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Chicago Tribune - McCain says No to 'Sheiks and Princes'

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Location: Washington, DC

Chicago Tribune - McCain says No to 'Sheiks and Princes'

Sen. John McCain criticized his rival's plan to tax energy companies today as he called for lifting the moratorium on off-shore oil drilling to try to alleviate the nation's dependence on "sheiks and princes" to fuel the economy and dictate gas prices. He said he still wants to remove the federal gas tax for the summer to ease high prices.

"He wants a windfall profits tax on oil, to go along with the new taxes he also plans for coal and natural gas," McCain said of Sen. Barack Obama in remarks he plans to deliver tonight in Houston. "If the plan sounds familiar, it's because that was President Jimmy Carter's big idea too - and a lot of good it did us. Now as then, all a windfall profits tax will accomplish is to increase our dependence on foreign oil, and hinder exactly the kind of domestic exploration and production we need. I'm all for recycling - but it's better applied to paper and plastic than to the failed policies of the 1970's."

McCain called the nation's economic policies a recipe for dependence, despite oil reserves off the coast of at least 21 billion barrels. He said states should be allowed to decide whether to allow off-shore drilling on its coastline, but he said he would not allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

"In oil, gas, and coal deposits, we have enormous energy reserves of our own. And we are gaining the means to use these resources in cleaner, more responsible ways," he said. "As for offshore drilling, it's safe enough these days that not even Hurricanes Katrina and Rita could cause significant spillage from the battered rigs off the coasts of New Orleans and Houston. Yet for reasons that become less convincing with every rise in the price of foreign oil, the federal government discourages offshore production."

McCain, who likes to consider himself in the mold of a Teddy Roosevelt when it comes to the environment, said energy conservation is "no longer just a moral luxury or a personal virtue."

"Over time, we must shift our entire energy economy toward a sustainable mix of new and cleaner power sources," he said. "This will include some we use already, such as wind, solar, biofuels, and other sources yet to be invented. It will include a variety of new automotive and fuel technologies -- clean-burning coal and nuclear energy -- and a new system of incentives, under a cap-and-trade policy, to put the power of the market on the side of environmental protection."

But Obama slammed McCain for flip-flopping his position on offshore drilling, saying it was done in order to curry favor with the oil industry.

"John McCain's support of the moratorium on offshore drilling during his first presidential campaign was certainly laudable, but his decision to completely change his position and tell a group of Houston oil executives exactly what they wanted to hear today was the same Washington politics that has prevented us from achieving energy independence for decades," Obama said in a statement.

"Much like his gas tax gimmick that would leave consumers with pennies in savings, opening our coastlines to offshore drilling would take at least a decade to produce any oil at all, and the effect on gasoline prices would be negligible at best since America only has 3% of the world's oil," he said. "It's another example of short-term political posturing from Washington, not the long-term leadership we need to solve our dependence on oil. Instead of giving oil executives another way to boost their record profits, I believe we should put in place a windfall profits tax that will help to ease the burden of higher energy costs on working families, and we should invest in the affordable, renewable sources of energy that Senator McCain has opposed in the past."

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