McCain Bashes Obama on Drilling

by: Matt Stoller

Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 12:21

Here's the script:

ANNCR: Gas prices - $4, $5, no end in sight, because some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America.

No to independence from foreign oil.

Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?

CHANT: Obama, Obama

ANNCR: One man knows we must now drill more in America and rescue our family budgets.

Don't hope for more energy, vote for it. McCain.

JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

I spent Netroots Nation obsessed with gas prices, chatting with various operatives and politicians about polling on the subject.  The best framing came from Van Jones, who said that we can't 'drill and burn' our way out of this problem.  The public is there with us; they don't believe that gas prices are coming down, even if we open everything to oil company leases.  Yet the public - even liberals - supports drilling anyway for three reasons.

  1. Calling for drilling looks like leadership. Someone is doing something, finally.

  2. Calling for drilling is understandable.  Put drill in ground, oil comes out.  

  3. Calling for drilling has an enemy, the environmentalists.

I don't think McCain's attack will work on Obama, since it is saying something that Americans fundamentally don't believe.  The ad suggests that prices are rising because of insufficient drilling, and that more drilling will lower prices.  That isn't true, and polling suggests people know it isn't true.  An ad that says something along the lines of 'this isn't a total solution, but it's a start' would be much more credible as an attack on Obama.

The energy question is the question of our generation.  If you drilled everything there is in the US tomorrow and oil started coming out of the ground tomorrow, gas prices would drop by about three cents.  Gas prices went up one cent a day last month.  Van Jones made the following critical point about the oil economy versus the renewable economy: When more people use oil, the price goes up.  When more people use solar, the price goes down.

The environmentalists have their big moment right now, and it's time to begin organizing around a new economy.  There's a lot of education to do on energy.

UPDATE:  The three cent number actually comes from the centrist NRDC.

Matt Stoller :: McCain Bashes Obama on Drilling

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Any clue how this will play out in Congress? (4.00 / 1)
Webb can't wait to drill off Virginia's coast, and Reid can't wait to cave, but the California contingent--Boxer and Pelosi--seem ready to fight.

Meanwhile clueless "too good for politics" Al Gore compares drilling to the Iraq War at the same time he praises McCain on Global Warming.

Not just CA (4.00 / 2)
Here in WA Maria Cantwell has been a genuine leader in resisting attempts to drill offshore and otherwise increase oil production, and Patty Murray has supported her efforts. I assume that OR's Ron Wyden is in line as well, and that Gordon Smith isn't going to run on an anti-green, pro-oil platform in an increasingly competetive reelection bid. And AK's Stevens is in no position to push this issue anymore, having his own issues to deal with and having been soundly smacked down by Cantwell a couple of years ago on oil production in the PNW.

It's sad to see that so many voters are still not paying attention to the facts, and are still proving susceptible to all the sound bite lies from the GOP and oil companies. How many times do they have to be lied to and taken for fools for them to realize that they're, um, being lied to and played for fools? When did this country take a collective stupid pill?

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
Clueless Al Gore? (0.00 / 0)
I'll tell you who is clueless.

Al Gore has done more to kick start the real beginning of the Green Economy than any one man alive and you call him clueless. F'ing shameful you are.

As for his praise of McCain on Global Warming - Gore sees the survival of earth as a bigger issue than politics. Apparently you don't.

And what is wrong if GW was no longer a political issue? Wouldn't that get us to where we need to be faster?

[ Parent ]
I don't doubt his conviction (4.00 / 1)
or leadership. Just about every accolade he gets he deserves.

But yeah, he's clueless if he thinks praising enemies of a sensible approach to energy is going to lead to a sensible approach to energy. The Al Gore I admire was the unapologetically political one. I understand that he wants this is issue to above politics; he's clueless because he actually thinks this is possible. Sorry, Al (and sorry, Barack) no matter how pure your motives, no matter how noble your aims, reality affords you no release from politics, no magical ability to transcend the need to take on corporate power and its allies.  

[ Parent ]
Who's clueless? (4.00 / 1)
In strategic terms, I have to suggest you look in a mirror. An issue as huge and complex as the environment/climate/energy needs people who are heard over the propaganda mills (including the "news"). Gore is the figure best positioned to fill that essential role. Once he lets himself become marginalized by playing party politics, he loses credibility as a trusted source. And when that happens, our side loses big.

