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Angie Drobnic Holan
By Angie Drobnic Holan October 3, 2008

SUMMARY: This is Part 3 of our series on key issues of the presidential election. We'll distill the candidates' positions and examine key rulings. This time, energy.

In an ongoing series, we're examining issues from the presidential campaign. For each topic, we’ll distill the candidates' positions and present some key rulings. Part 1 was taxes. And Part 2 was Iraq. This week, we take on energy. Read all of our rulings on energy here.


John McCain

• Advocates what he calls an “all of the above” approach that favors expanded offshore drilling and encourages other domestic sources, including natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power.

• Opposes new taxes on oil companies such as a windfall profits tax.

• Sets a goal for 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030, with an ultimate goal of 100 nuclear power plants. Supports the Yucca Mountain project to store nuclear waste.

• Supports a cap-and-trade mechanism that would set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and allow companies to buy and sell rights to emit.

• Earlier this year, favored suspending federal gas taxes as a way of helping consumers.

Barack Obama

• Urges $150-billion in public investment to accelerate clean energy such as electric cars, clean coal, renewable fuels and upgrading the nation’s electricity grid. This initiative would result in 5-million new jobs, Obama said.

• Opposes expanded offshore drilling in principle, but would accept it as part of comprehensive energy legislation.

• Says nuclear power should be part of the domestic energy supply, but opposes the Yucca Mountain project to store nuclear waste.

• Supports a cap-and-trade mechanism.

• Opposed a gas tax holiday. Favored a windfall profits tax on oil companies to provide “energy rebate” to the public.

Key rulings for McCain

On offshore drilling: McCain has long been in favor of letting states ultimately decide whether to drill, but he’s now become a cheerleader for the cause. If it’s not a change in position, it’s at least a change in posture. So we rate McCain's position a Half Flip.

On Obama's plan: In a Web ad, McCain said Obama opposes innovation, the electric car and "clean, safe, nuclear energy." Which is wrong, because Obama's energy plan advocates all three. McCain portrays Obama as a impediment to energy research when the Democratic candidate has been at least as assertive on the issue as McCain has — and has been touting his energy plan since last October. It's so wrong  we ruled this Pants on Fire.

Key rulings for Obama

On offshore drilling: In June, Obama was unequivocal about his opposition to offshore drilling off Florida’s coast. But then in August, Obama gave his support to a bipartisan energy plan that would allow offshore drilling within 50 miles of the Florida coast. Asked whether his support for the plan was a flip-flop, Obama said he remained highly skeptical about drilling off Florida’s coast but that big steps toward energy independence may require compromise. Obama hasn’t sounded like someone who has changed his mind on the issue, so much as someone willing to consider swallowing some offshore drilling as a compromise to get other energy initiatives he really wants. So we rule it a Half Flip.

On McCain's plan: At the Democratic National Convention, Obama said that McCain "has said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investment in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels." Obama makes it sound as though McCain opposed raising fuel-economy standards for cars, and there are votes to support that claim. But in 2002, McCain not only wanted tougher standards than most of the Senate did, but he was lauded by a Democratic colleague. Obama gives a misleading picture of a senator who has been a notable advocate of higher fuel efficiency standards. We rate it Barely True.

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