Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sen. John McCain vowed Wednesday to break OPEC’s stranglehold on U.S. energy and to have the country achieve what he termed “strategic” energy independence by 2025, saying he will pursue almost every option for conservation and new production.

“Never again will we leave our vital interests at the mercy of any foreign power,” Mr. McCain said in a speech in Las Vegas, casting energy as a national security issue and calling for “new production, building nuclear plants, perfecting clean coal, improving our electricity grid, and supporting all the new technologies that one day will put the age of fossil fuels behind us.”

The move, his latest effort to capitalize on record energy prices that have voters spooked, comes a day after his Democratic presidential opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, challenged him to think bigger than drilling, tax breaks and innovation incentives that have characterized the Arizona senator’s energy proposals this month.



The United States imports well over half of the crude oil it consumes, with Canada being the biggest exporter to the U.S., followed by Saudi Arabia and Mexico. Mr. McCain said as that percentage has increased, it’s turned the situation from being merely “troubling” to “dangerous.”

He dubbed his series of energy proposals the “Lexington Project,” saying it was “named for the town where Americans asserted their independence once before.”

During the past few weeks, Mr. McCain has touted his proposal for a federal gas-tax holiday, proposed building more nuclear reactors, called for expanded offshore drilling to boost U.S. production and promised government incentives to push alternative-fuels technology. He has still ruled out drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Nevada Democrats objected to Mr. McCain’s plan for 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030, saying it banks on creation of a nuclear-waste dump in their state. And on Tuesday, Mr. Obama ridiculed Mr. McCain’s plans for a $300 million innovation prize to spur invention of a next-generation car battery, calling it shortsighted.

“When John F. Kennedy decided that we were going to put a man on the moon, he didn’t put a bounty out for some rocket scientist to win, he put the full resources of the United States government behind the project,” Mr. Obama of Illinois said.

On Wednesday, Mr. McCain responded with his own Apollo-style program challenge of energy independence by 2025, drawing specific parallels to President Kennedy’s 1960s challenge.

“Some will say this goal is unattainable within that relatively short span of years,” he said. “Let me remind them that in the space of half that time - about eight years - this nation conceived and carried out a plan to take three Americans to the Moon and bring them safely home.”

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