McCain Lays Out His Energy Policy

In a speech at Fresno State University, Republican presidential candidate John McCain outlined a series of new proposals for dealing with the energy and environmental crises that are especially important to California voters. In some parts of the state, the price of a gallon of gas has already hit five dollars, and McCain’s recent decision to support lifting a ban on off-shore drilling is likely to draw the ire of many voters who remember Santa Barbara’s 1969 oil spill as perhaps the most devastating environmental catastrophe in California history.

But McCain came to the Golden State armed with details for an energy policy that has thus far been murky at best. McCain’s previous opposition to ethanol—particularly the subsidies and tariffs that Senator Obama and most other politicians who have spent time campaigning in Iowa support—has recently been tempered by an interest in opening up the flex-fuel markets to imports and sugar-based ethanol. Said McCain:

“Instead of playing favorites, our government should level the playing field for all alcohol fuels that break the monopoly of gasoline, lowering both gasoline prices and carbon emissions. And this can be done with a simple federal standard to hasten the conversion… the goal of 50 percent new flex-fuel vehicles for America.”

While few alternative transportation watchers are very optimistic about the potential of flex-fuels, one of McCain’s other proposals is likely to please anyone who’s been holding off on a new car until the first wave of mass-produced plug-ins and electrics find their way to the market:

“For every automaker who can sell a zero-emissions car, we will commit a 5,000 dollar tax credit for each and every customer who buys that car. For other vehicles, whatever type they may be, the lower the carbon emissions, the higher the tax credit.”

That should be music to the ears of the big automakers, who fear that the large price tags that will accompany the first few generations of plug-in hybrids and electric cars will be prohibitively expensive for consumers who are more concerned with cutting their fuel budgets than stopping global warming. GM predicts a price tag in excess of $30,000 for the early model Chevy Volts, and says it expects to take a loss on the car for years to come. If a McCain or Obama administration were to step in and subsidize the sticker price of the Volt or its competitors, it might go a long way towards ensuring their success in the American market.

But one proposal from the Fresno speech stood out and dominated the headlines: McCain said that his administration would offer a $300 million bounty for any innovator who could develop “a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.” Such a battery would have to come at a cost of 30 percent of the current options and be viable for mass production, effectively ending the debate over whether non-petroleum-powered vehicles were capable of spreading from Berkeley to Birmingham.

$300 million may be the most lucrative science fair prize ever offered, but it’s unclear how much additional incentive it would provide to developers. Given the trajectory of oil prices, a technology that could so drastically cut the expense of driving or transporting goods is already worthy plenty on the open market. Still, it’s admirable that McCain is focused more on rewarding success than providing open ended subsidies to the automobile industry. Several consecutive administrations have provided lucrative grants to Detroit, but until a few years ago, it seems to have had little effect.

Even if few environmental advocates are likely to embrace McCain based on his energy policies, it’s at least encouraging that he’s stepped outside of the tradition of inaction that has dominated presidential politics for several election cycles. If the presumptive Republican nominee thinks a progressive energy policy is integral to a winning the White House, it’s likely that no matter who wins, we’ll see some positive movement on these issues.

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  • Skeptic

    More of the same. Is he even trying? “[O]pening up the flex-fuel markets to imports ..” Is he kidding? We’re fueling our cars with corn that should be feeding us and now he wants to import corn to feed the Hummers?

    A $300M prize for a new battery? Gee, maybe that’s how JFK should have run the Apollo program: First one to the Moon wins a big prize!

    He’s already admitted that offshore drilling won’t actually effect the price of gasoline.

    What a sad end to an actual war hero.

    I wonder who the Republicans will actually nominate at their convention?

  • Giant

    This didn’t seem as much like an energy policy as it is an emissions strategy.

    A REAL energy strategy would openly discuss oil production & global demand (directly addressing peak oil), as well as other energy sources (& their associated peaks) and energy conservation.

    Running out of things to burn will solve our emissions issue.

  • WompaStompa

    An energy policy would include more than just information about vehicles and emissions. What corporations that don’t operate in an environmentally friendly way? What about electric companies switching to wind power and water power?

    Seems he is just trying to get the votes of hybrid/fuel efficient vehicle drivers/advocates. Though neither candidate has really stated what their true energy policy is/will be.

