Paul Andersen: Fair Game
August 25, 2008
When John McCain was in Aspen two weeks ago he dismissed a charge by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman that he had missed “crucial” votes on extending tax credits for solar and other alternative energy sources.
I went to the Senate voting records and discovered that Friedman was right; McCain has missed eight votes on alternative energy tax credit bills. McCain may not think any of those votes was “crucial,” but given the urgency of weaning the United States off fossil fuels, every vote on alternative energy is crucial.
For a Republican, McCain has a strong environmental and conservation record. Despite his lifetime League of Conservation Voters’ rating of only 20 percent, his support for wilderness as a Roosevelt conservationist gives him a green hue.
But what does his feeble voting record say about his attention to alternative energy? It says that McCain is not actively furthering essential federal support for alternatives to oil and gas, but is plodding down the same beaten path as the Bushies. His recent drilling pledge, intoned from an offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico, made that very clear.
When McCain was in Aspen he received his biggest ovation by saying that America’s energy security requires offshore drilling. “Let’s drill and drill now!” McCain urged, calling it a “bridge” to a vague set of energy measures that emphasize more oil, more gas, and a big push for nuclear power.
Given McCain’s energy voting record and the huge donations his campaign has received recently from Big Oil (they love the drill/drill/drill mantra), it has become obvious that leadership on alternative energy is not McCain’s top priority.
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McCain is being pressed by Republican loyalties and by campaign contributions to align with fossil fuel interests rather than with alternative energy sources. One reason is that fossil fuel interests are far more consolidated in their centralized political and fiscal power than alternative energy sources, which are more dispersed.
The richest corporations in the world are fossil fuel companies that will milk everything they can from America’s conventional patterns of energy consumption. This is a formula for continued dependence on carbon-based fuels (accelerated climate change) and foreign energy markets (trade deficits, inflation, state-sponsored terrorism).
The Senate voting record also revealed that Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) voted against all but one of eight alternative energy bills, while Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) voted in favor of them all. Key among alternative energy naysayers is Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who represents a coal state and has leveraged other Republican senators to vote against the alternative energy credits.
It is naïve to think that McCain will distance himself from key Republican support and shift his energy policies away from entrenched energy interests who are funding his campaign. McCain’s stance on energy must be judged by his missed votes, his drilling advocacy, his campaign funding, and his Republican ties. It is doubtful that he will rock the ship of state off its chartered course as we plunge toward deeper fossil fuel addiction.
What’s just as sobering is the Aspen audience’s response to McCain’s lockstep energy views. How can an Aspen audience, which ought to know better about environmental issues, support the dubious panacea of fossil fuels at any cost?
Cheering a candidate’s antiquated energy policies because it’s expedient to one’s lifestyle does a huge disservice to our community’s environmental values. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool, market-driven Republican must agree that America’s addiction to fossil fuels is unhealthy and short-sighted.
We cannot afford another four years of inaction on U.S. energy policy. McCain may pander to the cheers of an Aspen audience, but his position on energy is anything but progressive. It reflects a more-of-the-same, failed Republican approach from which we need immediate relief.
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