June 18th, 2008
01:44 PM ET

McCain's switch on offshore drilling might help... and hurt

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/06/17/mccain.energy/art.mccain2.gi.jpg caption="Sen. John McCain says it's time for the federal government 'to put our own reserves to use.'"]

Ed Henry BIO
White House Correspondent

So much for John McCain distancing himself from President Bush.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has rolled out a new TV ad saying he's more of an environmentalist than Bush. "John McCain stood up to the President and sounded the alarm on global warming five years ago," says the ad, noting the Senator has a plan to "curb greenhouse emissions" realistically.

But now, less than 24 hours later, Bush is unveiling a move that will undoubtedly increase greenhouse gas emissions, by increasing the supply of oil, and it's a move supported by (drumroll, please) John McCain.

Marching in lockstep with the general outlines of a plan McCain signed on to Tuesday, Bush revealed Wednesday he wants to end the federal ban on offshore oil drilling. What's new is that while Bush has previously pushed for offshore drilling, he had not called for the specific step of lifting the federal ban.

This is obviously a response to the President's growing political problem of $4-a-gallon gasoline, which may increase the chances of a recession and mar his final months in office.

Bush's answer is to throw this in the lap of Congressional Democrats and challenge them to pass legislation ending the ban, a gambit aimed in part at spreading the political blame for high gas prices. Bit if Democrats don't blink, Bush will have a tough decision.

Does he buck his own father by overturning a 1990 executive order signed by the elder President Bush blocking offshore drilling? A fascinating family drama. The current President has been more outspoken about drilling off the coast of California, rather than Florida, because his brother Jeb was against the drilling when he was governor of Florida.

No such qualms for the current Florida governor, Charlie Crist, who after long opposing offshore drilling quickly jumped on board with McCain on Tuesday. Apparently the allure of possibly being the Republican running mate was just too delicious.

In fairness to Bush and McCain, they get some credit for trying to take action. Democratic leaders in Congress have done little to lower gas prices in the short-term. Only today, when energy has already become an explosive political issue, Sens. Dodd, Durbin and Menendez will propose a bill to penalize oil companies that don't tap the gas or oil under land they control. Previously, Democrats boosted fuel economy standards a little bit, and pushed a gas tax holiday, a feel-good idea that doesn't fix anything.

Let's face it, neither party has come up with a solution in decades for an issue that has been a ticking time bomb: how does the U.S. break its addiction to foreign oil?

But in the end, it's not clear the Bush-McCain effort will solve anything either, starting with the fact that increasing the supply of oil - while at the same time not really slowing the demand for oil - only feeds the American addiction.

Secondly, experts estimate that even if offshore drilling starts, it will take years to bear fruit. So does it have any chance of affecting short-term price?

Third, Bush claims there are ways to drill for this oil without harming the environment. But is that true? Nobody will know for sure until the drilling starts.

Finally, there this issue of how this affects the McCain campaign. Touting his fight against global warming was an obvious attempt to break with Bush and reach out to independent voters pivotal in the general election. But joining forces with Bush to increase oil drilling may achieve the opposite effect.

Filed under: John McCain • Oil • Raw Politics
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. J

    John McCain switching his position – WOW – and this is news? John flip-flop McCain is voting whatever will line his pockets.

    Straight talk, OK what about the Savings and Loan bailout by us tax payers that benefited John McCain and his friend Keating?

    Nuclear power for John, OK where are going to put the nuclear waist – in Arizona?

    All for a greener earth, OK as long as it doesn't hurt his friends profits!

    John flip – flop McCain needs to retire and sit on the porch of the old folks home!