  • MJ

    I listened to his whole speech and a lot of it came directly from the book “Freedom from Oil” which I recommend to anyone. The idea that 1/2 of the 55,000(says the book) or 60,000(says McCain) cars the Federal government buys each year should be plug in hybrids is right from the book!!! It’s not a bad thing to listen to smart people and copy what they think, so I’m glad McCain is doing this.

    Now we just need Obama to come out and say that we will be oil independent by 2020, which we will be.

  • Anonymous

    I’m surprised how much visceral negative reaction McCain’s “Battery X-Prize” proposal has been receiving. The original, far smaller than McCain’s proposed incentive, was big enough to encourage the development of Space Ship One, another endeavor that looks like it is going to be profitable.

    I don’t know the actual structure of McCain’s prize, because he hasn’t announced it, but presumably (necessarily, if it is to be successful), it would be awarded in response to a basic science (as opposed to engineering) breakthrough that if achieved may or may not lead to vast riches on their own merit.

    The X-Prize model is generally seen as both innovative and successful, and is being brought to bear on a number of other difficult technical problems by organizations as diverse as DARPA and

    At worst, McCain’s proposal smacks of jumping on the bandwagon. As far as I’m concerned, however, the only thing worse than jumping on the bandwagon is sitting on the side of the road throwing stones at it.

  • David

    McSame is not going to persue any of these goals. He’s only going to tell you what you want to hear. WE CANNOT DRILL OURSELVES OUT OF THIS PROBLEM. we need to start on a differet course. drilling more will only give us a gain in our thirst for more oil. There is no way around this but cold turkey when it comes to government involvement. BIOFUELS Research Algae, this is a very beneficial fuel to begin using almost immediately. Turn pollution into fuel. No corn, no food for use. ALGAE

    Peace out

  • Paul Beerkens

    The problem with the $300M proposal is that there is already a big pot of gold at the end of the road. If a company can build a successful battery then every auto maker in the world will want to buy their product. The $300M does not add a lot of extra incentive.

    I think that we could spend the money much better by splitting the money in smaller amounts and hand it out to small start-up companies who are idea rich but cash poor to work on prototypes.

    The X-price analogy is not correct because there is not necessarily a profitable business at the end of the road for space travel at this point in time.

  • Gerald Shields

    Hate to say this, but the $300 million “prize” gimmick is not new. DARPA does this stuff all the time. Moreover, why is this not a public/private endeavor? When we went to the moon, both the government and private industry worked together to do so. However, it seems that to the Republicans, the government can’t do swat and would be in the way?!

    On the subject of lifting the offshore ban: While that could result in doubling our oil reserves, the problem with that is (1) It won’t help us in the short run (2) It would take 10 years to get any oil from offshore and (3) It will cost billions to do so, resulting in very little savings. Oh, I forgot; (4) we would still need to implement conservation and fuel efficiency standards.

  • Paul Beerkens

    It is also important to remember that Bush was making all kind of promises about looking after the environment as part of his campaign and we all know how well that is going.

  • Rich

    there’s zero chance we will be foreign oil independent by 2020 much less totally oil independent. Very comical how little people realize what a tiny percentage of our energy comes from alternatives.

  • Hal Howell

    As a Prius owner, I say, DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW< PAY LESS!!!

  • Kane K

    John McCain…energy…

    Hahaha….That’s funny.

    You really can’t put McCain’s name in a sentence using a term relating to a progressive or sustainable future…

  • GR


    Haha, jk. Hope everyone got a good laugh out of that. McCain does a couple of ideas that are more progressive than the GOP’s traditional set of ideas, however, they’re not nearly as progressive as Obama’s.

    Drilling isn’t going to solve any of our problems, only delay them. We need to set agressive goals of getting large percentages of our country onto alternative energy, ie: solar, wind, etc.

    We need to get our vehicles switched to hybrids, electric, and stop/start technology. We need less subsidies for corn ethanol and more for sugar and other types of ethanol.

    Obama ’08

  • moishe k

    If Obama & McCain, would have half a brain.

    If only politicians would have brains

    Do you believe their talk about high energy cost will get us anywhere?

