Muckraker: Grist on Politics Hurricane Dolly blew away John McCain’s planned visit to an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico last month, but the senator made another go at it today.

On a Chevron-operated rig 150 miles off the coast of Louisiana, McCain reiterated his call for more offshore drilling and bashed his opponent for not being enthusiastic enough about oil exploration. “Sen. Obama opposes new drilling,” said McCain (who himself opposed new offshore drilling until this summer). “He has said it will not ‘solve our problem’ and that ‘it’s not real.’ He’s wrong, and the American people know it. This platform we are at today sits above a field of 160 million barrels of oil, and is capable of producing on a daily basis 55,000 barrels of oil and 72 million cubic feet of natural gas.”

Actually, to the chagrin of enviros, Obama has said in recent weeks that he’s open to a compromise on energy legislation that includes some offshore drilling — if that’s the only way to get a comprehensive energy bill that promotes renewables and measures to curb oil use. As for the question of whether more drilling would “solve our problem,” experts from the federal Energy Information Administration and even the American Petroleum Institute posit that it would take about a decade for new offshore drilling to lead to an increase in oil production, but McCain says he’s heard from oil execs that results could come much sooner.

Speaking on the rig, McCain also emphasized other solutions to rising energy prices, including conservation and investment in alternative energy sources.

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“New drilling has to be part of our energy solution,” said McCain. “It will not solve this problem alone. Alternative energy will not solve this problem alone. Conservation will not solve this problem alone. Solving our energy crisis requires an ‘all of the above’ approach. It will require aggressive development of alternative energies like wind, solar, tidal, and biofuels. It also requires expanding traditional sources of energy like clean coal, nuclear power, and offshore drilling like that done on this rig.”

McCain and his campaign advisors have downplayed the environmental risks of offshore drilling, but the rig he visited today had to be given Coast Guard protection in 2002 because of the “potential for loss of life and damage to the environment” if an accident were to occur there.

The Obama campaign shot back at McCain after today’s rig visit: “For three decades, as our energy crisis grew, decision-making in Washington has been rigged against our national interests and the interests of American consumers,” said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor in a statement. “And for almost that long, Sen. McCain has been part of the problem. For decades, he has stood with the big oil companies and voted against the development of the alternative energy we need. When a critical proposal came before the Senate late last year that would have provided tax incentives for the development of alternative energy by revoking $13 billion in giveaways to the oil companies, he was the only senator who didn’t vote — and we came up one vote short.”

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