Will McCain’s cynical lies destroy the chance for serious energy and climate policy?

Has any presidential nominee in history — has any potential leader of any country in the world — ever campaigned by mocking energy efficiency and conservation?

Once McCain was a lonely voice in the conservative movement pushing real action on global warming and opposing phony solutions like offshore drilling. True, like most conservatives he opposed and still opposes incentives and standards for renewables as well as levels of vehicle fuel economy needed to actually move us toward energy independence. And yes, McCain along with his energy and climate advisers have walked away from serious policy in recents months (see links below).

But McCain now sees his only road to the White House as lying again and again to the American public:

“We need to off-shore drill for oil and natural gas,” McCain said, “And anybody who says we can achieve energy independence without using and increasing these existing energy resources either doesn’t have the experience to understand the challenge we face or isn’t giving the American people some straight talk.

There is no truth whatsoever in that statement. The amount of offshore oil currently unavailable for drilling is negligible and even Bush’s own energy analysts admit that. The amount of offshore natural gas currently unavailable for drilling is not a substitute for oil now and never will be. Anyone who claims otherwise doesn’t have the experience to understand the challenge we face and isn’t giving the American people some straight talk.

But even more destructive to any hope of serious national discourse on our energy and climate problem is this:

“We’re not going to achieve energy independence by inflating our tires,” McCain said.

Aside from the fact that nobody on the planet ever said that, in fact, we cannot possibly solve our energy and climate problems without such efficiency measures.

As we’ve seen efficiency and conservation measures available to all Americans and now can deliver at least 10 times as much oil as we are going to get from coastal waters in 15 years. And that doesn’t even count the vastly larger savings from even tougher fuel efficiency standards, which McCain opposes. Sure, like Bush and Cheney, McCain was never someone who believed in energy efficiency (see “McCain on energy efficiency: He is Cheney’s third term!“) — but now the entire Republican Party is mocking energy efficiency and conservation by handing out tire gauges and lying about them.

The media refuses to police the most absurd of McCain’s energy lies, such as his claim of oil producers “within a matter of months [of ending the federal moratorium on coastal drilling], they could be getting additional oil” (see “Note to media: Are you going to allow McCain to just make up stuff on oil drilling?“) If you want some typically mindless political coverage of McCain’s tire gauges ploy that focuses on its political value rather than its accuracy, read ABC’s popular The Note (but I would recommend doing so on an empty stomach).

That leaves only progressives to save the debate from descending to drilling vs. tire gauges. Those who genuinely care about what peak oil and catastrophic climate change will do to this country must speak up now. The stakes have never been — nor will they ever be — higher.

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11 Responses to Will McCain’s cynical lies destroy the chance for serious energy and climate policy?

  1. Greg N says:

    Capitalists love efficiency and productivity – because it adds to economic wealth.

    McCain mocks efficiency.

    Ergo McCain is an anti-capitalist.

  2. Dennis says:

    The sad fact is that energy policy, like most discussions of scientific issues, cannot be discussed accurately by sound bites. McCain is saying there’s oil under the sea (true) so if we drill we will pump more oil (true). But the details behind the data (how long, how much, at what price) are totally left out. Not to mention the fact that we got into our current energy and environmental mess by relying on oil. So when you say we “must speak up” about “peak oil and catastrophic climate change” I ask: how? How do we do that and get the full truth across in sound bites during an election campaign?

  3. paulm says:

    This is all a ploy by big oil to drive the price of oil down temporarily, so that they can reinvest in it, reaping huge profits when the prices shoots back up, as everyone realizes whats going on – that were still running out of oil.

  4. Sean says:

    McCain’s emphasis on pleasing the oil companies and disparaging conservation is truly outrageous but fully consistent with the Bush administration’s approach.

    Remember that when oilman Cheney drafted the Bush energy bill in secret? He met with renewable-energy folks once and oil and gas executives 40 times

    McCain voted for the bill despite the fact that the Washington Post described it as “a piñata of perks” for the oil companies and Public Citizen called it “The Best Energy Bill Corporations Could Buy”.

    Obama naturally opposed it. And Obama gives energy conservation the respect it deserves. As he said in Houston,

    “In the face of climate change and other serious challenges, energy conservation is no longer just a moral luxury or a personal virtue. Conservation serves a critical national goal.”


  5. Chris says:

    I like how you didn’t mention that Obama said that inflating tires will offset any oil that we can drill out of off-shore wells, which has completely been proven false by even optimistic analysis.

    I also like how you totally left out McCain’s response that said that we SHOULD inflate our tires and other conservation methods because that would help, although it is far from a fix. He said we should ALSO drill, invest in alternative resources and technologies and build nuclear power plants (which is probably by far the best way at achieving energy independence).

    But cherry-picking a tiny soundbite that fits your agenda works better for you though. Don’t let accuracy and honesty into your debate when it is more fun to smear your “enemy” should be your motto for this website.

  6. Cyril R. says:

    Chris, you don’t understand the criterion of oppertunity costs. Drilling for expensive oil has bigger oppertunity costs than most efficiency measures. Thus, it would be absurd for the government to provide more incentives to drilling than to efficiency. Private investors must do what they want. It’s a free country after all. But the govt hast to justify it’s budget rationally. The fact that it is not doing this now means it deserves far greater attention in the future.

    You also omit other simple conservation and efficiency measures, it’s not just about inflating tires.

    What’s more, drilling for oil is like giving a junky more drugs. You need to give the junky less drugs and tell him to stop this absurd addiction. The president that can do that is one that can truly lead. McCain has political qualities, but he is no leader. Same for Bush. He’s got qualities, but should have been kept away from the white house.

  7. Cyril R. says:

    Bush, for example, tells us we’re dangerously addicted to oil. What does he do about it? Next to nothing considering the scale of the problem. He’s all talk when action is required, and all action (cough*Iraq*cough) when what’s really needed is debate. Not the traits of a true leader.

  8. Ryan says:

    Chris, I suggest you read some of the posts on this blog. They will show you that you are wrong about efficiency not being enough to offset offshore oil (i.e. inflating your tires, read “DOE/EPA say Obama’s right, Limbaugh’s wrong: More oil can be found in your car than offshore”), and that nuclear is not the best option (read “The Self-Limiting Future of Nuclear Power”).

    On a side note, does anyone else find it odd that conservatives love nuclear power? Why is it their energy source of choice? It requires tons of government funding (last time I checked, conservatives liked smaller government). They point to France, but French nuclear power is run by a centralized, government run energy company… sounds like socialism to me.

  9. Cyril R. says:

    I don’t understand conservatives in the first place. What’s so great about our current state of affairs that needs to be ‘conserved’? Addiction to wasteful lifestyles and oil? Arrogance to think we can do anything we want and get away with it? Anti-patriotism? (like buying a foreign car and filling it up with foreign oil)? The monolithic investment in military, destabilizing other economic sectors?


  10. Jingo says:

    McCain is truly a man with vision. We cannot afford to conserve. Americans should burn through oil as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the oil companies will get cheap drilling leases in protected areas and sit on them like they do with the majority of their current leases.

    Soon, the rest of the world will run out of oil and the United States will become the new Saudi Arabia – hopefully without the bans on playing music, public dancing, movie theaters and alcoholic beverages. Sure, the big oil companies will benefit most, raking in trillions in profits, but I’m sure they’ll share it with the rest of us.

  11. Dave Tonnes says:

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