McCain's new ad touts 'renewable energy,' but his energy plan offers little to support it. By Lori Robertson | factcheck.org Aug 8, 2008 | Updated: 3:25 p.m. ET Aug 8, 2008
Summary A McCain ad shows pictures of wind-driven turbines while the narrator says: "Renewable energy to transform our economy, create jobs and energy independence, that's John McCain." But, in fact, his energy plan doesn't specify any new federal spending for renewable energy and says only that he'd "rationalize" existing tax credits to provide incentives. In the past, however, he's opposed extending such tax credits when paid for by tax increases elsewhere.
The ad also insinuates that Obama would bring "higher taxes" for "your family," another in what has become a pattern of misrepresentations of Obama's tax plan. Obama actually proposes to cut taxes for all but the most affluent families. He wants to restore tax rates to pre-Bush levels only for those making over $250,000 a year.
Analysis The battle of the energy ads continues: John McCain's campaign released its latest spot Aug. 6, criticizing Barack Obama for his stance on the Bush tax cuts and highlighting McCain's plans for "renewable energy." The ad will run in "key states," according to the campaign.
John McCain 2008 Ad: "Family" Announcer: Is the biggest celebrity in the world ready to help your family?
The real Obama promises higher taxes, more government spending. So, fewer jobs.
Renewable energy to transform our economy, create jobs and energy independence, that's John McCain.
McCain: I'm John McCain and I approved this message.
Support, But No Specifics The ad says: "Renewable energy to transform our economy, create jobs and energy independence, that's John McCain."
But McCain's energy plan doesn't say a whole lot about "renewable energy." His ads, including this one, have featured images of wind turbines, which, like solar, hydropower or biomass projects, tap energy sources that will never run out. But McCain's energy plan and statements about such renewables are vague and left to interpretation. He's offered more specifics, and federal dollars, for nuclear power and "clean coal" technologies. The back-up the campaign provided with the ad includes this comment from McCain on an "international green economy":
McCain press release, June 25: Green jobs and green technology will be vital to our economic future. There is no reason that the U.S. should not be a leader in developing and deploying these new technologies.
Beyond that, the campaign points to McCain's commitment of $2 billion in annual funding for "clean coal" technology and his goal of building 45 new nuclear plants by 2030. Coal – even if it's "clean" – isn't a renewable energy source. Ditto for nuclear. McCain also wants to create a permanent research and development tax credit equal to 10 percent of wages spent on R&D for all industries. As for wind, hydro and solar power specifically, McCain hints that some tax credits might be provided, or extended, or something:
McCain's "Lexington Project" energy plan: To develop these and other sources of renewable energy will require that we rationalize the current patchwork of temporary tax credits that provide commercial feasibility. John McCain believes in an even-handed system of tax credits that will remain in place until the market transforms sufficiently to the point where renewable energy no longer merits the taxpayers' dollars.
We're not sure what "rationalize the current patchwork of temporary tax credits" means. And neither are wind or solar industry spokespeople. "I don't even know what that means," Frank Maisano, a spokesman for energy companies including utilities and wind, told us when we read that line from McCain's plan. "It means that they don't want to tell people what that means."