    The only short term quick fix, that won’t backfire in the long term, is to waive sales tax on hybrids & other fuel efficient cars, that is real saving at the pump even if you “raise” gasoline tax to pay for it

    Opec & “P”ig oil wont like that

  • Lulu

    Senator Obama’s energy policy can be seen here:

    I am highly suspicious of McCain’s proposals. They appear to be just damage control from his earlier proposal of drilling for oils every-where. Drilling will not help since America has only 3% of world’s oil deposit. This drilling thing really showed me McCain’s interest is aligned with Big Oil’s financial interests.

  • People Are Stupid

    I love how certain people moan and groan…..Saying stupid shite like its not an energy policy because it doesn’t address (fill in the blank). I will have to pull the transcript but I would be surprised if he said, “Hey everybody, here is my energy policy…..”.

    Its still early (haven’t even gone to convention yet) and he was the first to come out with viable ideas. The uber liberals will always throw stones at a republican and I feel they are just as part of the problem as closed minded rednecks. I know it pisses them off to be compared to someone they feel so superior over.

    So, before the diarrhea of the mouths continues, sit back and analyze what was said and think to yourself, “Is McCain’s call of action a bad thing for me, my family, this country, the Earth?” If you feel it still
    is, then you sir are a DMF.

  • Yes – People Are Stupid

    Yes – People are stupid. Supremely stupid at times. That being said, McCain and nearly all other republicans believe that drilling at home will solve our problems. This has been shown to be an ineffective solution.

    Republicans have wasted the last 8 years in office by not pursuing efficiencies. Why are hybrid tax credits disappearing? Why not fund all of the engine and alternative fuel research to help us become more energy independent? Why not follow Canada in phasing out incandescent light bulbs? Why not follow the EPA’s new research on hydraulic hybrids? Why not fund the person that found a way to power all of the sewage treatment plants using the waste? The list goes on and on and on. Republicans have done NOTHING on the energy front and McCain is just looking for votes.

    I hope Obama has some good plans and please God do not let the Republicans re-take congress or we are in for 4 more years of no energy policy.

  • If republicans had any brains

    I think it’s crazy that the day that the supreme court voted to basically give EXXON a pass on the worst environmental disaster of the US McCain wants to drill some more in the US. EXXON basically destroyed Alaska’s economy for decades to come. Get the message people, what a politician, especially a Republican, does is best to line his pockets, not for you or me.

    Only an idiot takes a look at a limitted resource no matter what the price and says gee I should use more instead of coming up with a way to use less. The same type of idiot takes a look at the field of corn that’s used to feed your people and says “hey, I can use that as fuel”. It’s been a DISASTER, with prices going up all over due to farmers converting thier crops to lucrative corn instead of other food sources. The effects are felt from the corn prices themselves, all the way to meat, milk, eggs, etc.

    Here’s a real energy policy:
    1. Ethanol is illegal in the US – use food for food
    2. Cars that get less than EPA standards get a $1000/MPG surcharge. Trucks are not special utility vehicles until people start using them as such – so they have the same EPA that cars do. States are encouraged to continue the insanely high surcharges for registration fees. Likewise, you get a $100/MPG tax credit for buying a car that is over EPA
    3. New water heaters are now illegal in favor of instant-on water heaters. New houses must use them, replacements get phased out over the next 4 years.
    4. Huge credits for individual solar panels. Big research grants to make these more efficient funded by the taxes on the gas-guzzling cars.
    5. More research and credits for power plants adopting wind and solar technologies.

    We should be able to achieve 50% of our current fosil fuel usage by 2025.

  • Shines

    It’s the Republicans fault, oh I mean the Democrats fault.
    Who voted for these people – the other guy without brains?!?
    Look how Alaska’s economy has been destroyed – the residents are given annual bonus checks (from oil revenue) just for living in Alaska.
    There is enough oil shale to keep us burning fuel at the current level for a hundred years.
    Giving people a $5000.00 tax credit for buying a zero emmissions car is just another form of government subsidy to auto-makers (they can sell their EVs for $5000 more than otherwise because the buyers will get $5k back from the govt.)
    Oh and the Volt wouldn’t qualify because it uses gas to recharge its battery whenever one drives over 30-40 miles.
    Alternative fuels/ electric I say yes. (solar, wind, wave, thermal etc…)
    Ethanol from Food crops – boy has that turned out to be a really stupid idea – stupid!
    Hybrid and plug in hybrid – sure – of course
    nulcear – well since solar power is basically a form of nuclear power – yes walking in the sunshine is exposing yourself to nuclear radiation. nuclear – yes. France is almost completely electrical energy independent. Melt-downs are virtually impossible with the latest power plant designs.
    Why nuclear powered cars are possible – if people weren’t so paranoid about it.
    More bicycles, more telecommuting, more walking it’s good for you…
    More creativity
    and less bashing of politicians, they’re just doing what the people that vote for them want/ask them to do.