I'm as partisan as it gets, but we don't need every single issue-focused leader to take partisan jabs. That's the job of politicians. It's not about boosting McCain, it's about, yeah, staying above the fray and maintaining his access and credibility. Seems strange to me that you call Gore clueless for not doing somebody else's job -- namely, spineless Dem pols. Sometimes somebody has to inject some substance into the discussion of life-or-death issues, painful as that may be to soundbite junkies.

[ Parent ]
So why didn't Martin Luther King (0.00 / 0)
give up politics, then, if that's where the most powerful voice in a movement to change the world belonged, outside politics.  

[ Parent ]
I don't recall (4.00 / 1)
him playing party politics. He stuck to issues, not personalities. That's why he's still as prominent in our thoughts as ever, while we don't remember who the House majority leader was at the time.

[ Parent ]
Oh, yeah (0.00 / 0)
Well if McCain were actually promoting good policies on energy, then I wouldn't care if Gore praised him. My point is that he isn't.

Perhaps I should have framed it differently. Gore isn't trying to escape politics any more than Obam is. He's just playing a misguided form of politics that believes that solutions are in the middle and that transformative change can be attained via consensus. It's the form of politics that tries to disguise itself as above politics. Fails every time.

[ Parent ]
Do you even know what McCain's (0.00 / 0)
plan is to reduce global warming that gore is in agreement with? And if so what is wrong with it?

As for Gore's 'release' from politics: first of all I was speaking of Washington politics and I happen to agree that it is important to have as many people of both parties on the side of combating GW. You don't think so, so with that you vote for gridlock on the issue.

Now as for Gore being completley out of politics I don't think he is. Today he is involved in world politics on a single issue affecting all the state governments of the world and he is waking them up along with the people who live in those countries.

He is now a roaming political ambassador.

[ Parent ]
One point that would be a winner... (4.00 / 7)
There is a presumption that the oil drilled would go straight into U.S. cars, when the reality is that it would be sold on the global market and China and India would get first dibs.

Demanding that republicans require all offshore drilled oil to be sold domestically and not on the global market would be a winner politically, as the Republicans could never agree to that stipulation, and it would remind people that this is all a boondoggle to give away more tax resources to the oil men.

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

I'm not for drilling (0.00 / 0)
but I'm curious. Just how would China and India get "first dibs"? That is the first time I've heard that and seeing how you provide no rhyme or reason could you tell us why they would?

[ Parent ]
All oil is fungible (4.00 / 2)
Basically.  Of course there are transportation costs, and refiners may be more or less attuned to one kind of opil (high or low sulfur, for example.)  But basically oil goes to the highest bidder.  Oil from Alaska went to Japan, for example, at least some of it.  There is no guarantee that oil drilled from American shores goes to the US.  it goes where the companies want to sell it.  Nor could we enact such a requirement, without retaliation.    

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Vin Jones speech! (0.00 / 0)
There is a buzz about Jones' speech today outside of the left blogosphere.....  When I sent the link to some (relatively apolitical) family, they said they had heard about this speech but didn't know where to find it.

I'm telling you, Vin Jones is on to something.

Fucking leadership!

Why does McCain hate renewable energy? (4.00 / 3)
According to the solar industry guests on the most recent Science Friday show on NPR,, there have been 7 votes in the Senate seeking to provide incentives for businesses and individuals to develop and use solar and other renewable energy technology. The bills are designed to level the playing field with the highly subsidized coal, oil, gas, and nuclear industries. Or to look at it another way, to remove government disincentives against solar and other renewable energy development.

On these 7 votes, McCain failed to vote (which is the same as voting No) 7 times. Obama voted Yes 5 times and was absent twice. McCain has a terrible record on renewable energy solutions.

That is the line Dems should be taking: Why do McCain and the GOP keep pushing for turning our wilderness heritage over to Exxon while it blocks real solutions that will work now and far into the future? Why do McCain and the GOP fight for oil corporation profiteering and against new industries that will provide jobs, stable energy costs, and long-term security to ordinary Americans? Whose side are they on, anyway?

I propose more drilling... (0.00 / 0)
...on the SUN!!!

[ Parent ]
McCain has repeatedly opposed incentives for clean energy (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Matt ... (0.00 / 0)
despite Michael Scherer over at Swampland being a McCain fan boy .. he brought up a very good point about this commercial .. it attacks Obama and the "cult" surrounding him ... I wonder what effect that will have ... if any

I think it's smart for McCain (4.00 / 1)
to depict the Obama following that way. If you aren't already supporting Obama, that chanting is really off-putting.