    June 19, 2008 at 12:53 am |
  2. Sarah Beatty

    I first must say that it is perplexing why people still support President Bush in his actions that are so damaging to the U.S. economy and preservational systems. The Republicanswant to stick to old views when this new problem has presented itself. It is my belief that with other options available, Americans should accept that Mother Nature is requesting a change from us; so instead of destroying beaches, coral reefs and natural preserves to make yourself look better, be like Obama and start with a fresh idea. About half of Americans are supporting either side. Those that are for conservation and against gasoline can buy Hondas new hydrogen-powered car that omits water. It was released several days ago, and after careful consideration of other alternatives (water, air, ethanol, solar, electrical) it seems the cheapest, most reliable, and most acceptional for the planet. Nonetheless, realistically it will take a long time to change, but it is important to face the idea of it and consider the savings, as a Presidential nominee or a consumer. Obama is trying to prepare Americans for a new century with different ideals, wilder expectations and serious nature-related questions/challenges. I respect that and anyone courageous enough to move the world's direction with confidence.

    June 19, 2008 at 12:50 am |
  3. Kent Fitzsimmons,Illinois

    Oh please..............Bush has only a few months to give it all he's got to help his oil buddies get the drilling spots they want. I'd like to know why the US Govt. can't take control and drill for oil themselves. Don't tell me it isn't possible because it is. Why do we privitize oil drilling? Our govt has the money for the start up and has the people and technology. If we are gonna start drilling in new spots in the US, or on it's coasts, it needs to be our govt doing it so we can control it.

    June 18, 2008 at 11:55 pm |
  4. Larry

    I guess folk don't take public tranit or walk anywhere anymore.

    June 18, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  5. t. weber

    I'm horrified at the Republican plan to expand off shore oil drilling in the U.S. The oil companies making astronomical record profits, so how can we trust them to alleviate any of our country's fuel crisis in the future? Do we honestly think that the oil companies would drop the price of gas and make less profit with new oil fields opened up to them? The U.S. consumer would still be bearing the brunt of outrageous gas prices AND at the same time watch the destruction of our environment. I can't believe any one in their right mind would support this idea.

    June 18, 2008 at 10:52 pm |
  6. Nick

    I keep hearing more and more stories on drilling for offshore oil, lifting the ban on drilling elsewhere, and Congress blaming big oil for our energy woes, and the candidates sparring back and forth about it. It was said on one of CNN's news stories that it would take 5 to 10 years to develope any such oil supplies by all of the so-called experts and gurus in the field. And after that we are still relying on a finite energy supply or foreign supply. I am not a Bush fan in the least,he has turned this country upside down in more ways than I can count, but I do recall in one of his State Of The Union address that he suggested developing the hydrogen fueled automobile and rightfully said, " Americans have to get over their addiction to oil." (maybe not his exact words) Why do we keep looking for the short term solution to this problem by relying on big oil to solve the problem rather than looking to alternative, green,renewable, or sustainable energy sources? By all the experts estimates these alternative technologies could take 10 years or thereabout to develope and would be eco-friendly to boot. The gains in Photo-voltaic energy as a proven technology now well on the way to being utilized more and more....... Solar plate collectors are seeing major developements now. There is a plethora of information out there on all these new technologies , but we never hear much about them on the news. How about giving equal time (and in depth) to all those technologies out there that would not only bring the cost of fossil fuel down, but curb or even eliminate that addiction to oil that Bush and all his oil cronies talk about?I believe in one story you did on Bush's ranch in Crawford,Texas it was barely mentioned that he employs the use of solar panels or photo-voltaics.......... What's up with all that?
    Certainly there are proponents of all these alternate technologies who could use some real P.R. to help us get the picture straight. Why don't we get more barraged by all those facts and reasons for switching over? Wouldn't that be a public service? I think the opportunity to start the painful withdrawal is upon us now and it won't take any longer than the same old tired way of keeping us addicted to oil and the energies of the past.

    Nick.........Old Lyme, Ct.

