McCain, Obama similarities on oil, gas, energy only go so far, expert suggests

June 20, 2008 — President Bush’s call this week for Congress to end its decades-old ban on offshore oil and gas drilling has highlighted key differences in the big-oil platforms of presumptive Republican and Democratic presidential nominees Barak Obama and John McCain.

But when it comes to big-picture energy policies, Obama and McCain are similar in some ways but not others, suggests an environmental politics expert at Washington University in St. Louis.


The candidates also differ somewhat in their plans for dealing with big oil. McCain rejects the elimination of a major tax subsidy for oil companies, whereas Obama would eliminate the subsidy and use the revenue to fund research on renewables, says Lowry.

With gas prices topping $4, it is becoming increasingly difficult for any politician to avoid joining the oil industry’s opportunistic push for new oil exploration, both offshore and in Alaskan wilderness areas. New domestic oil exploration may be inevitable, but in terms of energy policy, it remains a far from ideal solution, Lowry argues.

“Virtually every time this country has become concerned about energy prices or shortages, the response has been to try to develop more fossil fuels. This is exactly how we’ve gotten into the current situation where over 85% of our energy comes from these sources.

“For decades, some of us have been saying that we need to develop renewables, but nearly all the political decisions — such as funding for research and development — have not been supportive of this alternative direction,” Lowry says. “On a more positive note, I am pleased to see that both McCain and Obama understand that, so I’m confident that the future will be brighter (so to speak).”

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