I'm sure they will do the same thing to try to undermine Obama's acceptance speech in the football stadium.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
Do the crowds ... (0.00 / 0)
really chant .. Obama!! .. Obama!! ... Obama!! .. like in the commercial?  Or stuff like Yes, we can!! ? ... also .. what do McCain audiences chant? Bomb Iran!! ?

[ Parent ]
Some framing is needed (4.00 / 1)
I'm a little worried that the GOP may be winning the terms of this debate, simply because Obama and company haven't been speaking out enough.

Whether it is by means of a grand, visionary, Gore-like speech - or by methodically explaining the facts - Obama needs to make the point clearly and loudly that drilling is neither a short-term or even long-term solution.

Whatever the campaign says, I just hope they start to address this issue more visibly, because in my neck of the woods, it feels like they've been relatively quiet on this topic.

Obama has picked it up (0.00 / 0)
He criticized Hillary and McCain heavily on the gas tax holiday, something that won him points, during the primary.  And he has continued to mention it. And to mention renewables and clean energy.  Right now he's overseas and concentrating on foreign policy, but I'd expect it when he returns.  But I agree, a bold plan is needed.  Maybe he's waiting until his convention speech.  Denver is a great place to talk about energy and conservation.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
There was one aspect of the "gas tax holiday" (0.00 / 0)
that would actually make sense, if handled properly. Namely, instead of eliminating gas taxes at the pump--which would most likely result in oil companies raising base gas prices by around the same amount anyway, resulting in little to no net savings for consumers--keep gas taxes as is, and offer lower income drivers some sort of EITC-like gas tax credit, which would be progressive based on income and other factors. I suppose that this could create an incentive for some dishonest lower income earners to create an effective gas black market, but there are ways to protect against such fraud.

Personally, I'd like to see gas taxes drastically raised, to further encourage--and fund--alternative energy development, and discourage fossil fuel consumption, the purchase of inefficient vehicles, and wasteful and unnecessary driving, which would be good for national security and the environment. But raising taxes isn't exactly a winning campaign message, so this would have to be done next year (although Obama's admirable and courageous promise to raise taxes on the rich hasn't exactly hurt him in the polls).

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

[ Parent ]
People want a long term solution (4.00 / 1)
But they also want a short term solution and Obama is not about to offer one.

FYI Obama got no 'points' during the primary if you bother to look at who was winning the majority of the primaries at the them the gas tax was being discussed.

Yes and wait another 6 weeks to convention to give a speech while letting the Republicans own the issue. That sounds like Obama.

One more thing on the gas tax holiday. As of last week congress was actually considering it as it is probably the only solution that could affect gas prices in the short term. they didn't do it because it would short the highway fund by 9 billion and the Republicans were not going to support having that 9 billion come out of the general budget to makeup the shortfall.

So as a short term solution it was not a bad idea after all as it had a lot of support on the hill.

As long as McCain is offering something and Obama offers nothing short term McCain will own this issue. Given that the polls only show Obama leading on the economy by 3% and that current gas prices are probably close to if not the #1 economic issue right now regarding the economy Obama is screwed if he just keeps talking about 10-15 year down the road.

[ Parent ]
Congress voted gas tax down (4.00 / 1)
Or rather, didn't even bring it up to a vote.  The gas tax goes into the highway fund, and when it became known how much money each state would lose, it went into the circular file.  

There aren't any short-term fixes for gas prices, excpet to take actions that owuld reduce the terror premium (discussed below) and perhaps some anti0-speculation measures that federal regulatory agencies can take.  Fundamentally, however, it is a matter of adjusting demand downward, education on how to save gas through propoer operation and maintenance of a vehicle, and perhaps providing incentives for moving to higher mileage alternatives, and some sort of stimulus or tax rebate to low income people.  Obama has propposed some of all of these.

It really insults the intelligence of the American people to propose some sort of mythical, showy "quick fix" that does not address the problems.  We need lots and lots of education for people and a PR campaign and incentives for less-polluting, energy-saving behavior.  We in CA have a good track record of such things on electricity, fuel and water efficiency, and the rest of the country should get with the program too.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Thanks for summarizing in your first (0.00 / 0)
paragraph what I already said in my post. I don't know why so many people online want to take what they are responding to and reword it as if they are telling the other person something new.

