Who’s Offering a 3rd Bush Term on Energy?

Apr 3, 2008 5:26pm

In Manheim, Pennsylvania, Sen. Barack Obama , D-Illinois, appeared at a fueling station that sells E85, a gas mixture that is 85 percent ethanol, and said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., when it comes to energy will be just another Bush.

"Make no mistake, this is an area where John McCain is offering a third Bush term," Obama said, as quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, suggesting that McCain is a prisoner of oil companies since he has lobbyists such as Charlie Back serving as adviser to his campaign.

And we know what Obama thinks about Bush when it comes to energy, right? In Greenburg, Penn., Obama noted that "Exxon Mobil reported more than $10 billion in quarterly profits" and assailed Vice President Dick Cheney, saying, Cheney "met with the oil and gas companies 40 times. So is it any wonder than that the energy laws that were written were good for Exxon-Mobil but they are not good for you?"

Obama, of course, voted for the 2005 energy bill, which passed the Senate overwhelmingly 74-26.

At the time Obama explained that the bill, "while far from a solution, is a first step toward decreasing America’s dependence on foreign oil" since it doubles ethanol use and invests in clean coal. "I vote for this bill reluctantly today, disappointed that we have missed our opportunity to do something bolder that would have put us on the path to energy independence. This bill should be the first step, not the last, in our journey towards energy independence."

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, has tried to raise a stink about Obama’s vote for the energy bill, since she voted against it.

Someone else who voted against it?

The candidate whom Obama says is offering "a third Bush term" on energy policy — John McCain.

"This bill does little to address the immediate energy crisis we face in this country," McCain said in a statement issued by his Senate office and that of Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. "The handouts to big business and oil companies are irresponsible and will be disastrous for the people of Arizona. I cannot in good conscience vote to pass legislation that does not adequately address issues related to energy efficiency, security, and energy independence."

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To be sure, Obama is far more liberal than McCain on energy policy and the environment, however "green" a Republican McCain may be. And the Obama campaign points out that during debate over the bill, Obama supported and McCain opposed an amendment requiring that "a national benchmark is needed to develop cheaper renewable technologies in wind, solar and biomass," an amendment pushing wind energy, and two different amendments to oil company profits from the sale of any crude oil above $40 a barrel.

That said, it takes some moxie for Obama to make an argument that McCain offers a third Bush term on energy when of the three presidential candidates, he’s the only one who voted for what was widely perceived to be a Bush/Cheney energy bill.

It also takes some moxie to deride that energy bill as "good for Exxon-Mobil" but not good for consumers considering his vote for that bill.

As for the lobbyists Obama derides, it’s true that the Straight Talk Express can sometimes resemble a K Street on wheels.

But it’s more muddled than that. As the Wall Street Journal’s Brody Mullims ably reported this week though McCain is generally a strong pro-corporate America vote, he has, frankly, pissed off many in big business with various positions. Combined with Democratic fundraising successes — fat cats anticipating a Democratic year and wanting to have a friend in the White House — it’s not easy to assess where the big money will be.

Moreover, Obama has advisers to his campaign, too, who were or are lobbyists, including deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand (lobbied for environmental groups), Moses Mercado (Pfizer Inc., the Carlyle Group and the Blackstone Group), former Gov. Jim Hodges, D-SC, Bill Daley (as president Of SBC, he led a $40 million lobbying effort for telecommunications deregulation), Teal Baker, (lobbyist for the Podesta Group), Broderick Johnson (heads up the lobbying arm in Washington DC of the Bryan Cave LLP law firm), etc. etc.

My point is not that Obama would offer a third Bush term on energy policy.

It’s not even to say that McCain’s lobbyists are not more "corporate" than Obama’s — though I’d have to really analyze that to take a position. Democratic lobbyists aren’t out there for the owls, as many would have you believe.

It’s just that it’s a tad disingenuous for Obama to go after McCain on energy the way he did this week at that Manheim, Penn., filling station.

- jpt

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