  • If republicans had any brains

    I’d personally prefer to live for more than 100 years, and certainly I’d want my kids to be around 100 years from now. And your (false) assumption is at the current levels – we haven’t kept current levels yet, even with gas at ~$5 (still generally increasing worldwide). Plus, as you start getting to the end, it gets more difficult to extract.

    I’d say Alaska economy has been largely destroyed… the supreme court voted today that all of alaska will get ~500M now instead of ~4B… all of this while EXXON made ~$40B last year. There’s a few articles on how the fish industry (where there are alot less fish due to the spill even 14 years or so later) has died in Alaska on Yahoo/AP press today.

  • WompaStompa

    I’ve been saying for a long time that there should be some kind of ongoing tax credit for people who drive fuel efficient vehicles, not just hybrids. I’m also in support of some kind of additional tax for people who drive duel inefficient vehicles, like H2s and H3s. The same goes for people that drive old hunks of junk that spew smoke out the tailpipe. There should be some way to make people accountable. Start giving tickets for excess emissions!

  • Wetdog

    ———————–“Instead of playing favorites, our government should level the playing field for all alcohol fuels that break the monopoly of gasoline, lowering both gasoline prices and carbon emissions. And this can be done with a simple federal standard to hasten the conversion… the goal of 50 percent new flex-fuel vehicles for America.”——————————————————–

    Well, it’s a start. Duh, how about producing biodiesel from algae? It is already here, and already in production in Texas—and it is not an alcohol fuel. It can be used straight gallon for gallon in any diesel engine. Nice thing about it though, it replaces oil (domestic or imported) when you count transportation costs 1/2 way around the world(arctic or middle east)and added refining costs; at a rate of 2.3 gallons petroleum per each gallon of biodiesel used. It can be used straight as produced, no further refining capacity needed unlike petroleum(even if we produce more petroleum we still need more refining capacity). It is cheap to produce–we can build 3-4 biodiesel from algae facilities producing a final product to put in engines at about the same cost of one off-shore drilling rig(that only produces a product to send to a refinery). Biodiesel produces CO2 when burned, but to produce it, the CO2 was first removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis of the plants that produce it. Net greenhouse gas gain=0. When talking about greenhouse gas, the important thing is where the CO2 came from in the first place—not if the fuel produces it.

    Same thing for ethanol. Is he going to give ethanol the same tax incentives and special favors that he is currently giving petroleum? If so, the cost to produce ethanol will very very low-around $1 per gallon, or less. We won’t need to import ethanol.
    We can grow sugar here—in fact, we are paying billions of $$$ NOT to produce sugar from cane and beets to support the market prices. There is a plant under construction in Soperton GA that will produce 100 million gallons per year of ethanol from wood waste from logging and millwork. There is a 20 million gallon a year plant in LA already in production producing ethanol from crop waste. Ethanol is already used in high pollution markets to reduce pollution(E-10). The 100 million gallon per year plant is GA is being constructed for about 1/4th the cost of one off-shore oil drilling rig.

    Flex Fuel vehicles cost roughly the same or only a slight price increase over convention petroleum gas only car manufacture. Simply say that ALL vehicles manufactured must be flex fuel capable. They are already being manufactured now, and have been for 20 years. The cost per vehicle will be far less than mandated safety and emmission standards(which the auto industry screamed would shut them down for good). Then anyone buying any vehicle can use biofuels in any ratio they want. Cost of fuel will simply make biofuels the prefered fuel.