You may think that a political quick fix is insulting but the polls show that McCain is scoring points with the drilling (which I don't approve of drilling but that is beside the point).

So you and Obama can go on about how people need to relearn how to drive their cars - lol. And how they should buy cars that are fuel efficient but not in great supply and how those same people who are struggling with gas prices and rising food prices and inflation in general should go out and acquire a new fuel efficient car with a $350 payment they can't afford so the can get and extra 10 miles per gallon, the equivalent of about $20 per tank of gas. In other words they will spend more on a new car payment than they would save on gas for a net loss - not gain. Great idea Mimi. Ought be a winner for Obama when people scratch that out on the back of an envelope.

Meanwhile McCain can win the battle of the pump which is the top of the mind issue having to do with the economy in which Obama leads McCain within the margin of error in the polls. Yep just give McCain the number one issue, the economy, and the number one sub-issue within the economy, gas. Makes sense to me.

Obama can keep talking about 10 years from now while people wonder today how they can afford driving Dave and Suzy back and forth to school and to soccer practice.

[ Parent ]
T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore (4.00 / 1)
Right now T. Boone Pickens, who, as he says, spent a lifetime in the oil bid'ness, is running ads touting his energy plan, which is halfway good (generating electricity from renewable sources) and halfway bad (shifting cars to LNG).  But he says clearly "There is no way we can drill ourselves lut of this situation" and the ads describe the amount of money that goes to foreign oil countries as "the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world."

Pickens didn't get where he is by being stupid, and I think these are the two best tag lines of his introductory ad, playing widely on cable.

Reed Hundt has an excellent piece here at TPM Cafe arguing that Gore's plan gets it right by focusing on electricity, arguing as Pickens does that we should shift to renewables, and massively upgrade the national grid, but then shift cars to plug-hybrids that would utilize that grid.  Makes sense to me.

We really need to lobby the INLAND Senators (hello Reid and Durbin) about the folly and incorrect messaging of lifting the drilling ban (or, for that matter, releasing petroleum from the strategic reserve). Rather than "solutions" that deal with increasing supply, we need demand-side solutions like greater fuel efficiency, educating drivers about more efficient (i.e., slower) driving and the need for proper maintenance, more subsidies for mass transit and, ultimately, at least to some extent underwriting the shift to more fuel-efficient cars, like California's buyback program for older cars with poor vehicle emissions and subsidies for hybrid buyers, as well as a concentrated PR campign on conservation like California has.  Really, it can be made cool and a common enterprise, and people will do it.

One commentator at a financial site I read suggested that the drop in the price of oil was in part a recognition that Obama was going to win and that we would see a fairly rapid shift in the policy debate, hastening the demise of oil.  I do think that as soon as it is clear that Obama will be it there will be an explosion of ideas and moves toward fuel efficiency, renewables, etc--an unleashing of creative imagination and enterprise comparable to the earlier info tech revolution.  Too bad Congress is mired in the ideas of the past.  At least on this issue Pelosi really gets it, but Reid is a dinosaur.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

oil, coal, etc. (0.00 / 0)
I think you've hit it on the head. I know 99.9% of my friends through environmental activism, so I am never in close enough contact with people who don't prioritize the environment to know whether or not most people agree on the drilling. But to be honest, it seems like most people do want drilling, for the exact reasons you listed above. Can you link whatever polling was done on this issue? I don't doubt you, I'd just like to see it.

I think it's important that we keep hammering away on the economics of this - since that is what the right prides themselves on. Drilling now isn't going to save us money. Obama needs to come out with an ad saying that and cite the White House findings that say it, and so does every Democratic congressional and senatorial candidate in the country. but like Gore said on Saturday morning, coal-to-liquid fuels is just as bad of an idea. as a Kentuckian, I have to put up with the nonsense about liquid coal on a daily basis, even from our Democratic party leaders. Liquid coal isn't going to go into automobiles, it is going straight to the Air Force, and doubtfully to anyone else. none of these are options for our energy future. conservation and renewables are our only options and we need to stress that at every turn

Risk Factor in Oil Prices (0.00 / 0)
Back when oil was $70 a barrel, the consensus opinion was that $20 of that was from the war risk premium, caused by the reckless policies of Bush/Cheney.

I haven't read any recent estimates -- other than the current prices are inflated by commodity speculation -- but my guess is there is still at least a $20-30 war risk premium in current prices.

