NASHVILLE, Tennessee, October 8, 2008 (ENS) - Energy and environment issues formed a substantial part of last night's presidential debate between Democratic hopeful Senator Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain. The second of three debates was an informal style Town Hall event held at Belmont University in Nashville, with veteran newscaster Tom Brokaw as moderator.
Obama said repeatedly that energy would be a top priority in his administration.
"We are going to have to deal with energy because we can't keep on borrowing from the Chinese and sending money to Saudi Arabia. We are mortgaging our children's future. We've got to have a different energy plan," he said.
McCain also said repeatedly that the United States is too dependent on foreign sources of oil. "We've got to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't want us very - like us very much," he said early in the debate.
"My friends," he said once again, "some of this $700 billion ends up in the hands of terrorist organizations."
McCain said "drilling offshore and nuclear power are two vital elements" of U.S. energy independence.
McCain's energy policy depends heavily on nuclear power. "We can work on nuclear power plants. Build a whole bunch of them, create millions of new jobs," he said when asked what would be his top priority as president.
Later in the debate McCain reduced his assessment of how many jobs the nuclear industry might created, saying, "Look, I was on Navy ships that had nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is safe, and it's clean, and it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs."
"We have to have all of the above, alternative fuels, wind, tide, solar, natural gas, clean coal technology," the Republican said.
Democratic candidate Obama has called for an investment of $15 billion a year over 10 years toward energy independence. "Our goal should be, in 10 year's time, we are free of dependence on Middle Eastern oil."
"That would be priority number one," he said, calling energy independence a national security issue "because countries like Russia and Venezuela and, you know, in some cases, countries like Iran, are benefiting from higher oil prices."
In response to a question from a member of the public on what sacrifices Americans will have to make, Obama called on Americans to "save energy in our homes, in our buildings."
Obama promised "incentives so that you can buy a fuel efficient car that's made right here in the United States of America, not in Japan or South Korea."
"I believe in the need for increased oil production," Obama said. "We're going to have to explore new ways to get more oil, and that includes offshore drilling. It includes telling the oil companies, that currently have 68 million acres that they're not using, that either you use them or you lose them,"
"We're going to have to develop clean coal technology and safe ways to store nuclear energy," he said.
McCain dismissed Obama's requirement that nuclear power be safe, saying, "Nuclear power. Senator Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that."
"And I know that we can reprocess the spent nuclear fuel," said McCain. "The Japanese, the British, the French do it. And we can do it, too. Senator Obama has opposed that."
In fact, Japan transports the spent fuel from its nuclear reactors by ship to France and Britain for reprocessing.
Answering a question from the audience about how quickly the candidates would move to address environmental issues, like climate change and green jobs, McCain espoused environmental causes in a general way.
"We can move forward, and clean up our climate, and develop green technologies, and alternate - alternative energies for - for hybrid, for hydrogen, for battery-powered cars, so that we can clean up our environment and at the same time get our economy going by creating millions of jobs," McCain said.
Obama said, "It is absolutely critical that we understand this is not just a challenge, it's an opportunity, because if we create a new energy economy, we can create five million new jobs, easily, here in the United States."
"It can be an engine that drives us into the future the same way the computer was the engine for economic growth over the last couple of decades," said the Democrat.
Reminding the audience that his opponent voted against alternative energy 23 times, Obama said, "Sen. McCain talks a lot about drilling, and that's important, but we have three percent of the world's oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world's oil."
"So what that means is that we can't simply drill our way out of the problem. And we're not going to be able to deal with the climate crisis if our only solution is to use more fossil fuels that create global warming," Obama said.
Stung by the assertion that he has voted against the alternative energy solutions he now espouses, McCain countered, "It was an energy bill on the floor of the Senate loaded down with goodies, billions for the oil companies, and it was sponsored by Bush and Cheney."
"You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one," said McCain, referring to his opponent.
"You know who voted against it? Me."
McCain grew more impatient and dismissive of Obama as the debate continued into areas of foreign policy, until by the end of the encounter, the Republican was ignoring his opponent.
After the debate had concluded and both candidates were free to walk around the hall talking to audience members, Senator Obama offered his hand to his opponent, but McCain looked away.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.