(CNSNews.com) – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama pledged to free the United States from dependence on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela within a decade and also attacked his Republican opponent John McCain as the candidate of big oil.
While speaking at Michigan State University in Lansing, Mich., the Illinois senator again repeated that he is open to limited offshore oil drilling in the United States, a shift from his previous opposition to drilling. However, Obama said that much more needs to be done.
“Now, increased domestic oil exploration certainly has its place as we make our economy more fuel-efficient and transition to other, renewable, American-made sources of energy,” he said. “But it is not the solution. It is a political answer of the sort Washington has given us for three decades.”
Obama changed his position on offshore drilling Friday, having previously said it would not reduce the price of gas. While still skeptical, he supports the “Gang of 10” plan – proposed by five Democrats and five Republican senators – to increase domestic oil drilling while also increasing funding for alternative fuels.
Obama received strong applause when he said that under his administration Americans would get a $1,000 energy rebate, the cost of which would be covered by a windfall profits tax on the oil companies.
“I also believe that in the short term, as we transition to renewable energy, we can and should increase our domestic production of oil and natural gas,” he said.
“But we should start by telling the oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres they currently have access to but haven't touched. And if they don't, we should require them to give up their leases to someone who will,” Obama added.
He also called for extracting oil and gas resources from shale formations in Montana, North Dakota, Texas, Arkansas, and “all parts of the West and Central Gulf of Mexico.”
Obama also reversed his position on tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which he opposed in July.
“Over the next five years, we should also lease more of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas production,” he said on Monday.
“And we should also tap more of our substantial natural gas reserves and work with the Canadian government to finally build the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline, delivering clean natural gas and creating good jobs in the process,” Obama added.
The Obama plan calls for spending $15 billion every year for the next 10 years on alternative fuel research, putting one million plug-in hybrid cars on the road that get 150 miles per gallon by 2015 that are built in the United States, and making 25 percent of all electricity from renewable resources by 2025.
The McCain campaign questioned whether the Obama plan was realistic.
Further, the Arizona senator’s campaign touted its plan as more comprehensive because it includes expanded drilling along with nuclear energy and coal-powered power plants that are cleaner than the old ones, and apparently would free the United States from foreign energy dependence by 2025.
“It's a comprehensive effort that was realistic about the ability to move the United States away from the dangerous reliance on imported oil toward cleaner technologies and cleaner energy in the future,” Doug Holtz-Eakin, a McCain campaign senior policy advisor, said of his candidate’s energy plan.
“It's an aggressive plan, and his goal is to leave our dependence by 2025,” Holtz-Eakin added.
Concerning the Obama plan, Holtz-Eakin said the “assertion that he can take off the table new natural gas, take off the table new oil supplies, take off the table nuclear power, take off the table building coal-powered power plants and somehow in 10 years will relieve the United States of its reliance of imported oil is utterly unrealistic.”
During his speech, Obama compared McCain to President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, saying his opponent was tied to the oil companies and had raised more than $1 million from oil executives.
“So make no mistake, the oil companies have placed their bet on Sen. McCain, and if he wins, they will continue to cash in while our families and our economy suffer and our future is put in jeopardy,” said Obama.
The “Gang of 10” plan led by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) would lift drilling bans in the eastern Gulf of Mexico within 50 miles of Florida's beaches and in the South Atlantic off Virginia, in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Drilling bans along the Pacific coast and the Northeast would stay in place under this compromise.
The plan would also require spending for alternative energy sources and higher fuel efficiency standards for automakers.
The League of Conservation Voters (LCV), which already endorsed Obama’s candidacy, praised his energy plan in a statement, while seemingly ignoring the Democratic nominee’s shift on oil drilling.
“Once we have a new president and more forward-thinking members in the House and Senate, we don't believe we will need a compromise on off-shore drilling, which will be yet another give-away to Big Oil and will provide no relief for hard-hit consumers,” LCV President Gene Karpinski said.
“We will resist any effort to pay this ransom that George Bush, John McCain, and Big Oil are demanding in exchange for the release of real investments in clean, renewable energy,” Karpinski said.
But however much Obama tries to present this as a new plan, it is the same recycled policies of the last 30 years, which have not made the United States more energy independent, said Myron Ebell, director of environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market group.
“Alternative and renewable energy sources have received many billions of dollars,” Ebell told CNSNews.com, adding that he is not endorsing the plan of either candidate. “This looks a lot like those policies that continuously haven’t worked. The only short-term answer is to produce more oil.”