Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain Willing To Permit Expanded Offshore Drilling For Oil, But Still Won't Open Up ANWR

On June 17th, 2008, CNN reports that Senator John McCain proposed lifting the ban on offshore drilling as part of his plan to reduce dependence on foreign oil and help combat rising gas prices. However, ANWR is not part of the deal.

In explanation, Senator McCain said, "We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use". McCain also said, "The next president must be willing to break with the energy policies, not just of the current administration, but the administrations that preceded it, and lead a great national campaign to achieve energy security for America".

McCain's plan, framed in Tenth Amendment language, would let individual states decide whether or not to explore drilling possibilities. The call for more offshore drilling was one of several alternatives put forth by McCain in a speech delivered in Houston, Texas.

But the proposal could put McCain at odds with environmentalists who say it's incongruous with his plans to combat global warning. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a McCain ally, opposes offshore drilling. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, considered to be on McCain's short list for vice-presidential nominees, had expressed opposition to exploring coastal waters, but Forbes Magazine reports he now supports McCain's plan to lift the moratorium and would not rule out letting his state choose to drill offshore.

"It's the last thing in the world I'd like to do, but I also understand what people are paying at the pump, and I understand the drag it is on our economy," Crist told the St. Petersburg Times. "Something has to be done in a responsible, pragmatic way."

The current law, which has been in effect since 1981, covers most of the country's coastal waters. Many officials from coastal states oppose offshore drilling because of the risk of oil spills that can spoil beaches, which is one major reason why McCain wants to leave it to the states to decide. Environmentalists also want offshore drilling to stop in order to protect the oceans from further pollution.

Tuesday's discussion marks the first in a series of talks about America's energy security that McCain will hold during the next two weeks as he lays out his plan to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil. Unfortunately, Tuesday's discussion did not provide good news for Alaskans. McCain does oppose drilling in some parts of the wilderness and says those areas must be left undisturbed. "When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a 'refuge' for a reason," he said.

But Barack Obama quickly fired back, criticizing McCain for changing his stance on offshore drilling. "John McCain's support of the moratorium on offshore drilling during his first presidential campaign was certainly laudable, but his decision to completely change his position and tell a group of Houston oil executives exactly what they wanted to hear today was the same Washington politics that has prevented us from achieving energy independence for decades," Obama said in a statement.

On Saturday June 14th, Barack Obama unveiled his latest energy plan. In summary, he wants to invest $150 billion over the next 10 years to establish a green energy sector, create a national low-carbon fuel standard to ensure that the fuel is more efficient, and invest in clean energies like solar, wind and biodiesel. Obama believes that would create up to 5 million new green energy jobs. To help pay for it, Obama favors a windfall profits tax on the producers, based on the socialist premise that "too much profit" is "evil". The producers told Congress in earlier hearings that fat "windfall" profits in good years helps tide them over during leaner years and better ensures uninterrupted investment in new energy sources and recovery techniques.

The American Petroleum Institute thinks McCain's proposals are optimistic. According to McClatchyDC, they say that if the expansion of offshore drilling were to begin tomorrow, it would take anywhere from seven to ten years to see benefits.

Shortly after McCain's speech, the Associated Press reports that President George W. Bush urged Congress to act upon McCain's proposals, but to take it one step further and open up ANWR to exploration and responsible development. See my previous post on "Top Ten Reasons To Open ANWR" to help separate fact from fancy in this area.

There's been no official reaction from Alaska media or Alaska's Congressional delegation to McCain's speech as of this post.

Commentary: Apparently, the price of gas is getting too high even for the multimillionaire McCain. That "Straight Talk Express" bus must guzzle a lot of gas. However, it shows that even the stubborn, cantankerous McCain can bend a bit if he believes it to be in the national interest.

Now, if we can just convince him that opening up ANWR is in the national interest as well. The fact is, the people did not decide to close ANWR. Bill Clinton closed ANWR.

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