    The biggest problem with biofuel is availability. Simply say that if you want to have a service station and be in the fuel busness, you must also offer biofuels. No big deal, just add one or two pumps. Or convert existing pumps to biofuels. You don’t even need complex EPA standards to prevent spills or fumes. Biofuels are natural products that are 100% biodegradable in the environment. If there is a spill, there is no lasting permanent damage to the environment. They are biodegradable by natural means.

    As for mass starvation from using biofuels, nobody I know eats saltwater algae and tree limbs.

    Wind and solar produce exactly the same thing as nuclear power. Hairdryers and video games don’t care where the electricity comes from, they work exactly the same. And wind and solar power once installed will NEVER have price increases or safety or environmental issues with the fuel they use. In 50 years the cost of wind and sunshine will be exactly the same as it is today. Who knows what will happen to the cost of nuclear fuel?

    Why get all wrapped up in pie in the sky technology and $300 million dollar contests etc.? Use what we have right now. Keep on doing research and developement sure, maybe we might find something better—but I sort of doubt it—what we already have can do the job very well for a LONG LONG time into the future. And be VERY economically advantageous to us at the same time. Biofuels, wind and solar technologies can be produced 100% by American workers, right here, right now, in any area of the country.

    Biofuels, wind and solar answer every single need or problem we have right now, and they do it in a cost effective and problem solving way—-no “new” technology is needed. And using these technologies would go a long way toward solving our economic problems as well as our energy problems.

  • Bill Connell

    I say we have the federal government add 25 cents tax every fiscal quarter and continue to raise the gas prices till we are don’t import any more oil, then continue raising the tax until we are only using 1/2 of what we pump from our soil. Then we will be a huge exporter of oil (the US is the second largest Producer of OIL in the world) with a very favorable balance of trade and a dollar thats worth two.

  • BMW

    Let me say that you must do your research:

    raises Capitol Gain rates to 20-28%
    Estate Tax 45% $7 million exemption
    Carried interest- Treated as normal ordinary income
    Credit ends taxes for 10 million people

    Keeps capitol gains at 15%
    Estate Tax rate: 15% 10 Million exemption
    Cuts Corporate rate to 25% from 35%

    ok so if we have Obama you will get punished for being successful and rewarded to stay poor or just average:

    He will dictate what Doctor you can see and what cheap drugs you can have.

    No need to advance yourself in this country or start a company because Obama’s tax reform will suck it up

    Your land will be tax almost 50%

    and your precious retirement, IRA and investments will be almost double taxed

    SS and Medicaid will double in SE Tax

    Under McCain

    TAxes will be lower
    companies will be encourage to start up and or come back here

    NO welfare Programs will be started as purposed by Obama

    I can choose my own medical and get tax relief

    PLUS I won’t have to look at Hillary’s face for the next 4 yrs standing next to Obama who hates America.

    Far as energy:
    it is more in the hands of companies who can present the most economical product and get it going

  • Shines

    BMW your commentary is misguided, shallow and incomplete.
    As far as you not having to look a Hillary next to Obama who hates America.
    I’d rather vote for a man who loves America so much that he isn’t afraid to stand in front of us say what he believes and run for President than reply to a coward’s post on an automotive web site.
    But I guess I can do both.

  • Mustafa Ceyhan

    He will dictate what Doctor you can see and what cheap drugs you can have.

  • Shines

    This is hybrid not a political forum.
    What you say Mustafa is completely wrong.
    I have health insurance and I picked my doctor. That will not change when Obama (or McCain) becomes president.

    I do not drive a hybrid, but I am seriously looking at an electric bicycle. My commute is 12 miles each way. I can handle riding my bike 1 or 2 days a week (I’m 54 and overweight) if the weather is nice. I would use a bike 4 or 5 days a week if the terrain wasn’t quite so hilly – or if I could get help going up the hills (hence the interest in the electric bike.)

    Eventually I’ll look seriously at a hybrid or electric car.

  • Wetdog

    Shines—support expanding biodiesel production and availability and you’ll have no need for an electric car. You can use it in any conventional diesel powered vehicle. You’ll have a time proven design renowned for its efficiency, durability and widely available service and fuel stations. You’ll have a huge range of either new or used vehicles available to choose from, everything from small economy type vehicles, to honking big trucks you can haul the family estate on the back of, or even luxury vehicles like Mercedes or Puegots.

