Muckraker: Grist on Politics

John McCain gave yet another address on energy and environmental issues today (the third in the past week, if you’re counting), this one focused on energy efficiency, which he says should begin at home with the federal government.

“Energy efficiency is no longer just a moral luxury or a personal virtue,” he told a crowd gathered at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History in California on Tuesday morning, echoing language from his June 17 energy speech. “A smarter use of energy is part of a critical national effort to regain control of our own energy future.”

Beyond his emphasis on efficiency, he reminded the crowd about his call for offshore drilling: “When people are hurting, and struggling to afford gasoline, food, and other necessities, common sense requires that we draw upon America’s own vast reserves of oil and natural gas.”

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But he didn’t dwell on that subject for long, perhaps to keep his friend Arnold Schwarzenegger happy. The California governor had skipped out on an annual prayer breakfast to attend McCain’s event this morning. Schwarzenegger’s spokesperson Aaron McLear said the governor didn’t want to miss a chance to talk with the presidential candidate about energy issues.

If the two did talk, it was probably an interesting conversation. Schwarzenegger’s been a vocal critic of McCain’s call for offshore drilling. “California’s coastline is an international treasure,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement last week. “I do not support lifting this moratorium on new drilling off our coast.”

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In his speech today, McCain said, “I propose to put the purchasing power of the United States government on the side of green technology.” He noted that the federal government buys approximately 60,000 cars and other vehicles every year, which doesn’t even include military or law-enforcement vehicles.

“From now on, we’re going to make those civilian vehicles flex-fuel capable, plug-in hybrid, or cars fueled by clean natural gas,” said McCain. “If our great goal is to move American transportation toward lower carbon emissions, then it should start with the federal fleet.”

McCain also pointed to the 3.3 billion square feet of federal office space in both the U.S. and other countries, and suggested retrofitting the buildings where possible. He said that the federal government should use a “higher efficiency standard” for all new buildings leased or purchased. He also acknowledged that the national electric grid needs to be redesigned in a smarter, more efficient way, which he said will require “a serious investment.” He called for the deployment of “SmartMeter technologies,” which are meters that give customers information about their energy consumption.

He also touted his climate plan (though no one’s quite clear — including McCain himself — on whether the emission cuts called for in that plan would be “mandatory”) and his ideas on providing cash incentives for research and development of new technologies.