Republican presidential nominee John McCain, looking for ways to tackle the country's energy problems, is proposing a US$300 million government prize to whoever can develop an automobile battery that far surpasses current technology.
“In the quest for alternatives to oil, our government has thrown around enough money subsidizing special interests and excusing failure,” said McCain in remarks as prepared for delivery in a speech he was to give yesterday at Fresno State University in California.
“From now on, we will encourage heroic efforts in engineering, and we will reward the greatest success,” he said.
With gasoline prices rising ever higher, the US economy in trouble and global warming becoming a more real fear, developing new sources of energy and moving away from the US’s dependence on foreign oil are shaping up to be major themes of the presidential campaign.
Both candidates have sparred in recent days over how to best tackle the country’s energy problems.
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama promised on Sunday to end unregulated oil trading, claiming the so-called “Enron loophole” was partly to blame for the spike in US fuel costs, particularly record gasoline prices.
Energy trading giant Enron collapsed in a major corporate scandal in 2001 that sent executives to prison, but not before it won exemption a year earlier from federal oversight for energy commodity trading.
Critics claim that measure has allowed speculators to drive up the price of oil well beyond levels dictated by current supply and demand.
The Illinois senator has also called on for a penalty on windfall profits for oil sales at or above US$80 a barrel.
While McCain supports closing the loophole, he has rejected the windfall profits penalty Obama’s proposing, saying the same measure caused the failure of Jimmy Carter’s presidency by limiting oil exploration in the face of the Arab oil embargo four decades ago.
Earlier in the week, McCain called for an end to a ban on offshore oil drilling that has been in place for more than a quarter century.
The Arizona senator has said removing the ban would be a key part of his energy plan.
Obama dismissed the idea of lifting the ban, saying it wouldn’t result in any short-term results for cash-strapped Americans.
McCain’s so-called Clean Car Challenge to award US$300 million to create a new type of automobile battery technology would equate to US$1 for every man, woman and child in the country, “a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency.”
McCain is also proposing stiffer fines for automakers who skirt existing fuel-efficiency standards, as well as incentives to increase use of domestic and foreign alcohol-based fuels such as ethanol.
In addition, McCain’s proposal would provide US automakers with a US$5,000 tax credit for every zero-carbon emissions car they develop and sell.
Without blaming his fellow Republicans in the Bush administration directly, McCain said: “It feels the same today, because the unwise policies of our government have left America’s energy future in the control of others.”
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