Surrogates for presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain outlined similar programs to diversify America's energy portfolio to include alternative energy sources on Wednesday at the T.C. Williams School of Law.
For all the harsh rhetoric coming from both campaigns, the candidates seem to agree on several key issues in reducing America's carbon emission and limiting our dependence on foreign oil. Both candidates support a cap and trade program that would impose tough emissions standards on companies and force companies that pollute to buy emissions credits in a market-based system.
McCain surrogate John McCarrick said that the senator would take an "everything on the table," approach to solving the energy crisis. Domestic offshore oil drilling would be a major component of McCain's plan, McCarrick said.
Other solutions would be offering tax credits for people with low or no emissions vehicles, McCarrick said. No-emission vehicles owners would receive a $5,000 tax credit in McCain's plan, he said.
Obama surrogate Elgie Holstien, who served in the Clinton administration, agreed that offshore oil drilling might be part of the solution but was skeptical that it would make any real impact.
"Drilling our way out of high energy costs is a virtual impossibility," Holstein said. "The best estimates are that the new oil would not be online for seven years, and the price difference would come shortly thereafter. And that's if, and only if, OPEC does not adjust their production to meet lower demand, which is something they do three or four times a year."
McCarrick said that part of the price of oil is based on future production, so as soon as drilling begins, prices should begin to fall.
Holstein that the future of energy was in renewable sources. Holstien said that renewable energy would create five million new "green jobs."
McCarrick said that the numbers might be misleading. "There are a lot of numbers floating around out there," he said "but there has been research that says that, though you are creating jobs, you are also loosing them in the fossil fuel industry. The 'five million' figure doesn't take that into account."
McCarrick said that nuclear energy was part of green energy. McCain has committed to 45 new nuclear plants during his administration with an eye to building an additional 55 in the future, McCarrick said.
Both surrogates were in favor of developing clean-coal, an industry that had been controversial for some time in Virginia. Environmental activist in Virginia had been protesting mountaintop removal and water pollution that were results of extensive coal mining. "The answer is not just to dismiss an entire industry," he said. "We have to develop tough federal regulations and enforce them."
Holstein agreed that moving away from coal mining and coal energy was not a feasible solution. "If we don't use coal anymore, its clear that the rest of the world will," he said.
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Holstein said that other countries, like China, were using a lot of coal, so it was in the world's best interest that the U.S. develop clean-coal and spread it to heavy coal-using countries to reduce emissions.
McCarrick said that the country would definitely begin to see a new environmental policy in January because both candidates have committed to confronting climate change.
Senior John Sciuto said that both McCarrick and Holstein were engaging. "I thought that [Holstein] was a better speaker, but [McCarrick] was better prepared and had more specifics about his energy plan."
Contact staff writer David Larter at firstname.lastname@example.org
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