Tuesday, April 22, 2008

McCain Answers Energy Questions

Or rather, surrogates from his presidential campaign are. Making the rounds on Earth Day, McCain's environmental and energy policy advisor, Eric Burgeson, participated in an online chat with Washington Post readers. Earlier, Grist published an interview with Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a top economic advisor in the McCain campaign. The pull quote:

Q: One of McCain's signature issues is opposition to a lot of subsidies and earmarks. But on climate policy, this is coupled with a stated insistence on heavy subsidies for the nuclear industry. Is there a principled distinction between which subsidies are good and bad?

A:There's a pretty straightforward philosophy. The fundamental concern he has -- not with just climate policy but on earmarks and things like that -- is that you are using the taxpayers' dollars for special interests, not for the national interests. When you have a practice of providing subsidies, you invite lobbying on the part of special interests, and this leads to political corruption, if not criminal corruption. That's point No. 1.

No. 2 is a powerful belief that the private sector will pick the right thing, and the government doesn't need to be in the business of doing that. You set the broad incentives and let it go.

But then, there are roles for government. And if there's a genuine national interest in using nuclear power as an available, feasible, zero-emissions technology, I don't think he would argue that that's a special-interest thing. It's something the nation needs to do as a priority, and if that means a subsidy, then we need to make the agreement we're going to do that for those reasons. I think that's an appropriate role for government, in his view.

The other thing he believes is that we need research in all sorts of technologies, including carbon sequestration and things like that. If that research is best conducted in the private sector, the government providing the monies for that research is not an inappropriate thing to do. But you've got to make sure, in the conduct of those efforts, that you are not having funds allocated on the basis of political connections instead of good science.

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