    You can be comfortable, frugal, practical, environmentally friendly, and a red neck party animal all at the same time if you want to.
    The only difference is that you pull up to the pump that says B-100. And if you spill some, you don’t have to call the EPA, it is all natural and biodegradable, no harm done.

    And when you get where you are going, you can siphon off a little and make McNuggets and fries.

  • brian NY

    I been reading all of these posts and if people put as much energy (pun indended) into bashing other people, weather dems or rep, we could have already solved the energy crisis. Yes there will be mistakes made, stupid ideas and propasals, but we should at least try. It was in the 1970’s when we had our 1st energy crisis and there have been democratic and repulican presidents and nothing was done. Stop pointing fingers and act. If everybody reduced thier consumption of oil and oil products by 10% and if manufactures increased fuel economy by 10% and increased the use of Biodisel fuels and ethanol we could save 25% of oil use. Then if we take into account hybrids, PEV, nuclear power and H2 cars we can become self indenpendant on oil for the short term.

  • Hal Howell

    Yes, its true the Republicans didn’t do much on energy production while in control of Congress. However, the Democrats have done even less. Yes, we can drill our way out of this mess, provided Congress would actually get out of the way. However, it will take more than more oil. It will take oil, coal to gasoline, nuclear, wind, solar, natural gas, hydrogen, electric and hybrids. There is no magic bullet but there are solutions. We also need more refineries to produce more gasoline. Of course, more gasoline should be a transition to keep us going until electric and fuel cell cars become plentiful and affordable.

  • Skeptic

    The Democrats have done even less? Let’s see, except for a brief period after Jeffords annoyed his highness, King George IV, the Republicans controlled both houses of congress (1/1995 to 1/2007).

    Since the Democrats regained the majority, Republicans in the Senate have used the filibuster more times than any party since the filibuster’s inception to block almost anything that HRH George IV doesn’t veto … but it’s the Democrats fault.

    Riiiiight ….

    And GM will have Volts on the showroom floor by next Saturday.

    Some folks have their heads *so* far in the sand, I don’t know how they breathe.

  • brian NY

    True the republicans controlled congress from 95-07, but what about before, whatis happening now was fortold back in the 70’s. Oil is and was a limited resource and nothing has been done about it for over 30 years. The enviormentalist have killed nuclear and as non-polluting, non fosil fuel energy source, killed the use of coal, protested the building of hydro dams, claimed wind mills destroys the landscape views, but have yet to come up with an alternative. Like i said in my previous post, everyone is to blame, the dems, the reps, the consumer, the manufactures, the antis, we are all in this together. So stop pointing figures and act!

  • Janice

    It’s just a campaign. Hopefully, these plans will be implemented even if he lose the seat. Gas price is a major concern worldwide, that’s why its being used as a campaign issue/material. has been doing a lot due to thees gas prices.

  • retired farmer

    How stupid can you be thinking farmers are causing high food and fuel prices. Daaaaaa! don’t you know what the board of trade does? Speculators are gambling on the farmers product, the more they buy the higher the market goes, the more they sell the lower the market goes. Same goes with the oil market. Speculators are getting stinking rich at the cost of the consumer and farmer. GASOLINE & DIESEL has caused high shelf prices, it’s transportation cost you idiot. Young farmers have left the Dairy,Beef,Swine etc. farms because of low prices, the old man couldn’t farm anymore so he rents to a grain farmer. Grain farmers are collecting subsidies from the Government to assure cheap food to the consumers.

    Only a small percent(less than 5 percent) of the corn used for ethanol doesn’t go for feed purpose’s, the by-product of corn after it’s used for ethanol is called distillers grain shipped all over the world and USA.

    I do agree with your water heater and solar panels, but don’t forget a windmill for people that have room on their property, after all that’s the way it was.

    Your quote……………..
    Only an idiot takes a look at a limitted resource no matter what the price and says gee I should use more instead of coming up with a way to use less. The same type of idiot takes a look at the field of corn that’s used to feed your people and says “hey, I can use that as fuel”. It’s been a DISASTER, with prices going up all over due to farmers converting thier crops to lucrative corn instead of other food sources. The effects are felt from the corn prices themselves, all the way to meat, milk, eggs, etc.

    a retired farmer………………………..