• Supports a cap-and-trade mechanism.

• Opposed a gas tax holiday. Favored a windfall profits tax on oil companies to provide "energy rebate" to the public.

Sorting out the truth on energy 10/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 1:56pm]
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