McCain – Obama Debate – Energy Policy Focus: “Solar, Wind, Biodiesel and Yes, Nuclear Power”
I was disappointed by the moderator’s decisions during the first Presidential Debate. Officially, the debate topic was foreign policy, but Jim Lehrer bowed to the news of the moment and turned the first half of the debate into a discussion about the proposed bailout of the Wall Street financial industry.
That focus crowded out most discussion about two major campaign issues that both have a huge impact on foreign policy – energy and the environment. Whenever the candidates tried to talk about energy policies, the moderator immediately tried to change the subject.
I am not a single issue voter, but I really want to understand the nuances of the energy policy positions for the two candidates in this particular election. The last time energy policy was such a major part of the campaign was in 1976; the result of that election made a huge difference in our current energy source mix.
It is difficult to understand American foreign policy since 1900 without understanding our dependence on industries fueled by petroleum, coal and natural gas. The effort to ensure reliable access to those fossil fuels has defined our relationships with a number of key countries and companies. It is nearly impossible to imagine how to determine where to go from here without discussing a strategy for our energy future.
There are few global issues with more potential impact on long term foreign policy than the coordination of efforts aimed at controlling air and water pollution along with limiting the production and emission of gases that are contributing to global climate change.
Despite the moderator’s seeming lack of interest in the topic, the candidates made some quick and pointed comments attempting to highlight the differences in their energy policies. Just hearing or reading the transcript of the debate is not enough to give a full interpretation of the differences, so in the interest of fair use, I produced a little clip of the energy policy exchange, including enough of the moderator’s redirection to show what I mean when I said he was not terribly interested in the topic. The photo accompanying this article is an extraction from that clip.
Senator McCain outlined his “all of the above” strategy of developing alternative energy sources and off shore oil drilling, with a clear emphasis on the importance of his desire to build 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030. He tried to make the case that Senator Obama’s stance on used nuclear fuel might inhibit that kind of development. Senator Obama similarly articulated an essentially “all of the above” strategy, listing all available options including solar, wind, biodiesel, nuclear, clean coal, and even limited off-shore drilling.
There was some back and forth regarding alternative energy. Obama stated that McCain had a voting record that did not back up his words; according to Obama, McCain has voted against alternative energy programs 23 times during his 26 years in the senate. McCain looked frustrated when Jim Lehrer attempted to move on right after that comment and pushed a chance to respond, starting off with “Look, no one from Arizona is against solar power.”
In one of the more contentious periods in the whole debate, McCain said, “Senator Obama says he is for nuclear but he is against reprocessing and he is against storing. So, it’s hard to get there from here.” Senator Obama disputed that characterization of his position. He tried to interrupt several times and finally succeeded stating, “I just have to correct the record. I have never said that I object to nuclear waste. What I said is that we have to store it safely.”
Please take a look at the presidential debate energy policy focus clip to see for yourself the body language that went along with the spoken words.
- Biden Says Obama Will Make Alternative Energy a National Priority
- McCain and Obama Differ on Energy
- Obama Pushes Back with Renewed Focus on Energy
- John McCain Claims to Be ‘Mr. Renewable Energy’ in New Ad – Sierra Club Calls BS