McCain responds to HA on energy

Not everyone can get their questions asked in a 30-minute conference call, and today John McCain ran out of time before he got to me. He answered plenty of questions, including from my friend Hugh Hewitt, who went unheralded in my earlier post for his brilliant and incisive question about whether Barack Obama should have to account for his relationships with William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. (McCain says he should apologize for equating a distinguished doctor and Senator like Tom Coburn to unrepentant domestic terrorists and explain how Obama can assert that the pair represent “mainstream” politics, in Chicago or anywhere else.)

McCain’s team always asks to send them any unasked questions, and they respond quickly. I forwarded them two questions and received answers a few hours later:

1. In talking about a gas-tax holiday, he mentioned that it doesn’t really address the fundamentals of high gas prices. Would he be willing to expand domestic oil production (drilling), expedite the building of new refineries, and eliminate the state mixture structures in favor of a single national mixture to make production and supply more efficient and less costly?

There is much we can do to increase our own oil production in ways that protect the environment using advanced technologies, including those that use and bury carbon dioxide, to recover the oil below the wells we have already drilled, and tap oil, natural gas, and shale economically with minimal environmental impact. John McCain would consider further natural resource development on public lands. Each potential opportunity must be studied carefully, incorporate local input, be consistent with the applicable land use plans for the area and meet appropriate environmental protection standards. John McCain believes in the multiple-use, sustained-yield approach to public land management, while ensuring that we fully protect the character of unique and sensitive areas. Natural resource development projects must be conducted responsibly and in accord with appropriate standards and public input.

John McCain also believes that there are some outer continental shelf areas that can and should be developed for their energy potential but the areas should not be those that are ecologically sensitive to such development. John McCain also believes that the will of the people of coastal states like Florida and California on issues related to OCS development off their shorelines must be respected and they should have a say in where moratoria are kept in place as well as the terms of such development that is permitted. Where OCS development is conducted, as permitted by federal and state authorities, it should be undertaken in accordance with stringent environmental protection standards, oversight, and enforcement.

2. The push for ethanol has substantially raised food prices and contributed to hunger around the world. What is the Senator’s position on ethanol?

As for his position on ethanol, I would refer you to this November 2007 John McCain speech.

The speech should be read in full, but here’s the core of his philosophy:

There is no economic force on this globe that is stronger than free people. Entrepreneurs lie at the heart of innovation, growth, and advancing prosperity. Entrepreneurs should not be shackled by excessive regulation that raises the cost of business. Entrepreneurs should not be disadvantaged by earmarking and pork-barrel spending that favors politically connected competitors.

I trust Americans, I trust markets and I oppose subsidies. As President, I’ll propose a national energy strategy that will amount to a declaration of independence from the risk bred by our reliance on petro-dictators and our vulnerability to the troubled politics of the lands they rule. That strategy won’t be another grab bag of handouts to this or that industry and a full employment act for lobbyists.

Yes, that means no ethanol subsidies. But it also means no rifle-shot tax breaks for big oil. It means no line items for hydrogen, no mandates for other renewable fuels, and no big-government debacles like the Dakotas Synfuels plant. It means ethanol entrepreneurs get a level playing field to make their case — and earn their profits.

It’s an essentially agnostic point of view on ethanol itself, but it’s the proper conservative response. If ethanol can succeed in a level marketplace, then it should continue. If not — and there are plenty of reasons to suspect it won’t — then McCain doesn’t want the government intervening to keep it afloat.

It’s a pretty good response, and it signals that our energy policy will be driven by pragmatism rather than pie-in-the-sky interventionism.