    June 18, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  7. kay, Huntsville, AL

    I am not certain but I have heard that the oil companies have made record profits this year, or is it our own government screwing us over? I have heard several stories but surprizingly { Ha! Ha! }, I do not know what to believe. Either way it only goes to show the old saying is true that, " The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. " If that is the case, SHAME ON THEM!!! With the housing crises and all of the floods, fires, and natural disasters, we are all up you know what creek without a paddle! The average person can't hardly get by. I don't wish bad luck on anybody but all I have to say is I hope their money does them a lot of good when a tornado hits their own house, or they are flooded out, or sickness strikes them. God help us all!

    June 18, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  8. Rob. B.

    The maveric is no more . John Mcain seems tired dont you think so?

    June 18, 2008 at 9:39 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    Off shore drilling especially in the Arctic nature preserves would do irreparable harm to the habitat of polar bears, seals, and walruses who are already having a hard time adjusting to climate change and the melting of the polar ice. Why is this important next to atrociously expensive gasoline? Because the Alaskan natives depend on these animals for a large portion of their food especially in the winter Yes we need the price of oil to come down but Bush's proposal is not an immediate fix and may in the end do more harm than good. Bush has been the author of one disastrous policy after another the last 8 years – perhaps he should leave his fathers ban alone and try not to make anymore disasters in his last months of office.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 18, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  10. Mari, Salt Lake City

    This is MAJOR pandering by McCain! He knows a lot of people are upset over the price at the pump, so he offers to be our "savior" by calling for off-shore drilling!

    However, if you are a "thinking" person you will read and do your research, and find that even if we drill on all coasts we will NOT SEE the oil come to our neighborhoods for at least, 5 years.

    If people, REALLY want to bring down the price at the pump, and REALLY want to hit the Saudis and terrorists where it hurts....... CONSERVE! Ride the bus, carpool, don't drive ONE day each week, get rid of the BIG cars. Then we will SEE the price of oil drop like a rock. And without the damage to our Earth.

    McCain= more war, more national debt, more of the same.

    June 18, 2008 at 7:45 pm |
  11. chris

    Drilling offshore alone wont stop the price of oil from climing. Drilling is need but what about other energy sources no one is talking about that. Imagine if we had a real comprihensive oil change one that covers Solar, Wind, drilling and ethonal will really reduces the price of oil. Brazil! is using sugar cane to get oil, sugarcane! We have the resources, we do people drilling is not the answer again we will feed into the greed of one section of our economy.
    cris ...houston

    June 18, 2008 at 7:44 pm |
  12. Sabrina in Los Angeles


    Old school politics.

    To borrow a line from Hannah Montana (I have a tween) "That boy flip-flops more than a catfish in a moon bounce."

    They need to play in the 1 million acre oil sandbox that they have already in leased land.

    What about Hydrogen? Clean fuel cells?

    June 18, 2008 at 6:34 pm |
  13. Beth S

    Anyone who tells you that oil prices have gone up sharply in the last year because of drilling bans that were put in place in 27 years ago is obviously taking you for a fool.

    Prices went up after September 11 2001 after it was clear the US would retaliate. They went back down after the attack on Afghanistan was so successful. Prices went back up once the Bush Administration started to threaten Iraq and have gone up steadily while we have been in Iraq. (They also increased during and after Hurricane Katrina and Rita for clear reasons). It is unclear to me why they have increased so sharply this year. It could be because what the US is going to do in Iraq in the future is unclear (since our presidential race is undecided )and trading market don't like uncertainty. Or it could be because of an Enron type of speculation which some have called for looking into. It is NOT because of something that happended in 1990 or before.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Say 'no' to drilling in Anwar.

    June 18, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  14. Alex

    I look at this latest change in stance and wonder if it is "vote driven" or a genuine concern for trying to look for alternative sources of energy. As Angel said, for the past 8 years we've heard nothing and all of a sudden its getting close to electing a new President and candidates (and even a Lame Duck) are suddenly claiming they want to do something. And to Cindy's comment about "either you like him or you don't"..... how about I'm stuck with this guy cause the alternative is worse. I've been down that road before and the alternative turned out alot worse.

