John McCain. Photo: johnmccain.com

John McCain.
Photo: johnmccain.com

Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s acceptance speech in St. Paul this evening had plenty of references to the nation’s energy concerns, calling for drilling here and now, as well as nuclear, “clean coal,” and renewables. There was not, however, a single mention of climate change, an issue he has in the past led his party in discussing.

On the energy issue, he pledged to “embark on the most ambitious national project in decades” in pursuit of energy independence, and “stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don’t like us very much.”

“We will attack the problem on every front,” said McCain. “We will produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and we’ll drill them now.”

The crowd, at this point, erupted into thunderous applause, with some chanting, “USA, USA.” While the crowd loved this line, for McCain this is a relatively new position, as until this summer he opposed drilling on the outer continental shelf.

“We will build more nuclear power plants. We will develop clean coal technology,” he continued. “We will increase the use of wind, tide, solar, and natural gas. We will encourage the development and use of flex-fuel, hybrid, and electric automobiles.”

He pledged that his plan would create millions of new jobs, “many in industries that will be the engine of our future prosperity — jobs that will be there when your children enter the workforce.” He praised his running mate Sarah Palin for taking on “tough problems like energy independence and corruption.”

“Sen. Obama thinks we can achieve energy independence without more drilling and without more nuclear power,” he continued. “But Americans know better than that. We must use all resources and develop all technologies necessary to rescue our economy from the damage caused by rising oil prices and to restore the health of our planet. It’s an ambitious plan, but Americans are ambitious by nature, and we have faced greater challenges. It’s time for us to show the world again how Americans lead.”

McCain also attempted to make an issue of Obama’s vote on the 2005 energy bill: “We lost the trust of the American people when some Republicans gave in to the temptations of corruption … We lost their trust when instead of freeing ourselves from a dangerous dependence on foreign oil, both parties and Sen. Obama passed another corporate welfare bill for oil companies. We lost their trust, when we valued our power over our principles.”

The 2005 energy bill was a sweeping, oil-friendly piece of legislation that enviros largely opposed. Obama voted for it, citing its support for ethanol and “clean coal” technology. McCain voted against the bill, saying that he thought it would raise gas prices in his home state, that it mandated too much ethanol use, and that its tax incentives for people who buy alternative-fuel vehicles were too generous. According to FactCheck.org, the bill actually “resulted in a small net tax increase on oil companies.” And on the campaign trail this year, McCain has espoused policies that would perpetuate subsidies for Big Oil.

But in his speech tonight, McCain said that the next president needs to “change the way government does almost everything.”

“From the way we protect our security to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we train our workers to the way we educate our children,” he said. “All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution, and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and we have to change the way we do business in Washington.”

As the candidate wrapped up his speech, the song “Raising McCain,” written specially for the candidate by singer John Rich, started blaring, and hundreds of red, white, and blue balloons were dumped from the rafters.