Wednesday, September 10, 2008


The harnessing of energy is one of the key problems facing the next administration, and there's been a lot of debate about it.

McCain says, for instance, that he'll allow domestic drilling for oil, encourage use of our natural gas supplies (insert joke about Republican party here), challenge automotive companies to make more efficient vehicles, all the while investing in clean coal, nuclear power, wind, solar, and hydro energy.

He's blasted Obama's policies on this, accusing the Democrat of relying on technologies that are years out of our reach and offering no solutions for now.

And that's true, as long as you base your opinion on Obama's energy plans entirely on assumption and ignore what he's said on it. He does accept some offshore drilling may be necessary to carry us through until we have sufficient technology to support ourselves.

Another complaint leveled towards Obama is the suggestion that he lacks specific plans. Science Debate 2008 was initially intended to be a live debate between the two candidates, but that never materialized. Instead, 14 questions were sent to the candidates. Both said they would answer them. The link above contains Obama's answers, but McCain has yet to send his in.

Here's his answer regarding energy:

America's challenges in providing secure, affordable energy while addressing climate change mean that we must make much more efficient use of energy and begin to rely on new energy sources that eliminate or greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. My programs focus both on a greatly expanded program of federally funded energy research and development and on policies designed to speed the adoption of innovative energy technologies and stimulate private innovation.

First, I have proposed programs that, taken together, will increase federal investment in the clean energy research, development, and deployment by $150 billion over ten years. This research will cover:

• Basic research to develop alternative fuels and chemicals;

• Equipment and designs that can greatly reduce energy use in residential and commercial buildings – both new and existing;

• New vehicle technologies capable of significantly reducing our oil consumption;

• Advanced energy storage and transmission that would greatly help the economics of new electric-generating technologies and plug-in hybrids;

• Technologies for capturing and sequestering greenhouse gases produced by coal plants; and

• A new generation of nuclear electric technologies that address cost, safety, waste disposal, and proliferation risks.

I will also work closely with utilities to introduce a digital smart grid that can optimize the overall efficiency of the nation's electric utility system, by managing demand and making effective use of renewable energy and energy storage.

Second, it is essential that we create a strong, predictable market for energy innovations with concrete goals that speed introduction of innovative products and provide a strong incentive for private R&D investment in energy technologies. These concrete goals include:

• Increasing new building efficiency by 50 percent and existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade, and taking other steps that will reduce the energy intensity of our economy 50 percent by 2030;

• Increasing fuel economy standards 4 percent per year and providing loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers to build new fuel- efficient cars domestically;

• Extending the Production Tax Credit for five years and creating a federal Renewable Portfolio Standard that will require that 10 percent of American electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by 2025; and

• Ensuring that regulations and incentives in all federal agencies support the national energy and environmental goals in ways that encourage innovation and ingenuity.

I will also encourage communities around the nation to design and build sustainable communities that cut energy use with walkable community designs and expanded investment in mass transit.

How much more specific does he have to get?

The fact is, Obama has time after time shown that he understands current scientific issues. Whenever confronted with these questions, he always gives the right answer. He is remarkably informed on the matter in a time when most politicians aren't.

As for McCain, he still hasn't answered. It's hard to gauge his opinion on any of these questions. All we do know is that his VP thinks we should teach the Adam and Eve theory of life in schools.

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