Sierra Club Responds to Senator McCain’s Houston Energy Speech

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Washington, D.C.—Senator John McCain is slated to give a major policy address on energy issues later today in front of an audience of oil industry executives in Houston. Yesterday Senator McCain called for lifting a nearly three decade old federal moratorium on drilling off of our coasts.  “There are areas off our coasts that should be open to exploration and exploitation, and I hope we can take the first step by lifting the moratoria,” said Senator McCain. 

Yesterday’s Sierra Club response to Senator McCain’s announcement can be found here.

Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director

“Instead of siding with the hardworking American families being exploited by an energy industry awash in record profits, Senator McCain supports allowing Big Oil to begin the wholesale “exploitation” of our coasts.  Rather than offering consumers real relief from skyrocketing energy prices, Senator McCain’s plan would merely pad Big Oil’s bottom line while putting thousands of miles of pristine beaches and coastline at risk.

“While he refuses to support the incentives for renewable energy needed to make the clean energy future a reality, Senator McCain wants more of the same reckless and outdated energy policies that President Bush and his allies in Congress have pushed for the past seven years: more ‘traditional coal,’ more oil, and more nuclear power. These disastrous policies have enriched special interests while devastating both our economy and our environment.

“If Senator McCain is really interested in breaking our addiction to oil, putting America back to work, and tackling global warming, we urge him to reconsider his support for the failed policies of the past.  It’s time for Senator McCain to support the common sense plan put forth by the Senate leadership, the Consumer-First Energy Act.  This plan would make sure the oil industry is paying its fair share, crack down on speculators, put our economy back on the path to prosperity, help end our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, and fight global warming.  We urge Senator McCain to choose wind farms, not more windfalls for Big Oil. “

Selected Excerpts from Senator McCain’s Houston Energy Speech

Sen. McCain: “The next president must be willing to break with the energy policies not just of the current Administration, but the administrations that preceded it, and lead a great national campaign to achieve energy security for America.”
Reality: Senator McCain’s plan for more drilling, more coal, and more nuclear power is identical to the energy policies put forth by President Bush and his allies in Congress for the past seven years.

Sen. McCain: “Over time, we must shift our entire energy economy toward a sustainable mix of new and cleaner power sources.  This will include some we use already, such as wind, solar, biofuels, and other sources yet to be invented”
Reality: Senator McCain has consistently voted against requiring utilities to produce a certain percentage of our electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, and biomass.  He also refuses to support key incentives for clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.  McCain has missed two Senate votes in the past several months when such initiatives failed to pass by a single vote (12/13/07, Vote 425; 02/06/08, Vote 8).  McCain continues to support billions in new and existing subsidies for nuclear power plants.

Sen. McCain: “Investigation is underway to root out this kind of reckless wagering, unrelated to any kind of productive commerce, because it can distort the market, drive prices beyond rational limits, and put the investments and pensions of millions of Americans at risk.  Where we find such abuses, they need to be swiftly punished.  And to make sure it never happens again, we must reform the laws and regulations governing the oil futures market, so that they are just as clear and effective as the rules applied to stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments. In all of these markets, reform must assure transparency, prevent abuse, and protect the public interest.”
Reality: Senator McCain has refused to support to the Consumer-First Energy Act of 2008 (S.3044), which would crack down on speculators and price gouging. 

Sen. McCain: “As for offshore drilling, it’s safe enough these days that not even Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could cause significant spillage from the battered rigs off the coasts of New Orleans and Houston.”
Reality: According the
Coast Guard, more than 7.1 million gallons of crude oil were spilled in at least nine major incidents and 35 smaller incidents as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina alone. 

Sen. McCain: “At the very least, one might assume, America had surely been building new refineries to achieve a more efficient delivery of gasoline to market, and thereby to lower the prices paid by the American people especially in the summer season.  But the policymakers in Washington haven’t got around to that, either.  There’s so much regulation of the industry that the last American refinery was built when Jerry Ford was president.”
Reality: The oil industry has expanded older refineries, but in generally has purposely allowed refining capacity to languish in order to constrain supply.  In Senate testimony before the Congress (November, 2005), the Chief Executive Officer of Shell stated, “We are not aware of any environmental regulations that have prevented us from expanding refinery capacity or siting a new refinery.” In addition, Conoco’s CEO testified, “At this time, we are not aware of any projects that have been directly prevented as a result of any specific Federal or State regulation.” Finally, BP’s CEO concluded “it does not believe that any Federal or state environmental regulations have ‘prevented us’ from expanding refinery capacity or siting a new refinery.” The Bush Administration’s own EPA also concluded in 2002 that permitting requirements had “not significantly impeded investment in new power plants or refineries.” (EPA, New Source Review: Report to the President (June 13, 2002))

Sen. McCain: “Nuclear power is among the surest ways to gain a clean, abundant, and stable energy supply, as other nations understand.”
Reality: While opposing subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency, Senator McCain supports billions in new and existing subsidies for nuclear power.  Nuclear power is a dirty, dangerous, and costly distraction from the policies we really need to build the clean energy future and fight global warming. 
Costs for new nuclear power plants are skyrocketing, with Florida Power and Light recently estimating in a regulatory filing that a two-reactor expansion at its Turkey Point facility could cost as much as $24 billion.

Sen. McCain: A gas tax holiday is “the most direct and obvious way to give Americans a break at the gas station.”
Reality: Most economists agree that a gas tax holiday would do absolutely nothing to lower prices at the pump.  More than
200 leading economists, including 4 Nobel Prize winners, have denounced Senator McCain’s and similar plans.  The Sierra Club believes it would do little else but offer Big Oil another 18 cents per gallon in profits at the pump.

All quotes are from excerpts of the text of Senator McCain’s remarks as prepared for delivery at 5 p.m. to energy industry executives in Houston.

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