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McCain highlights energy policy in Santa Barbara campaign stop

By   /   Tuesday, June 24th, 2008  /   Comments Off on McCain highlights energy policy in Santa Barbara campaign stop

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Sen. John McCain dropped by Santa Barbara June 24 to tout his support of entrepreneurship and nuclear energy as solutions to the United States’ energy problems. McCain spoke as one of five panelists, which included Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former CIA Director James Woolsey, to a packed room of about 150 guests at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.

McCain also trumpeted the need to “draw upon America’s own vast resources of oil and natural gas” to meet the country’s fuel needs. He even raised the idea of generating power through nuclear energy.

“Nations across Europe and Asia are building nuclear power plants…America, too, must make more use of this clean, efficient and proven source of power,” McCain said, followed by a round of applause.

McCain also proposed that the federal government lead by example when it comes to energy conservation. He said that every year, the U.S. government buys more than 60,000 cars and other non-military or law-enforcement vehicles.

“From now own, we’re going to make those civilian vehicles flex-fuel capable, plug-in hybrids, or cars fueled by natural gas,” he said. Conversely, McCain and Schwarzenegger both left the event in large SUVs.

The Arizona Republican senator kept with his energy-efficient theme by embracing sustainable building practices for the federal government’s 3.3 million square feet of office space.

“Add it all up and that makes the federal government the largest consumer of electricity in the world,” he said. “This represents another enormous opportunity that my administration will take…We can save taxpayers billions of dollars in energy costs” by building green.

McCain embraced America’s entrepreneurial spirit by offering a $300 million prize to anyone who can produce a car battery that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog current plug-in hybrids or electric cars. He also proposed a $5,000 tax credit to anyone who buys a zero- or near-zero-emission car.

McCain commended Schwarzenegger for leading California on a path to cleaner energy and for reaching across party lines to do so, which he also committed to doing as president.

Despite McCain’s energy commitments, one panelist, remained skeptical of the likely Republican presidential nominee’s ideas, especially offshore drilling. Michael Feeney, the executive director of the Santa Barbara County Land Trust, paralleled recent criticism from the media that drilling off America’s coasts will not affect fuel prices for another decade at least.

“It makes me nervous to think [about drilling here],” Feeney said. He also commented that tapping into America’s oil will only reduce dependence on foreign oil from 70 percent to 67 percent.

McCain did not respond to those comments directly, but did say that the United States has the technology to generate nuclear energy as an alternative.

“The Europeans do it; it’s being done,” McCain said. “Eighty-percent of the French electricity is generated by nuclear power and they’re doing fine.”

Dozens of protesters lined the streets outside the museum well before McCain’s arrival. Most were protesting against offshore oil drilling but also against the war and McCain’s anti-abortion viewpoints.

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