John McCain's Stance On Energy & Environment

Senator John McCain is making environmental news headlines again for taking a stance on climate change and distancing himself from the Bush Administration. In recent days, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate has campaigned in the Pacific Northwest touting his pro-environment commitment and agenda. McCain's commitment to fight global warming differs from current Administration policy and from many other standard-bearing Republican Party agendas.

For McCain, the cornerstone of his environmental plan mandates a "cap and trade" system. McCain argues that establishing a cap on carbon emissions and setting a national goal to reduce overall carbon emissions to 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 is a realistic, and effective way to tackle climate change. (In contrast, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have said they would set a goal to reduce overall carbon emissions to 80 percent of 1990 levels by mid-century.)

In McCain's analysis, establishing a national standard for tradable carbon emission permits will allow the so called "good carbon emitters" to offset the "bad" ones. Furthermore, a nationwide cap and trade system would provide the necessary incentives to promote growth of solar, wind, and other renewable energy industries. McCain does not offer specific policy or market tools for solar or wind technologies because he is confident that a cap and trade system would sufficiently bolster those and other similar renewable energy markets. Nor has McCain outlined a more detailed plan on how his cap and trade system would work or what industries and activities would be targeted.

For McCain, alternative energy means energy independence. As we've mentioned in previous posts, of the three current presidential front runners, John McCain most vocally favors reinvesting in nuclear power. He views nuclear energy as the most viable technology to meet the nation's electricity demands. In his speech he made in Oregon (and posted on his website), McCain views the nexus among energy, the environment, and national security as one of the most important issues facing our nation.

McCain's voting record, however, leaves critics dubious about his intentions and commitment toward the environment. The League of Conservation Voters who created a National Environmental Scorecard gives McCain a lifetime rating of 24 percent for his previous voting record regarding the environment. For this year's legislative session, McCain gets a Zero; thus far he's been absent for any of the environmentally related bills that have come up for a vote.

Critics point to inconsistencies in McCain's voting record. As an article in Monday's Washington Post points out, McCain has embraced some environmental provisions, yet shunted others not so seemingly different from the ones he supports.

Supporters contend that McCain, as a political maverick, has consistently distinguished himself from conventional Republicans. They cite that McCain was one of the first in Congress to acknowledge climate change and introduce legislation addressing the issue.

He's certainly savvy when it comes to renewable energy photo-ops. In February McCain stood in front of a solar photovoltaic manufacturer when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced his endorsement for the Senator. On Monday, McCain restated his environmental policy at a wind power company in Oregon. Time may reveal whether these press events truly signify McCain's intentions toward renewable energy.

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