McCain has been an opponent of renewable energy all his political life. Why?

  1. He is a conservative — and that is what conservatives do.
  2. The GOP’s ultra-rich big energy donors don’t like competition and dole out millions to get their way.
  3. He has long been uncomfortable around cutting edge technology — witness his Internet illiteracy. As a former FCC chair put it, “Basically, John is a technological troglodyte, and proud of it.”

And yet in his speeches and ads and photo ops, McCain links himself again and again to the very energy sources that he has done everything to thwart.

Why does McCain pretend to love what he really hates, like some modern day Iago to renewables’ Othello (campaign analogy intended)? Because the public understands that clean tech is a core solution to our energy problems, and no serious candidate for president could possibly campaign on McCain’s actual record.

Fundamentally, McCain hopes the public is as gullible as the traditional media. This election will determine whether he is right.

And make no mistake — McCain hates renewables as much as every other conservative ideologue. Tom Friedman has a rare MSM article, “Eight Strikes and You’re Out,” calling out McCain for missing eight straight votes on renewable tax credits, an article that details all the economic harm McCain’s votes have done to this burgeoning global industry — but hey, McCain would be happy to take a break from campaigning to push pointless coastal drilling to please his Big Oil masters funders.

But these eight missed votes are just the tip of McCain’s anti-renewable iceberg:

As the Center for American Progress has documented, McCain has repeatedly opposed a renewable electricity standard that would have set a minimum requirement for utilities to generate part of their power from sources like wind. Half the states have such requirements, a key reason the industry has not died out entirely in this country. Most European countries have such requirements, a key reason their countries had become leaders. Where was McCain:

In 2002 and 2005, there were votes in the Senate to require utilities nationwide to generate 10 percent or 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources. Sen. McCain voted against renewable electricity every time.

  • 2005: Voted against a renewable portfolio standard
  • 2002: Voted against 20 percent requirement
  • 2002 (Vote 55): Voted to gut 10 percent requirement
  • 2002 (Vote 59): voted to gut 10 percent requirement

McCain opposes subsides for renewables, as he told Grist in October:

Grist: What’s your position on subsidies for green technologies like wind and solar?

McCain: I’m not one who believes that we need to subsidize things. The wind industry is doing fine, the solar industry is doing fine. In the ’70s, we gave too many subsidies and too much help, and we had substandard products sold to the American people, which then made them disenchanted with solar for a long time.

Seriously! Subsidies for rich, entrenched industries like oil and nuclear are fine, though.

The wind industry is about 1 percent of U.S. electricity. The nuclear industry is 20 percent. But McCain supports further subsidies for nuclear power, which has already received nearly $100 billion in direct and indirect subsidies, so this country can be like the French and get 80 percent of all our power from nukes, which would require building probably 500 to 700 more.

But in spite of this history,

  • McCain fills his fraudulent energy ads with pictures out of wind turbines and other clean energy technologies
  • He claims over and over again that he supports an “all of the above” energy policy, and
  • He actually had the nerve to give a speech on climate in front of a wind turbine manufacturer.

That last hypocritical photo up was actually quite revealing, since conservatives like McCain, or more accurately, conservatives including John McCain, are the main reason McCain has to go to a Danish wind turbine manufacturer to give a climate speech.

With the major government investments in wind in the 1970s, the United States was poised to be a dominant player in what was clearly going to be one of the biggest job creating industries of the next hundred years. But conservatives started with President Reagan repeatedly gutted the wind budget, then opposed efforts by progressives to increase it, and repeatedly blocked efforts to extend the wind power tax credit. The sad result can be seen here:

wind-2007-small.jpg

That’s right. The United States is now a bit player in an industry we launched (we had 90 percent of global installed capacity in the mid-1980s) — thanks to conservatives, including McCain.

I guess that renewables are simply too new-fangled for the technologically illiterate McCain.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.