Always a maverick, GOP presumptive presidential candidate John McCain is calling for new energy policies that are sure to both please and stymie his Republican base.
“The price of oil is too high, and the supply of oil too uncertain,” McCain said in a speech in Houston Tuesday afternoon.
There, McCain made hard pitch to give states the option to drill off their shores by lifting existing oil moratoriums, but maintained the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge should remain closed to exploration “Quite rightly, I believe, we confer a special status on some areas of our country that are best left undisturbed,” he said. “When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a ‘refuge’ for a reason.”
While hard-line conservatives may be unhappy McCain would not pursue exploration in ANWR, a Rasmussen poll released Tuesday found this position would please most Americans. According to the poll, 67 percent of Americans supported drilling for energy off the coasts of California, Florida and other states. Only 18 percent disagreed and 15 percent were undecided.
McCain’s Democratic presidential rival Barack Obama and his supporters are in the 18 percent minority. Obama’s campaign issued a statement before McCain’s speech that said McCain is only telling “a group of Houston oil executives exactly what they wanted hear.”
“Opening our coastlines to offshore drilling would take at least a decade to produce any oil at all, and the effect on gasoline prices would be negligible at best since America only has 3% of the world’s oil,” the statement said. According to Obama, raising taxes on the profits of domestic energy producers, called a “windfall tax,” would make the country “energy independent” sooner than increasing domestic supplies.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D.), who has endorsed Obama for president, followed suit by telling reporters on a conference call that McCain’s position on drilling showed “a coziness” with Big Oil. "For a major candidate to say his answer is to drill off the coast of the United States shows a lack of vision,'' he said “It shows a coziness with oil companies and the Wall Street investment banks that are fueling this run up on prices."
Additional components of McCain’s energy package detailed Tuesday included other “maverick” combinations like a gas tax holiday and more nuclear energy, both sure to please conservatives, and new regulations for oil speculators, likely unwelcome news for advocates of smaller government.
“There is the further problem of speculation on the oil futures market, which in many cases has nothing to do with the actual sale, purchase, or delivery of oil,” McCain said. “When crude oil became a futures-traded commodity in the 1980's, the idea was to afford a measure of protection against the historic volatility of oil pricing. It takes several weeks to ship oil from the Arabian Peninsula to the offshore port of Louisiana. And for the buyers, it helps to know that the price will not suddenly fall while the oil is in transit. A futures contract assures importers that they can sell the oil at a profit.
“That's the theory, anyway,” he added.