Tuesday, June 24, 2008

McCain highlights energy policies in Santa Barbara

BY ERIC LINDBERG
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

On a trip through the heartland of the environmental movement, Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain laid out his plan for a national energy policy during what was billed as an “environmental briefing” at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History this morning.
Despite protesters outside and a prod from a fellow panelist, McCain stayed away from discussing his recent support of President Bush’s proposal to lift a federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling, an issue close to the hearts of many local residents.
“I’m here to listen about energy issues as well as to talk,” he told the audience of several hundred.

In setting out what he described as a clear agenda to break dependence on foreign oil, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said the federal government needs to shake off years of partisan polarization.
And in his only reference to offshore drilling, and a slight one at best, McCain called on the government to draw on America’s vast reserves of oil and gas, earning applause from many of those in attendance.
Nonetheless, he also highlighted a critical need for new, cleaner and more efficient energy technologies, dovetailing that statement with a clarion call to federal leaders to support innovation.
As president, McCain said he would establish a tax credit of $2 billion every year for the next 15 years to support research and development on cleaner coal, wind power, biofuels and solar energy.
“We will encourage heroic efforts in engineering and we will reward the greatest successes,” he said.
Along those lines, McCain said he plans to offer a $300 million prize to anyone who can improve electric car battery technology that leapfrogs those used in current hybrid vehicles to provide a much more efficient method of storing and using energy.
He also outlined a tax credit of up to $5,000 for Americans to purchase a zero-emission or low-emission vehicle.
“Practical ideas are worth more than uplifting lectures,” McCain said.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger joined the presidential hopeful on stage at the Fleischmann Auditorium, along with James Woolsey, former director of the CIA.
Beyond praising McCain for his plans to develop a “sensible, consistent and forward-looking” national energy policy, Schwarzenegger also lauded McCain’s support of a long-fought-for waiver from the Environmental Protection Agency to allow California to bump up its vehicle emission standards beyond federal levels.
Woolsey, focusing his comments on energy-efficient vehicles, said McCain’s tax credit and battery technology incentive would be an important force in creating the next generation of energy-efficient cars.
Michael Feeney, executive director of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, and Matthew Tirrell, UC Santa Barbara’s Dean of Engineering, also joined the panel discussion.
Feeney offered the most criticism of the presumptive Republican nominee, telling the audience he is less optimistic about technological advances and the ability of Congress to get its arms around energy issues.
“I see fearful signs,” he said. “…I think too rosy a face is being put on this.”
Citing a push for more nuclear power plants, Feeney said those plants will require disposal sites for nuclear waste and cautioned McCain against rolling back environmental standards in the name of improving the economy.
“It makes me nervous to see those who want to drain offshore oil reserves in the hopes of pushing down the price of gasoline,” he added.
Dozens of protesters outside echoed concerns about offshore drilling, hoisting signs reading “No drill, no spill, no kill” and “McCain: Some nerve coming here to try to sell earth-desecrating policies to us!”
McCain responded to Feeney’s discussion about nuclear power, arguing that European countries are running nuclear power plants without issue and bringing that region of the world closer to meeting emission standards under the Kyoto Protocol.
“It’s a NIMBY (not in my backyard) problem,” he said. “…We have to have the courage to do what other countries are doing.”
And the federal government needs to be a leader on adopting more energy efficient ways of doing business, he said.
“Energy efficiency, like charity, should begin at home,” McCain said.
In addition to filling the federal fleet with flex-fuel and hybrid vehicles, he called on national leaders to press for the application of higher-efficiency lighting and building practices in federal office space, which he described as the largest consumer of electricity in the world.
Tirrell highlighted the growing demand for energy, which he said is expected to double in the next few decades. On average, most Americans use enough power to run 10 hairdryers constantly, he said.
Nonetheless, as a dean of engineering, Tirrell said he is more optimistic than Feeney about the potential of technological advances in the energy industry.
Noting the importance of McCain’s research and development tax credit, he said that credit should be broadly available to energy-efficient products beyond vehicles, such as more efficient computers and lighting.
In closing, McCain urged national leaders to break with partisan politics and bridge the aisle, at least on the energy crisis.
“We’ve got to stop the gridlock,” he said. “…It’s time we started doing what’s best for this country, and that’s putting America first and our party second.”

1 comment:

Vigilante said...

Obama-Clark 2008