Uh, boy. Below are John McCain’s answers to two questions — on climate change and energy — over at Science Debate 2008. I’d excerpt Obama’s responses– but, alas, how different are they going to be? Here’s the side-by-side comparison of their answers.
The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on the following measures that have been proposed to address global climate change — a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, increased fuel-economy standards, or research? Are there other policies you would support?
We know that greenhouse gas emissions, by retaining heat within the atmosphere, threaten disastrous changes in the climate. The same fossil-fuels that power our economic engine also produced greenhouse gases that retain heat and thus threaten to alter the global climate. No challenge of energy is to be taken lightly, and least of all, the need to avoid the consequences of global warming. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple commonsense demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly.
To dramatically reduce carbon emissions, I will institute a new cap-and-trade system that over time will change the dynamic of our energy economy. By the year 2012, we will seek a return to 2005 levels of emissions, by 2020, a return to 1990 levels, and so on until we have achieved at least a reduction of 60 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. In doing this, we will transition into a low carbon energy future while promoting the technological innovations that keep us on a course of economic growth. The purpose of this approach is to give American businesses new incentives and rewards to seek cheaper emission reductions, instead of just new taxes to pay and new regulations to follow. This approach gives people time to adapt, instead of causing a sudden jolt to electricity bills and potential shutdowns of tradition coal-fired plants.
I have long supported CAFE standards — the mileage requirements that automobile manufacturers’ cars must meet. Some carmakers ignore these standards, pay a small financial penalty, and add it to the price of their cars. But I believe that the penalties for not following these standards must be effective enough to compel all carmakers to promote the development of fuel-efficient vehicles. I will strengthen the penalties for violating CAFE standards, and make certain they are effectively enforced.
To bolster research efforts, government must do more by opening new paths of invention and ingenuity. A McCain administration would establish a permanent research and development tax credit equal to ten percent of wages spent on R&D, to open the door to a new generation of environmental entrepreneurs. I am also committed to investing two billion dollars every year for the next 15 years on clean coal technologies, to unlock the potential of America’s oldest and most abundant resource. And we will issue a Clean Car Challenge to automakers, in the form of a tax credit to the American people, for every automaker who can sell a zero-emission vehicle. We will commit up to a 5,000 dollar tax credit to each and every customer who buys that car. In the quest for alternatives to oil, our government has thrown around enough money subsidizing special interests and excusing failure. From now on, we will encourage heroic efforts in engineering, and we will reward the greatest success.
I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars. This is one dollar for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency – and curb the dangerous effects of global climate change.
I will continue to support the US Global Change Research Program and ensure that the program’s activities support the Nation’s needs for climate related information to help it prepare for the future.
Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the United States this century. What policies would you support to meet demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?
Over time, I believe that we must reform our entire energy economy toward a sustainable mix of new and cleaner power sources that meet the multiple shared objective of promoting environmental, economic and national security. One of the prevailing issues of our time and the next presidency will be how to deal with the issues of energy security and sustainability. It is important that we shift to sustainable, clean burning energy sources or advance to technologies that make our more traditional resources cleaner burning.
As President, I will put the country on track to building 45 new reactors by 2030 so that we can meet our growing energy demand and reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. Nuclear power is a proven, domestic, zero-emission source of energy and it is time to recommit to advancing our use of nuclear energy. The U.S. has not started construction on a new nuclear power plant in over 30 years. Currently, nuclear power provides 20 percent of our overall energy portfolio. Other countries such as China, India and Russia are looking to increase the role of nuclear power in their energy portfolio and the U.S. should not just look to maintain, but increase its own use.
In the progress of other alternative energy sources — such as wind, solar, geothermal, tide, and hydroelectric –government must be an ally but not an arbiter. In less than a generation, wind power alone could account for a fifth or more of all our electricity. And just in recent memory, solar energy has gone from a novelty to a fast-growing industry. I’ve voted against the current patchwork of tax credits for renewable power because they were temporary, and often the result of who had the best lobbyist instead of who had the best ideas. But the objective itself was right and urgent. And when I’m signing laws, instead of casting one of a hundred votes, I intend to see that objective better served. We will reform this effort so that it is fair, rational, and permanent, letting the market decide which ideas can move us toward clean and renewable energy.
I will also commit the federal government to a prosperous clean technology agenda and to becoming the world leader in green technologies. Americans have always been the world’s leaders in innovation, and it’s time for our economy to adapt and take an active role in the new green international economy.
These investments by government into basic research along with aggressive and realistic targets for greenhouse gas emissions will be critical in spurring revolutionary innovations in energy that will, over the long term, reduce energy costs and increase economic growth.