Obama and McCain Keep Trying on Energy

Offshore drilling
Photo: AFP/Getty Images

We don't have to tell you that energy policy is all the rage right now, because every few days the candidates each bring out a new exciting proposal, sparking a new, slightly less-exciting debate. Windfall taxes, gas-tax holidays, and offshore drilling are giving way at the start of this week to Obama's pledge to close the "Enron loophole" (even if you don't know what that is, it certainly sounds like something we should shut right away) and McCain's proposal to award a $300 million prize (from the government, not his wife's checkbook) for a better car battery. Overall, though, the candidates' energy proposals are falling flat — either too flip-floppy, too craven, or just plain unhelpful.

• Clive Crook says that real leadership on energy would “dispel confusion, insist that expensive energy was necessary and confront voters with choices — as if they were intelligent adults.” Both Obama’s windfall tax on oil companies and McCain’s offshore-drilling solutions are both panders. A real solution would be to tax carbon and then “use the money to cut other taxes.” [FT]

• Fred Barnes claims Obama is either unaware of or ignoring progress in oil-drilling technology. He’s wrong about offshore drilling, and it’s put him in an awkward position, as polls show a majority of voters favor it. [Weekly Standard]

• Robert Lenzner thinks the “rousing populist rhetoric” coming from both Obama and McCain on oil companies “is just plain lousy public policy.” Courage from the candidates would mean driving “home to the electorate that we all must focus on energy conservation and using less fossil fuels,” but nobody “wants to come across as another Jimmy Carter.” [Forbes]

• Larry Rohter writes that though Obama’s running as a reformer, like all politicians he is tied closely to some special interests, like ethanol. He’s supported the fuel as senator from the country’s second-biggest corn-growing state and has many advisers with ties to the industry. McCain diverges sharply with Obama, opposing subsidies for corn ethanol. [NYT]

• Ezra Klein has a split mind on energy and the environment: He “believes in global warming and the need to get away from fossil fuels,” but at the same time he “also believes fossil fuels should be cheap and plentiful.” [American Prospect]

• Mike Allen writes that Obama’s proposal to tighten regulation of energy speculators, or end the “Enron Loophole” as he calls it, “allows the Obama campaign to both side with consumers and take a whack at McCain’s brain trust,” as McCain’s economic adviser Phil Gramm is credited by the Obama campaign with the initial loophole. [Politico]

• Chuck Todd and friends call it “a little ironic” that a week after coming out for offshore drilling, McCain is giving a speech today “advocating innovation to replace fossil fuels.” [First Read/MSNBC]
Dan Amira

Related: What Barack Obama Needs to Prove in His Democratic National Convention Speech

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.