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The Second Presidential Debate

Energy and natural resource issues haven’t played an enormous role in the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates so far, though they have been mentioned each time. Given that the debates cover a wide variety of issues, it is only normal that energy and resource policy only appears in bits and pieces.

One the other hand, a town hall style debate might mean energy will come up a bit more, as voters are allowed to ask the questions (though the questions are still “screened”) rather than having preselected questions by an “elite” media moderator who might not share the same background and interests as your average voter. This article from the WSJ reminds us that energy was important in 2008′s town hall debate:

Four years ago, Mr. Obama squared off against Sen. John McCain in a town hall in the second debate. At the time, gasoline prices were about $3.80 a gallon; Wall Street was in the middle of its worst week ever; President Bush had just created the Troubled Assets Relief Program; and, understandably, questions about the economy and how to fix it dominated the night.

Four years later, many things are surprisingly similar. Nationwide gasoline prices average $3.78 today; unemployment remains stubbornly high; and questions abound over who has the better plan to jumpstart the economic recovery.

Just as today, candidates in 2008 both candidates believed a new approach to energy was the key to fixing the economy. The Republican candidate, Mr. McCain, said his economic plan would begin with “energy independence,” neatly foreshadowing Mr. Romney’s own five-point plan today. Mr. McCain later boiled that down to support for more oil production offshore, and more nuclear power; Mr. Romney also favors more oil production, but talks up coal much more than nuclear power.

Another relevant line here:

In the 2008 town hall, Mr. Obama repeatedly decried America’s dependence on foreign oil. He urged an Apollo-style project to wean America off oil from the Middle East, arguing then that the country could not “drill its way out of the problem.” Today, thanks to booming U.S. production, oil imports are at a near 20-year low.

This gets a little bit complicated, because it depends on what you mean by being dependent on oil from the Middle East. Even if the U.S. isn’t physically importing oil from the Middle East, we are still going to be reliant on the price set around the globe, and trouble in the Middle East will drive that price up. This is one of the reasons Resourceful Earth has long been suspicious of the benefits and feasibility of energy independence. However, it’s quite clear that technology progresses in unpredictable ways, and neither Obama nor McCain likely would have predicted the enormous increase in domestic oil production over the past few years. It’s also quite clear that more drilling for oil in the U.S. is a boon to our still struggling economy, even if it does little to lower gasoline prices.

Finally, as the article points out, Obama promised to create a new green economy, which hasn’t quite worked out:

Mr. Obama, for his part, did say that a clean energy economy would “easily” create 5 million jobs. Wrong again; even expansive definitions of green jobs have not come anywhere near that figure over the last four years.

We covered that inconvenient truth last month.

What would you ask the candidates?

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