Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
As the candidates jockey over energy policies and offshore drilling, Sen. John McCain has been criticizing Sen. Barack Obama for wanting to raise taxes.
"He wants a windfall profits tax on oil, to go along with the new taxes he also plans for coal and natural gas," McCain said in a June 18, 2008, speech in Houston. "If the plan sounds familiar, it's because that was President Jimmy Carter's big idea too — and a lot of good it did us."
Indeed, McCain is right that Obama supports a windfall profits tax, which would be levied on oil companies to capture some of their profits from rising prices.
"I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we'll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills," Obama said in a speech June 9.
A windfall tax — actually an excise tax imposed on the difference between the market price of oil and an adjusted base price — was enacted in 1980 but repealed in 1988. By then, oil prices had dropped, it was generating little or no revenue and there were concerns that it made the United States more dependent on foreign oil. Many Democrats want to bring it back to discourage oil companies from raising prices.
We couldn't find many details about Obama's windfall-profits proposal except that he would use it for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps the poor pay their heating and cooling bills.
As for the other part of McCain's claim, that Obama wants new taxes for coal and natural gas, the details are more sketchy.
The McCain campaign cites a February 2008 interview of Obama with San Antonio Express-News columnist Carlos Guerra. In that interview, Obama first answered a question about funding sources for education. Guerra then asked, "Have you considered other funding sources, say taxing emerging energy forms, for example, say a penny per kilowatt hour on wind energy?"
Obama replied: "Well, that's clean energy, and we want to drive down the cost of that, not raise it. We need to give them subsidies so they can start developing that. What we ought to tax is dirty energy, like coal and, to a lesser extent, natural gas. But I think that the real way to fund education is for local communities to step up and say this is important to us. There are no shortcuts."
We couldn't find any other references to new taxes on coal or natural gas on the Obama's campaign Web site, although we found several items where Obama wants incentives for clean coal.
Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the campaign, said Obama was referring to his proposal for a cap-and-trade system for global warming.
Still, it's clear from the context that the coal and natural gas comment was more an aside than an announcement of a major new tax proposal. But regardless, Obama said what he said: "What we ought to tax is dirty energy, like coal and, to a lesser extent, natural gas."
He may not have a detailed position paper on it, but it seems to be an overall statement of his beliefs and the Obama campaign did not dispute that he said it.
So we find McCain's claim to be Mostly True.
Congressional Research Service, The Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax of the 1980s: Implications for Current Energy Policy, March 9, 2006
Obama campaign, Remarks of Senator Barack Obama, Raleigh, N.C., June 9, 2008
Republican National Committee, Obama Tax Backgrounder, June 9, 2008
San Antonio Express-News, Q&A; with Sen. Barack Obama, Feb. 19, 2008
E-mail from Tommy Vietor, Obama campaign spokesman, June 18, 2008
Read About Our Process
"This virus is a distraction from the truth. Coming through Pennsylvania and stopped at a store and they have stopped selling gun ammo until further notice and all the cases are full so it’s not like they have run out. ... The numbers are nothing compared to H1N1 or Ebola. Everyone needs to realize our government is up to something and we are dumb enough to believe what you see on TV or on Facebook."
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.