McCain’s energy policy oscillations, Part 1

Today Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain proposed “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.” So the government will give some lucky winner three hundred million dollars for developing a great new battery. Sound goods. Add to that $5,000 in tax credits for consumers who buy new (so-called) zero-emission vehicles, which may eventually use this hypothetical battery. Cash in the pocket always sounds good, until you look at the details.

First off, where would this three hundred million dollars come from? It certainly won’t be from ending the war in Iraq. Despite his avowed hatred of war, McCain doesn’t want to end the war in Iraq. He seems eager to bomb Iran, and continues the Bush administration’s bomb-the-terrorists-into-submission stance. So the cash certainly wouldn’t come from reduced war spending.

Rather, McCain said, “I could pay for it by canceling three pork-barrel projects that are unnecessary and unwanted.” Three pork-barrel projects, each worth $100 million dollars. Perhaps, say, transit funding? Goodness knows in this day of $136+ per barrel oil and $5.25/gallon diesel fuel, investing in transit infrastructure would be foolish. Spending on public transit surely would be a good target for his “pork” slashing.

Of course, this is purely an assumption on my part on the wishes of a potential McCain administration. But this statement implies that he knows of three that can be cut right now, but he did nothing to stop them. The image his people would like to sell of “John McCain the maverick budget hawk/fiscal conservative” quickly is undermined again with this new image of “John McCain the senator who knows of three $100M barrels of pork but didn’t do anything to stop them,” just as it had been by the “John McCain the senator who admittedly doesn’t understand economics,” and yet played a direct role in the Keating Five savings and loan scandal of 1993. The one that cost American taxpayers two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000!!) to bail out — which is over six and a half times as large as the size of his three hundred million dollar battery prize.

Why is McCain suddenly presenting a golden carrot to exurban voters in the form of possible $5,000 in tax credits for consumers who buy new so-called zero-emission vehicles? Note that up to a $3,000 tax credit is currently available on hybrids.

Why is McCain trying to sell a a $300 million prize that would be paid for by cutting pork that he could fight right now but isn’t doing anything to stop?

And what would McCain’s economic advisor and old friend-of-Enron Phil Gramm have to say about all of this? I’ll be looking into the Enron-Gramm-McCain connection in the coming days.

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

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