Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On and Off

The Los Angeles Times reports on John McCain’s ever-changing energy policies.

Crisscrossing the country over the last two weeks to promote his energy plans, Sen. John McCain promised a forceful national strategy to combat global warming and end U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

“We must steer far clear of the errors and false assumptions that have marked the energy policies of nearly 20 Congresses and seven presidents,” the presumptive Republican nominee told a crowd of oil executives in Houston.

But McCain’s record of tackling energy policy on Capitol Hill shows little of the clear direction he says would come from a McCain White House.

Instead, the Arizona senator has swerved from one position to another over the years, taking often contradictory stances on the federal government’s role in energy policy.

At times he has backed measures to ease restrictions on oil drilling off the coast and in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Other times he has voted to keep them.

He has championed standards to require that automakers make vehicles more fuel-efficient, yet opposed standards to require that utilities use less fossil fuel by generating more power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.

McCain has rejected federal tax breaks for renewable energy producers, but backs billions of dollars in subsidies for the nuclear industry.

He has criticized corn-based ethanol for doing “nothing to increase our energy independence.” Yet while campaigning in 2006 in the Midwest corn belt, McCain called ethanol a “vital, vital alternative energy source.”

Senior McCain policy advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin said McCain’s positions reflected a pragmatic approach to governing. “Sen. McCain is interested in getting results,” he said.

But many environmentalists see it as inconsistency. “There is a very sporadic pattern here,” said Tim Greef, deputy legislative director of the League of Conservation Voters.

It’s almost like he can’t remember what he’s for and what he’s against. Does he need someone to remind him?