Monday, May 12, 2008

John McCain Stumps on Climate from Stumptown, Oregon

Presidential contender John McCain delivered a major speech today outlining his climate change policy from Portland, Oregon. Stumping from Stumptown (a Portland nickname harkening to it's timber industry past), Senator McCain detailed his plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, calling climate change a "test of foresight, of political courage, and of the unselfish concern that one generation owes to the next." The Republican presidential candidate called for a cap-and-trade system to reduce the country's greenhouse-gas emissions by roughly 2/3rds by 2050.

"Whether we call it 'climate change' or 'global warming,' in the end we're all left with the same set of facts," McCain said, before an audience gathered at a Vestas wind-energy training facility in Portland. "The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple commonsense demand that we to act meet the challenge, and act quickly." That they do, Senator McCain!

At the same time, McCain launched a new TV ad airing in Oregon and other states that presents McCain as the candidate ready to strike a reasonable balance in a debate where there's "one extreme that thinks high taxes and crippling regulations are the solution" on the one hand and those who "deny the problem even exists" on the other hand.

McCain will no doubt get plenty of praise from the mainstream press for this "maverick" break from President Bush and some notorious Republicans like Senator James Inhofe (R-OK/Exxon). Considering how low his fellow Republicans have set the bar over the last eight years, McCain does deserve credit for talking about the climate challenge, proposing mandatory emissions reductions, and using the stump to highlight his policies.

The reality though, is that far from striking some reasonable middle ground in a partisan debate, John McCain's new climate policy falls short of even the inadequate Lieberman-Warner bill being considered in the Senate in June.

More importantly, despite the fact that his campaign released principles for policy design today calling for "Scientifically-Sound, Mandatory Emission Reduction Targets And Timetables," his climate policy falls far short the emissions reductions recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC calls for 25-40% reductions below 1990s by 2020 and 80-95% reductions below 1990 levels by 2050 in industrialized nations in order to have a decent shot at stabilizing the climate and avoiding runaway climate change with catastrophic results. The climate proposal outlined by McCain today calls for reductions of just 0% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 60% below 1990 levels by 2050.

In short, McCain deserves credit for some "straight talk" on climate change, but words only go so far, and his inadequate proposal still dooms to planet to the fire, flood and famine-type consequences on the worse end of the IPCC's predictions.

His proposal also seems to put more attention to propping up the fossil fuel and nuclear industries with plenty of free emissions allowances and cash subsidies than on truly igniting a new clean energy economy and adhering to basic principles of fairness like making polluters pay to clean up their mess through an auction of emissions allowances.

Finally, I just LOVE the irony of Mr. McNoShow stumping on climate solutions at a wind turbine company while the future of the wind industry hangs on the production tax credit imperiled by none other than Mr. John McCain himself!

Senator McCain could have been the deciding 60th vote for a package of clean energy incentives, including a renewal of the PTC, not once, but twice already in both December and February... if he'd only bothered to show up to vote! Instead, McCain was a no-show each time, and the critical clean energy incentives failed by one vote. Makes you skeptical how serious Mr. McNoShow really is about the clean energy economy he talks about in his speech.

Without an extension of the critical renewable energy tax credits, the booming wind, solar and other renewable energy industries will slump, imperiling over 116,000 good American jobs and $19 billion dollars worth of investment at a time of recession - not to mention an entire year's worth of clean energy deployment (that'll really help hit those emissions reduction goals, Mr. McCain!). The irony of McCain's choice of photo op locations is extremely rich considering that the last time the future of the PTC was uncertain, Vestas cancelled plans to build a Portland wind turbine manufacturing plant that would have employed up to 1,000 workers! It doesn't get much better than that...

McCain vows that he "will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges." But, when you look at his record on energy policy, you see that McNoShow McCain has spent the last eight long years blocking efforts to spark a clean energy economy and tackle climate change.

Senator McCain has a long record of no shows, no votes, and support for fossil fuel industry special interests. A guy with a big fat 0% LCV score who can't even stand up to be counted on critical energy votes doesn't exactly strike me as the president who'll truly rise to the climate challenge!

Since it's late already and I've got little time to write more, I'll leave you with a collection of links to other reactions to McCain's speech:

  • Text of the speech at GristMill

  • Grist's David Roberts takes an advance look at the speech

  • Grist's excellent new political blogger, Kate Sheppard characterizes the Big Green Group's responses to McCain's speech.
  • Joe Romm doesn't miss the irony of Mr McNoShow McCain stumping at a wind turbine company.

  • Romm calls McCain's plan full of hot air at Huffington Post.

  • Energy Smart blogger A. Siegel says McCain can see the problem, but no solution.

  • The Wonk Room's Brad Johnson points out that McCain tries to have it both ways on climate but his rhetoric ends up trashing his own plan.

  • Brad Johnson doesn't miss the hypocrisy of McCain's choice of speech locations either.

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