At tonight’s debate, moderator Bob Scheiffer asked a question about energy independence and "climate control" (oy). The answers never really touched on climate at all and quickly drifted far afield from energy. Here’s the exchange, from CNN’s running transcript:
Schieffer: Let’s go to — let’s go to a new topic. We’re running a little behind.
Let’s talk about energy and climate control. Every president since Nixon has said what both of you…
McCain: Climate change.
Schieffer: Climate change, yes — has said what both of you have said, and, that is, we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
When Nixon said it, we imported from 17 to 34 percent of our foreign oil. Now, we’re importing more than 60 percent.
Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term?
And I believe the first question goes to you, Sen. McCain.
McCain: I think we can, for all intents and purposes, eliminate our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and Venezuelan oil. Canadian oil is fine.
By the way, when Sen. Obama said he would unilaterally renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canadians said, "Yes, and we’ll sell our oil to China."
You don’t tell countries you’re going to unilaterally renegotiate agreements with them.
We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear plants, power plants, right away. We can store and we can reprocess.
Sen. Obama will tell you, in the — as the extreme environmentalists do, it has to be safe.
Look, we’ve sailed Navy ships around the world for 60 years with nuclear power plants on them. We can store and reprocess spent nuclear fuel, Sen. Obama, no problem.
So the point is with nuclear power, with wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, clean coal technology is key in the heartland of America that’s hurting rather badly.
So I think we can easily, within seven, eight, ten years, if we put our minds to it, we can eliminate our dependence on the places in the world that harm our national security if we don’t achieve our independence.
Schieffer: All right. Can we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and by how much in the first term, in four years?
Obama: I think that in ten years, we can reduce our dependence so that we no longer have to import oil from the Middle East or Venezuela. I think that’s about a realistic timeframe.
And this is the most important issue that our future economy is going to face. Obviously, we’ve got an immediate crisis right now. But nothing is more important than us no longer borrowing $700 billion or more from China and sending it to Saudi Arabia. It’s mortgaging our children’s future.
Now, from the start of this campaign, I’ve identified this as one of my top priorities and here is what I think we have to do.
Number one, we do need to expand domestic production and that means, for example, telling the oil companies the 68 million acres that they currently have leased that they’re not drilling, use them or lose them.
And I think that we should look at offshore drilling and implement it in a way that allows us to get some additional oil. But understand, we only have three to four percent of the world’s oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world’s oil, which means that we can’t drill our way out of the problem.
That’s why I’ve focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. These have been priorities of mine since I got to the Senate, and it is absolutely critical that we develop a high fuel efficient car that’s built not in Japan and not in South Korea, but built here in the United States of America.
We invented the auto industry and the fact that we have fallen so far behind is something that we have to work on.