    June 18, 2008 at 5:41 pm |
  15. Chris

    Drilling anywhere right now will NOT affect the price of gas for a LONG time (possibly 10+ years). There is a lot of work (exploration, construction, drilling, refining etc etc) that has to happen before one drop of it hits the market.

    It's less about whether one likes or dislikes McCain than the fact that people need to see through all these short-term bandaids. Fact: we as a planet WILL run out of oil and need to start working in earnest on other more sustainable sources of energy. A "gas tax holiday" and opening up new drilling sites is just short-sighted.

    So what if we open up new drilling sites? Do we just leave future generations to worry about the issue later (as most of washington has done with social security and other issues)? Or do we as a nation become progressive and cutting edge again and be pioneers. It is innovation and being at the forefront of technology that made this country great.

    June 18, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  16. Kristen- Philadelphia, PA

    Off shore drilling will help McCain, Bush and the oil company’s. It will not help $4 gas prices at the pump. By the time it will take to actually get the oil out of the ground then refine it demand will have gone up along with prices. This is just a short cited option; I would like to see someone come up with a long term solution.

    We must become less dependent on oil period, not just foreign oil. We must invest in finding alternative energy sources. This problem is not going away so I wish the candidates, Bush and the rest of Washington would stop tap dancing around these ideas grade school kids could come up with and really bring this country a solution. A gas tax holiday and off shore drilling wont fix a darn thing.

    June 18, 2008 at 5:15 pm |
  17. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    How about putting the money from drilling and war into alternative fuel?
    Well, DUH!
    No thanks McSame~

    June 18, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  18. Gary Chandler in Canada

    McCain is NOT a flip flopper. He changed that to flop flipper!
    Brazil has a buffer against oil prices with a succesful sugar cane fuel program.
    Brazil grows 9 times more sugar than America.
    America is, however, in the top 10 of World sugar producers.
    Corn takes 1 unit of energy to retrieve 1 1/2 units of energy. Sugar gets 3 units for 1.
    Could America look at expanding sugar production and letting corn go back to being a food product? I think so!
    Obama or McCain should propose this strategy.

    June 18, 2008 at 4:54 pm |
  19. Larry

    What next Soylent Green?

    June 18, 2008 at 4:50 pm |
  20. Susan


    Senator John McCain pushing to lift the ban on off shore drilling should not hurt him. We have to start somewhere. It will do nothing in the short term for gas prices. Most of the oil offshore is going to be very expensive to harvest as it is not easily obtainable and will not yield usable product for years. Some of the oil fields may yield sooner then later, but still nothing for right now. We have ignored our energy problems for years and only when it starts to affect our wallets do we wake up and acknowledge that we must do something.

    We have the technology for green drilling, but it too comes with a high price tag attached.

    Off shore drilling is not the solution, it is only a small cog in the wheel of an extensive long term energy policy which also has to deal with consumption.

    I hope that Congress can agree, but I am not counting on it.


    June 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  21. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    CNN's poll yesterday showed 61% of those responding were in favor of drilling. The long term and environmental solution is to make the switch to alternate sources such as nuclear, wind, solar, etc. This is a position McCain has taken. However, until then, do we want gas to go up to $10/gallon? It's a short term solution to buy time until the longer term solutions are ready.

    June 18, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  22. Tammy From New York

    What does John Mccain stand for these day's? Mccain has a series of flip flops. The Republicans are trying to redefine Obama because he's a less known candidate but the media has overlooked how the Far right has already redefined John Mccain. The Far Right has pressured John Mccain to change his every postion which made him the popular independent of the Republican Party. Mccain is high Jacked by the Right Wing Republicans. It was just last week that he address the nation stating he wouldn't drill off shore and floated down the Everglades. This week he's switched positions and wants to remove the ban on off shore Drilling. Who is this New John Mccain and what does he stand for? Mccain said he'll never surrender the war in Iraq but he's surrendering on a daily basis to satisfy the Right Wing Republicans. The Far Righ has talked about drilling off shore for months while Mccain opposed it. Is this what the American people can expect from an Mccain presidency? Enough pressure he'll give in to the demands of the righ?. Mccain once said he's running for president to serve all Americans. I'm not sure who Mccain wants to serve and what he believes. The reason Mccain makes so many gaffes and mistakes on the stump is he doesn't believe what he's saying nor does he thinks its right beside polling we'll. However, the Republican Party is totally out of touch with ordinary Americans. Mccain is shaping into a worst version of Bush everyday. Keep the Right Wing that has destroyed our country out of the White House. We need a leader like Obama. Vote OBAMA.