When the Obama Administration de-escalates the Iraq War and normalizes relations with Iran, it will help reduce the war risk premium.

Several factors in addition to war risk (0.00 / 0)
But there's also some percentage (which has come down very recently) that is speculation, and some percentage that is oil producers holding onto inventories in the expectation that the price would go up.  It seems like the increase in demand from India, China etc would suipport oil at about $90 a barrel, but the most recent $30-40 was something else, mostly speculation of various kinds.  When pension and college endopwment funds start buying oil futures to boost return, that starts to skew the market and drive it up.  (It also portends a top.) Plus there's some anticipation of demand slowing in the US. I think that the realization that we will be transitioning out of oil sooner than most people think is driving prices down now.

John McCain--He's not who you think he is.

[ Parent ]
Reserves Discount -- Depletion Premium (4.00 / 2)
One of the other factors that argues against lower oil prices is that we may have reached the Peak Oil limit -- the demand has caught up with the supply, and only a reduction in demand growth (caused by high prices) can keep the supply/demand in balance.

The Saudis have overstated their reserves for years, and market acceptance of their forecasts probably led to a price discount, in anticipation of increased production to offset higher demand.

Now that it has become obvious that there is no reserve capacity, the price balance shifted in favor of the speculators.  

[ Parent ]
Blaming high gas prices on liberals and environmentalists (4.00 / 4)
is sort of like blaming a poorly performing home team's loss on its fans not being enthusiastic enough. It's just silly, dishonest and petulant--i.e. SOP for the GOP these past few decades. The right way for Dems to frame their response to these idiotic attacks is to turn the attack around on the GOP, on at least two levels.

One, that high gas prices are much more the GOP's fault, for its years of actively avoiding and resisting alternative energy and efficient transportation and energy consumption development, and instead continually promoting dirty, inefficient and national security-threatening fossil fuel consumption.

And two, that instead of owning up to this, the GOP is trying to blame the victim and duck responsibility, petulantly whining about red herrings. The GOP caused this problem, and now refuses to own up to it and deal with it responsibly and realistically, instead blaming people who aren't to blame and focusing on phony solutions (i.e. more of the same).

This is a tremendous opportunity to call the GOP's bluff and use it to further destroy its credibility--as opposed to doing what Dems have traditionally done when attacked dishonestly, which is to accept the dishonest premise and try to show how they're not quite that bad. I.e. instead of saying "Oh, we're for drilling too!", they should basically say "Drilling is not the answer, and anyone who says otherwise is not being honest with you".

A side benefit of this is that McCain is a hothead who does not deal well with being called a liar, and calling him one (in so many words) will just get him further off his already weak game. Obama needs to mess with his mind the way he messed with the Clintons' minds. This is how you win, on a substantive, messaging and psychological level.

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything...Mankind are forever destined to be the dupes of bold & cunning imposture" -- Alexander Hamilton

9¢ a gallon in 2025 (0.00 / 0)
Just remember that ANWR drilling could drop prices by 3¢ a gallon in 2025 and Offshore drilling could drop prices by 6¢ a gallon by 2025.

So McCain's entire ad is based on saving everyone 9¢ a gallon 17 years from now.  

Yea, that will help the 'ol pocket book.  Well worth the environmental damage, don't ya think.


Polling? (0.00 / 0)
Most of the polling I've seen shows huge majorities favoring more drilling. If you have polling that shows otherwise, can you link it?

Conduct your own interview of Sarah Palin!

remember this? (0.00 / 0)
"Are you somewhat upset about gas at $2 a gallon and looking forward to lower prices? Well, just remember that the Kyoto Protocol (to combat a hypothetical global warming), avidly promoted by the Clinton-Gore administration, would raise prices even higher - on a permanent basis.

The "expert", S. Fred Singer for the Washington Times
"Oil price spike with no peak in sight"
August 11, 2000

McCain ad is bad for us, but could be very good politics (0.00 / 0)
It was already noted above that while folks indeed want the long-term solutions, especially if they are presented as Pickens is now doing, but the demand for immediate action will only continue to grow through the election season.  Very simply, Obama should be owning this issue, rather than, at least at this point, largely ceding it to Pickens and McCain.

Disagree on point 3 (0.00 / 0)
2/3 of Americans like environmentalists and enviro groups.

Agree with the rest of what you're saying.  We need a new energy economy, and we need to start transitioning to it now.


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