The third and final Presidential debate last night allowed candidates Barack Obama and John McCain to once again outline their ideas about energy and transportation. While McCain underscored the need for increased drilling to decrease dependence on foreign oil, Obama talked about creating 5 million new jobs—more than twice the amount within the oil and gas industries today—by ramping up clean-energy initiatives and technology. As the election draws nearer, let’s take another look at the candidates’ proposals.

John McCain

  • Wants to expand domestic offshore drilling in order to reduce the need for foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.
  • Favors construction of 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030. To handle the additional reactor waste, he wants to open the Yucca Mountain geological repository in Nevada, which many scientists argue is an unstable place for storage of such materials. McCain believes nuclear power is the best long-term solution to remedy global warming.
  • Plans to cut greenhouse gases to 66 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. This would be accomplished by utilizing a cap-and-trade system, which sets an aggressive cap on emissions, and mandates a high level of compliance from market participants.
  • Opposes a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
  • Calls for a $300 million prize to whoever can develop a battery that will “leapfrog” the abilities of current hybrid and electric cars.
  • Wants to allow a $5,000 tax credit for purchasing a zero-emissions vehicle. [Note: The $700 billion bailout bill signed by President Bush on Oct. 4, 2008, includes tax credits up to $7,500 for US buyers of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.]

Barack Obama

  • Is willing to explore offshore oil drilling options, but on a limited basis.
  • Want to create a $150 billion fund to be spent over the next 10 years on developing “climate friendly” technologies such as wind, solar, hybrids cars, and clean-coal.
  • Calls for cutting greenhouse gases to 80 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. Like McCain, Obama supports a cap-and-trade system with aggressive caps.
  • Mandates utility companies to produce one-quarter of their total output using renewable energy by 2025. This could include wind, solar, or any other “climate friendly” measures.
  • Advocates a windfall profits tax on oil companies.
  • Wants to allow a $7,000 tax credit for purchasing an advance-technology vehicle. This would include hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric cars, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, among other potential developments.
  • Sets a goal of 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015.

The ability of either candidate to deliver on energy promises remains to be seen. But at least we know where they stand. The next step, my friends, is up to you, your comments, and your vote.