    June 18, 2008 at 4:27 pm |
  23. Charlotte D

    So let me get this straight. Lifting the ban on off shore drilling is better than doing nothing because it is doing something. Give me a break. Let's sell the enviornment down the river in order to have more fuel 3 years from now? Let's destroy our precious coast line or risk destroying it so that the Republicans can say they did something about the fuel crisis? All I can say is McCain needs to come to CA, OR and WA and sell this position. Talk about making people blue.

    Charlotte Doisy, Stockton CA

    June 18, 2008 at 4:24 pm |
  24. Jack

    Regardless of major party affiliation–I believe the majority of Americans are clearly willing to reconsider increasing domestic oil as a result of the current crisis in fuel costs.

    What is so discouraging–is that both political parties in power (Democrats/Republicans) for at least two administrations (16 years) have seen the explosive growth around the world in emerging economies and ignored the problem completely!!!

    No confidence vote for both!!

    This independant voter is taking his 1 vote to the Libertarian Party. They may not get elected–but the platform more clearly matches my own views–and I can look at myself in the mirror without regrets.

    June 18, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  25. Tammy From New York

    What does John Mccain stand for these day's? Mccain has a series of flip flops. The Republicans are trying to redefine Obama because he's a less known candidate but the media has overlooked that the Far right has already redefined John Mccain. The Far Right has pressured John Mccain to change his every postion which made him the popular independent of the Republican Party. Mccain is high Jacked by the Right Wing Republicans. It was just last week that he address the nation stating he wouldn't drill off shore and floated down the Everglades. This week he's switched his position and wants to remove the ban on off shore Drilling. Who is this New John Mccain and what does he stand for? Mccain said he'll never surrender the war in Iraq but he's surrendering on a daily basis to satisfy the Right Wing Republicans. The Far Righ has talk about drilling for months when Mccain was against it. Is this what the American people can expect from an Mccain presidency, enough pressure he'll give in to the demands of the righ?. Mccain once said he's running for president to serve all Americans. I'm not sure who Mccain wants to serve and what he believe. I think Mccain makes so many gaffes and mistakes on the stump because its hard to remember lines from speeches when you don't believe it yourself and Mccain is shaping into a worst version of Bush everyday. Keep the Right Wing that has destroyed our country out of the White House. We need a leader like Obama. Vote OBAMA.

    June 18, 2008 at 4:20 pm |
  26. Melissa

    Has anybody wondered why the gas prices have all suddenly gone up towards the end of Bush's reign? Perhaps he and his oil cronies set this up so that he can drill offshore before he's out of office. With prices remaining low, he wouldn't be able to do it without getting the masses to put pressure on the environmentalists.

    Even if we do drill offshore, the problems remain. We do not have a finite supply of oil to serve everyone. Once we've used up all the oil – what then? We are back in the situation we are in now with even more polluted air and a destroyed environment from where we drilled.

    I saw on the news a man had restructured his vehicle to run soley on solar panels. He hasn't bought gas in 2 years. If he can do that, why can't our car makers do the same and take us off our oil dependence completely? Oh wait I know why, oil families like Bush and his cronies will all become the new middle class and they can't let that happen.

    June 18, 2008 at 3:58 pm |
  27. JohnB

    Offshore drilling or opening ANWR will take roughly 10 to 15 years to make an impact.

    Likewise, building refineries will take roughly 10 years to help.

