Americans 'Have To' Move Away From Oil, McCain Says

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:33 PM EDT

( - At a time when congressional Republicans are pressing for expanded domestic oil drilling to boost supply, Republican Sen. John McCain says the goal of his energy policy is to move Americans away from oil. He also said oil companies "absolutely" should be giving something back to the consumer.

Americans "have to" move away from oil, McCain said Wednesday, not only because of soaring gasoline prices, "but also because of greenhouse gas emissions."

His energy plan says nothing about oil drilling. Instead, McCain is pushing for alternative forms of energy -- especially an expansion of nuclear power.

"We have to embark on a national mission to become energy independent -- and nuclear power has to play a big role in that," he told NBC's "Today" show on Wednesday.

Asked if there's anything he or Sen. Obama could do to ease soaring gasoline prices, McCain said "We could give them (American consumers) a bit of a break for this summer."

McCain says that suspending the federal gasoline tax (18.4 cents a gallon) between Memorial Day and Labor Day might help a little bit. He also says he would temporarily halt new oil infusions into the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

But between now and November, McCain said he doubts gasoline prices will go much lower than they are now -- and they "could go higher." The situation won't get much better than it is now, given that a finite supply of oil is controlled by a cartel.

Oil company profits

At a time of record oil prices and record profits -- when oil companies are getting various tax breaks and financial incentives from the federal government -- shouldn't those companies "be able to give something back to the consumer?" NBC's Matt Lauer asked McCain. "Absolutely," McCain replied.

"And they should be investing in alternative energy and they should be giving back to the consumer and they should be embarking on research and development that will pay off in reducing our dependence on foreign oil," McCain said.

"The point is, oil companies have got to be more participatory in alternate energy, in sharing their profits in a variety of ways, and there is very strong and justifiable emotion about their profits," McCain said.

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans prevented a vote on a Democratic bill that would have imposed a 25 percent windfall profits tax on oil company profits. The motion to cut off debate and proceed to a vote failed by a 51-43 margin. Neither McCain nor Sen. Barack Obama cast a vote on the cloture motion.

But both presumed presidential candidates support a windfall profits tax.

Last month in North Carolina, McCain said, "I don't like obscene profits being made anywhere -- and I'd be glad to look not just at the windfall profits tax -- that's not what bothers me -- but we should look at any incentives that we are giving to people or industries or corporations that are distorting the market."

See Earlier Story:
McCain's View on Expanded Oil Drilling Uncertain (10 June 2008)

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