The Emperors Have No Clothes

Posted: August 6, 2008 in energy independence, john mccain, obama

Time for a little straight talk.  Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain has a comprehensive plan for American energy independence.

McCain’s been beating the drums of more drilling, nuclear power, and ethanol, all of which have their own special problems.  Oh, and he’s proposing a $5,000 tax credit for anyone who buys a “zero carbon emission car” (convenient, since there aren’t any yet and won’t be any in the next four years) and a $300 million “X-prize” for anyone developing a battery that can deliver enough power to run a car.  No word yet on where he’s going to get the money; he’s also pledged not to raise taxes.  Presumably China will loan us the pay-out, which would be appropriate since the battery would most likely end up being made there.  He also said he’d build 45 new nuclear power plants, ironically delivering this idea on the grounds of the Enrico Fermi plant, which had two reactors until one was decommissioned in 1972 after a partial meltdown.

Obama, for his part, has been proposing “limited drilling” (whatever that means), wind and solar power development, and ethanol fuels.  He’s also proposed tapping the strategic reserves, which sounds good but is like raiding Social Security to pay for the illegal war you’ve just started.  It’s a band-aid fix at best, and won’t produce any lasting results.  His pie-in-the-sky idea is a $1000 energy tax credit to poorer families, to be paid for by a windfall tax on oil profits.  Unfortunately, this only underscores his inexperience; this proposal stands a snowball’s chance in hell of passing even if it makes it to Congress.  I like the idea, but I’m not hopeful.

To be fair, they both have elements of the basics down.  Offshore drilling won’t save us from high gas prices; it’ll only delay the inevitable.  We won’t see any of the new oil for 7 to 10 years, far too late to do anything about $4.00/gal gas.  But we need to do something, and soon, if only to extend the oil plateau period and delay the crash.  Wind and solar technology has expanded and evolved significantly in recent years.  We need more of both, and incentives for homeowners and businesses to use them.  Ethanol, the one idea both men share, is a waste of time and resources.  It takes more energy to create a gallon of it than you get from it.  Nuclear may be “carbon free” but that doesn’t make it clean.

No, what we need is a comprehensive plan incorporating the best ideas of both candidates (both ideas), and a plan to encourage innovation and scientific research into alternative power production methods.  Because neither Obama nor McCain has a real plan to make us “energy independent”.

And that’s the straight talk.


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