    There are several factors why gas prices are going up, and they are going up all over the world. The US has long enjoyed low gas prices.

    First is demand. International oil demand has increased dramatically. Especially in India and China.

    Next is supply. Oil supply currently does not meet demand.

    Opening ANWR and offshore sites will fix, for a while, supply and demand, but not for long and not immediately.

    Third is refineries. No new refineries have been built in something like 30 years. Several have closed, and the remainder are operating at reduced levels or are still bouncing back from Katrina, which also damaged a lot of existing offshore production. All the while, demand has been increasing.

    The only ways to fix this problem are: 1) reduce our demand and 2) increase our supply.

    Now for the good news. The current US strategy has made it so that we are burning other people's oil first. Soon there will come a point where we will tap into our supplies and be the king of the hill. But we have to be careful in our timing of when that happens. Too soon and we lose the advantage. Too late and there is too much damage, maybe even war to claim or protect that asset.

    Of course while we are all worrying about this, crop failures and water woes are mounting and many people will likely die.

    Talk about a "perfect storm", this 1-2-3 punch, none of which are insurmountable on their own, could spell disaster of the magnitude of a killer asteriod strike.

    June 18, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  28. James Dylan

    China and Cuba are going to be drilling 90 miles of the coast of Florida and we can't? No, I think it's time to get some of our independence back and quit relying completely on foreign nations supply. It's going to take longer for us to get off oil than it will to make that oil useful. Unless of course someone will come out and say they will do it in less than 5 years. But to do that we need to put solar panels on every home and commercial building. Mandate all vehicles to be hybrids, electric, hydrogen; anything but corn based ethanol. It's foolish to mix our food supply with our fuel supply. Not to mention it takes to much other energy and water resources to create it. Why these politicians are playing partisan politics with out national security, sovernty, technological, and economic growth is beyond me. And it should be beyond them as well. It's time to quit bickering and get to work.

    June 18, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
  29. Lisa

    I can still the "deer in the headlights" look that Bush gave the reporter who asked the question about $4/gallon gas - Bush's response: "Really? I hadn't heard that." and it was a couple of weeks before we hit the $4/gallon gas. Maybe if Bush had paid attention to these little things some program could have been looked into and put into place. But alas, like everything else we seem to do lately, we react rather than proact. It's not like we haven't known about energy issues for the last 35+ years. Why should we be proactive and forward-thinking? While I'd love to blame Bush, I can't. He simply did the same as his predecessors in this area - nothing.

    But rather than drilling, why not put that money into solar-powered technology for vehicles (collector "panels" in the roofs, hoods and trunks of all vehicles) or geothermal technology or wind - resources that are indeed infinite rather than finite?

    Rather than marring his last 6 months in office, he ought to be thinking about a true legacy - "green" (for lack of a better word) energy. But then that would be wishful thinking - this of a man who rolled back the EPA regulations and who possibly still gets healthy dividends from oil investments.

    As for bucking his dad, didn't he already do that when his dad advised AGAINST pre-emptively striking Iraq? I'm thinking the elder Bush really doesn't have much influence over the younger one.

    June 18, 2008 at 2:25 pm |
  30. Cindy

    I don't think that McCain wanting to drill off of our shores will hurt him much. I mean if these gas prices keep going up people are going to want to try what ever they can to make them drop.

    Besides either you like him or you don't. People have already made up their minds about him anyway.


    June 18, 2008 at 1:57 pm |
  31. angel

    I feel that McCain and Obama need to come and have like a town hall meeting or a debate regarding this off shore drill situation. I dont understand to much about it why the demorcrates are saying no and the replublicans or saying yes, The republicans have not done any thing in 8 years and then all of a sudden they think this is the best idea in the world but no one has actually broke this down to the American people explaining the positive and the negatives regarding this drilling. Please some one on cnn ask the question to both canidates to explain there side of this and break it down to the American people of our understanding

    June 18, 2008 at 1:46 pm |