The U.S presidential race has grown as a thrilling one. Of all the speeches given by the two candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, perhaps those concerned with energy policies remain all-important for American citizens

The energy issue gained momentum especially after the recent unreasonable hikes in oil prices which saw the price of a barrel hitting the $147 at some point a few weeks ago. And despite the fact that oil prices plummeted below the $100 mark of late, people in the States are still anxious about the vicissitude of black gold.

Sifting through the energy policies of the two candidates reveal that Obama aims at cutting carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and require fuel suppliers to cut carbon content by 10 percent by 2020. On the other side, McCain favors a cap-and-trade CO2 approach. To achieve this approach, he sponsored legislation in 2007 to cut emissions by 30 percent by 2050.

As for gasoline prices, Obama would probe energy industry activities and stop filling the emergency oil reserve. However, McCain seeks to suspend the federal gasoline tax during the peak summer driving season and suspend filling of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a stockpile designed to ensure the U.S has a cushion of crude oil to cope with any supply disruptions.
Oil use is also topping the agenda of both candidates. While Obama would reduce overall U.S. oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or 10 million barrels per day, by 2030 to significantly reduce imports from OPEC nations, his adversary McCain has set no specific targets in this regard. However, he said that he would unveil a strategy to reduce dependence on foreign oil sources.

Obama would double fuel economy standards in 18 years, give automakers tax credits to retool plants and invest in advanced lightweight materials and new engines. McCain, on the other hand, has not specified Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets. In fact, he voted against energy amendments in 2003 that would have boosted CAFE to 40 mpg by 2015.

When it comes to bio-fuels, the Democratic candidate is for the idea of boosting renewable fuel standard to at least 60 billion gallons of advanced bio-fuels like cellulosic ethanol by 2030, build the ethanol distribution infrastructure, mandate that all new vehicles be “flex fuel” by the end of 2012 and seek production of 2 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol from non-corn sources like switch-grass by 2013.

Nevertheless, the Republican candidate supports offering ethanol incentives after opposing them in the past. He generally opposes subsidies and tariffs that, from his point of view, distort the market.

Each presidential candidate is trying to win hearts and minds by promising a different, efficient energy policy. Many a time Obama and McCain criticized each other over energy. McCain, for example, likened Obama to former U.S president Jimmy Carter for proposing an oil-profits tax. On the other side, Obama blasted McCain as an “oil baron”.

“He [Obama] supports new taxes on oil producers,” said McCain during a speech in Houston, where many companies are based. “He wants a windfall-profits tax on oil, to go along with the new taxes he also plans for coal and natural gas,” he added.

McCain went on arguing that “if the plan sounds familiar, it is because that was President Jimmy Carter’s big-idea tool – and a lot of good it did us.” He pointed out that “I’m all for recycling, but it is better applied to paper and plastic than to the failed policies of the 1970s.”
While Obama dubbed McCain as an “oil baron”, the latter in response tried to show he is an environmentally friendly Republican, unveiling a TV campaign ad that boasts he “stood up” to President Bush five years ago by pushing for legislation to address climate change.
McCain’s positions of opposing drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Arctic Reserve – and at the same time supporting more offshore drilling to give a boost to domestic production and reduce reliance on foreign, especially Middle Eastern oil – drew criticism from liberal critics who argued that he’s contradicting himself.
Meanwhile, Obama opposes offshore drilling and defended his proposed tax, saying he believes in a windfall profits tax in an attempt to ease the burden of higher energy costs on working families. “Instead of giving oil executives another way to boost their record profits, I believe we should put in place a windfall-profits tax that will . . . ease the burden of higher energy costs on working families,” Obama said in one of his speeches.

By Mohamed El-Sayed

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