Energy Loss

Saturday, September 6, 2008

SEN. JOHN McCAIN's energy policy was pretty clear before he accepted the Republican nomination for president Thursday in St. Paul, Minn. He wants to build more nuclear power plants, develop clean coal technology, increase the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, and expand offshore drilling. Despite the swipe Mr. McCain took at his Democratic opponent, there's not much difference between his energy policy and that of Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.).

"Senator Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power," Mr. McCain said. This isn't so. Mr. Obama made it very clear in his nomination acceptance speech a week earlier in Denver that he, too, supports offshore drilling -- as long as it is part of a broader energy plan. He also said nuclear power must be a part of the nation's energy mix. If Mr. McCain wanted to question Mr. Obama's sincerity on this, he could have pointed out that his opponent is against the Yucca Mountain waste storage facility, which has a powerful enemy in Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid of Nevada -- a state that figures prominently in Mr. Obama's electoral calculus.

We're happy that both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama support a comprehensive approach to weaning the nation off imported oil. But what was missing from Mr. McCain's acceptance speech was straight talk about the other branch of a sensible energy policy: combating climate change. He is a vocal supporter and a one-time sponsor of legislation that would put a price on carbon. Yet he failed to explicitly mention the imperative of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was as if his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has questioned whether human activity contributes to global warming, exercised a line-item veto on his speech. The closest Mr. McCain came to acknowledging climate change was saying, "We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and to restore the health of our planet."

It's going to take a lot more than American ingenuity and chants of "drill, baby, drill!" to do all of this. It's going to take honest discussion about the true costs and sacrifices that all Americans will have to bear to achieve it. With just 59 days to go until the election, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama must get started.

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