Here’s the whole transcript. You don’t have to filter it through our observations. As you might expect, McCain addressed the issue du jour, high gas prices.
People are hurting, small farmers, truckers, and taxi drivers unable to cover their costs, small business owners struggling to meet payroll, the cost of living rising and the value of paychecks falling. All of this, in large part, because the price of oil is too high, and the supply of oil too uncertain. These citizens believe their government has a duty to finally assure the energy security of this country, and they are right.
As you might expect from a very political speech, McCain has to both answer to and challenge industries and the electorate in order to gain support for a change in public policy. Sometimes, that can lead to too many circles getting squared, but we'll put aside the partisan aspects - since the hot air of political discussion could displace all other energy sources with enough left over to power a new sun - and focus on a few issues.
Here’s the paragraph on nuclear energy:
As for nuclear energy -- a proven energy source that requires zero emissions -- we haven't built a new reactor in 31 years. In Europe and elsewhere, they have been expanding their use of nuclear energy. But we've waited so long that we've lost our domestic capability to even build these power plants. Nuclear power is among the surest ways to gain a clean, abundant, and stable energy supply, as other nations understand. One nation today has plans to build almost 50 new reactors by 2020. Another country plans to build 26 major nuclear stations. A third nation plans to build enough nuclear plants to meet one quarter of all the electricity needs of its people -- a population of more than a billion people. Those three countries are China, Russia, and India. And if they have the vision to set and carry out great goals in energy policy, then why don't we?
This popped out:
But we've waited so long that we've lost our domestic capability to even build these power plants.
I think he means some of the components rather than the full plant, which is true enough. But depending on the ambitiousness of the program, nothing stops a revival of the components industry in this country – it could have the salient effects of revitalizing the steel industry, at least to some extent, and creating new industries around new nuclear technologies. As we’ve said here often, the nuclear renaissance implies a strong economic ripple around it, both in associated industries and in communities housing those industries and the plants. But, hey, it’s a sentence, not carved in stone and not in the least problematic.
We expect details on this will emerge in the next week - McCain's making a lot of energy speeches right now - so more on this later.
Naturally, the speech is a mix of the appealing and appalling. Where you stand on various energy issues, on the partisan arguments advanced and on the sliding scale of environmental stewardship vs. industrial prerogative will determine how you react to it. So far, the fiercest arguments revolve around these few lines of the speech:
We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States. But a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production. And I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use.
To us, this seems a non-starter due to having to get a Democratic Congress to agree to it. As President Bush’s term winds down, the Dems are far less likely to entertain his wishes. Bush introduced legislation today that mirrors McCain’s proposal - see below. The only hope is that Republicans can raise enough of a ruckus – Fox News has been supporting it on every show of theirs I’ve seen – to get it to a vote.
The proposal itself, however, falls seriously foul of environmentalists' concerns, though the areas of the country that would embrace it – we’d guess the gulf coast – would find those concerns easy to override. (Florida and the east and west coasts, though, not so much.)
However you slice it, the proposal is worth discussion and you may be sure there will be a lot of it. But if the Democrats move on it, we’ll be genuinely surprised.
Here’s the Sierra Club on the drilling idea – guess where it falls?
And here’s Fox’s Neil Cavuto – er, guess where he falls?
I have to give Cavuto credit, though; he really pulls out the big guns:
The product of the greatest generation...all too quickly, all too sadly leaving us now. I hope we don't forget them now. Or their resolve then. When they fought a Depression and a World War at the same time.
And how does this relate to offshore drilling? Read the whole thing to find out, then come back here and memorize these lines for future use. You can use them to cow almost anyone about anything.
Fox also has the story of Bush’s proposal.
For many Americans, there is no more pressing concern than the price of gasoline. Truckers and farmers, small-business owners have been hit especially hard. Every American who drives to work, purchases food or ships a product has felt the effect, and families across the country are looking to Washington for a response.
Sound familiar? It sounds like McCain's lines above.
Here’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
The president's proposal sounds like another page from the administration's energy policy that was literally written by the oil industry: give away more public resources to the very same oil companies that are sitting on 68 million acres of federal lands they've already leased.
There’s the poles of the debate right there.
Photo of John McCain. We've noted the pointing predilections of politicians before, but here's a rare sighting of a thumb point. And don't worry, Obama supporters - we'll scrounge up a photo of Barack Obama with a flag background, too. It's going to be, as always, a long campaign.