McCain’s ‘Comprehensive Approach’ To Energy Does Not Include Clean Renewable Energy

Our guest bloggers are Daniel J. Weiss and Alexandra Kougentakis, a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy and a Fellows Assistant at the Center For American Progress Action Fund.

During a teleconference today, McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said, “Washington is broken and John McCain wants to fix that.” He told reporters that McCain “has a comprehensive approach” to clean renewable energy.

But there’s a problem with Holtz-Eakin’s argument. It ignores McCain’s record. On December 13, 2007, McCain opposed an effort to provide a multi year extension for the very clean energy tax credits that Mr. Holtz-Eakin described. By a vote of 59–40, the Senate failed to get 60 votes necessary to end debate and pass the pending Energy Independence and Security Act that included the following clean energy tax incentives:

• extend the production tax credit for wind and geothermal energy for two years• extend the investment tax credit for solar power for eight years• extend the tax credit for efficiency measures in residences for six years• extend the tax credit for efficiency measures in commercial buildings for five years• create a consumer tax credit for the purchase of a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle for ten years.

Of the five senators then running for president, McCain was the only one to miss the vote. Since the extension of the tax credits failed by a single vote, his support would have enabled them to pass. After the vote, his spokesperson said that McCain “would not have supported breaking the filibuster.”


He also skipped a June 21, 2007 vote that would have extended these clean energy tax incentives for even longer. It failed by a vote of 58–35, with 60 votes necessary to end debate and pass the bill. (Senate Majority Leader Reid switched his vote to “no” at the last minute to preserve his right to call for a revote.) All the other Senators running for President (except one) voted for the tax extension.

In other words, McCain had several opportunities to support a multiyear extension of clean energy tax incentives, but opposed it. His new campaign proposal for “a permanent tax credit” is like sending the fire truck after the house burned down.

McCain has been an ardent foe of a renewable electricity standard that would require utilities to produce a certain portion of electricity from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, or other renewable sources. He voted against a renewable standard four times, and missed another vote in 2007. This is not a radical idea. Twenty-seven states — including his home state of Arizona, and Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada and Pennsylvania — have such renewable standards.

McCain’s opposition to clean energy policies is well documented. He said “I’m not one who believes that we need to subsidize things. The wind industry is doing fine, the solar industry is doing fine.” He does, however, support billions of dollars in subsidies for nuclear power.

McCain wants to have it both ways — opposing clean energy policies in the Senate while promoting them on the campaign trail.