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The McCain Campaign

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Eric Burgeson
Environmental and Energy Policy Advisor
Tuesday, April 22, 2008; 2:00 PM

Eric Burgeson, an environmental and energy policy advisor with Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, was online Tuesday, April 22 at 2 p.m. ET to explain the campaign's platform and policies.

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The transcript follows.

Burgeson leads the energy practice at BGR Holding, LLC. Prior to that he was chief of staff at the Department of Energy and held several high-level positions in the White House, including helping with appointments to the Department of Energy, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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Eric Burgeson: Thank you for having me on today. I look forward to answering your questions. As it is Earth Day, I thought I would start off the chat with a quote from Sen. McCain's Earth Day Statement

"As President, I will ensure that we protect all of nature's blessings while recognizing that our environmental and economic interests are not mutually exclusive. In this way, we must work together -- the government, environmental and conservation groups, business and the public -- in a manner that fulfills our responsibilities to the environment.

"On this Earth Day, we must also look ahead to the serious threats that confront our environment today. We must have the courage to realistically confront the specter of climate change. This is one of the greatest challenges confronting the next President. On this issue, I will act to safeguard our environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to sustainable levels in a manner that spurs innovation of cleaner, more reliable energy sources."

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Portland, Ore.: Does the Senator support mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions from U.S., even before firm limits are imposed on China and India?

Eric Burgeson: Thanks for the question. Sen. McCain favors a cap and trade system to address the issue of climate change. He believes we need a market-based approach that would set reasonable caps on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. He believes that any policy moving forward must include mechanisms to control costs and protect the economy.

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Burbank, Calif.: What is the McCain platform on nuclear power? Should it be expanded? What precautions would be taken to avoid radiation leaks, and who would be financially responsible should a plant leak radiation?

Eric Burgeson: Sen. McCain is a strong supporter of nuclear power and believes it is a key technology for the future of our country. Nuclear power is a zero emission energy source that has the potential to provide clean electricity for millions of Americans.

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Washington: It's interesting that you're both the environmental and energy policy adviser. How do you balance environmental concerns without scaring off people who feel strongly that those concerns will damage our economy?

Eric Burgeson: Thanks for the question. The approach that Sen. McCain has taken is that energy security, national security, environmental security and economic security are all linked together. An effective strategy must consider all of these positions.

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Los Angeles: Is it fair to state that the McCain environmental policies generally look more toward tax incentives to get people to do what is environmentally sound? Is there a distrust in increasing fines for when people do something that harms the environment?

Eric Burgeson: Thank you for that important question. Sen. McCain believes that the government must set achievable energy and environmental goals but that market should be free to produce the means to achieve those goals.

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Washington: As an early supporter of ethanol, I am dismayed to discover that it might cause more energy problems than it solves. What is Sen. McCain's position on corn-based ethanol and, possibly, the sugar cane-based ethanol Brazil successfully has developed? Thank you.

Eric Burgeson: Sen. McCain supports the development of alternative fuels, but strongly believes that the government should not be in the business of picking winners by giving government subsidies to particular industries, whether they be ethanol subsides or subsidies to big oil.

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Park City, Utah: Why is Nuclear central to Sen. McCain's strategy when solar and wind are sustainable and have made such strides in the great states of Texas and California?

Eric Burgeson: Thank you for the question. Renewable energy, like wind and solar, is also critical to our nation's energy future and will be part of the senator's energy and environmental platform.

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Cleveland: How best can you convince people that free market economy will produce green solutions?

Eric Burgeson: Thank you for the question. Sen. McCain believes strongly in the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people and their ability to overcome our energy and environmental challenges through the power of the free markets. Just as entrepreneurs invented the airplane and the automobile, so too will American entrepreneurs develop greater forms of clean energy.

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San Francisco: How do you propose finding bipartisan solutions for global warming when the former (GOP) chairman of the Senate committee tasked with legislation views the entire issue as a charade and a hoax? It's very difficult to see how to find common ground with a political party funded and overseen by polluters and energy companies.

Eric Burgeson: This is a difficult issue, but one that we cannot ignore. Sen. McCain has demonstrated throughout his entire career the leadership needed to take on tough challenges and develop the right solutions with members of both political parties. He has shown courage in standing up to special interests and has been a leader in developing a sensible climate change approach which he will bring to the White House as president.

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Renville, Minn.: While I support ethanol and believe that it is a valuable first step, I do not believe that the criticism of subsidies for ethanol is fair. I gladly would support no subsidies or tax breaks for ethanol if the same were done for the oil industry. I cannot believe anyone is strong enough to stand up to the oil industry. Does Sen. McCain believe that this is possible?

Eric Burgeson: You are right, powerful interests in Washington are difficult to stand up to. But if there is anyone in Washington who can do it, it is Sen. McCain who has built his career and reputation standing up to special interests. As for subsidies, Sen. McCain has a clear position that he opposes subsidies, not just ethanol subsidies, but all subsidies.

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Eric Burgeson: I am sorry to say, but my time is up. Thank you again for the great questions and your interest in these important issues. I would like to conclude by highlighting two important Web sites. The first is energy.gov which provides helpful tips to help us reduce our energy and fuel consumption. The second is the campaign's Web site, where you can find out more information about Sen. McCain's positions as well as information about his campaign.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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