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Candidates Differ on Energy Policy

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the Las Vegas Democratic debate.

By Peter Slevin
LAS VEGAS -- Prompted to discuss energy policy and nuclear power -- key issues to a range of political constituencies -- the three Democratic candidates took different tacks.

Sen. Barack Obama defended his vote for the 2005 energy bill as a vote for the "single largest investment in clean energy...that we have ever seen."

Moments later, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who voted against the bill, criticized the measure as providing "enormous giveaways to the oil and gas industries."

She called it "the Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill." She described how she would reverse the bill's tax credits to industry to fund investment in renewable energy. She said the bill "was a big step backward on the path to clean, renewable energy."

Describing a range of policy options, she delivered a subtle dig to Obama, saying, "It's not going to happen by hoping for it."

Obama said tonight that he is open to building the first new nuclear power plants if scientists and engineers can design safe ways to produce nuclear energy and store nuclear waste.

"Let's see where the science and technology of the American people take us," Obama said. He added that he would try to mobilize Americans to use less energy, from buying more efficient appliances to designing greener buildings.

"That is actually the low-hanging fruit," Obama said. "That is the thing we can do most rapidly."

Former senator John Edwards declared that he opposes all new energy plants.

He went further, calling for a moratorium on construction of coal-powered plants until carbon can be sequestered. He also used the issue as a chance to assert that Clinton has raised more money from the oil and gas industry "than any candidate, Democrat or Republican."

"We have to be able to take them on," said Edwards, who is trying to elbow his way past the two front-runners after losing to Obama in Iowa and both of them in New Hampshire.

He might as well have been talking about Clinton and Obama.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 15, 2008; 11:16 PM ET
Categories:  The Debates  
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As the South Carolina primary looms, the candidates now need to say where they stand on dumping spent fuel at the Savanna River Site in South Carolina. This is a likely scenario under DOE's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Due to technical and political problems with Yucca Mtn., DOE is proposing the "reprocessing" of spent fuel, which would create massive amounts of high-level waste and yield lots of separated weapons-usable plutonium. Even if no reprocessing took place, the chosen site - the Savannah River Site in South Carolina is a likely target - would become a spent fuel dump. Obama has supported GNEP research as Argonne lab is in Illinois. Candidates need to state their positions on GNEP and if they would dump spent fuel on us down here in South Carolina.

Posted by: tomclements | January 17, 2008 10:56 PM | Report abuse

So coal and nuclear is the only form of energy? Edwards is getting rigged and articles like this are part of some weird but painfully transparent strategy to diminish Edwards' chances here. Even the haters at Fox made comment. Oddly, not the GE spokesmen at NBC.

Posted by: mcmahon | January 16, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

icr7 - "If you read today's Washington Post fact checking section, you will see that Hillary's claim that the energy bill was a give-away to the oil companies was absolutely false."

Wrong! The following is from Public Citizen:

The [2005] energy bill is bad policy because it (1) fails to decrease our dependence on foreign oil for its lack of mandatory improvements in automobile fuel efficiency ("CAFE" standards); (2) provides billions of dollars in unjustified subsidies to the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries; and (3) repeals the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), an essential consumer protection that ensures that electric utilities exist to serve the people, not the profit interests of large corporations.

Posted by: oddbobber | January 16, 2008 3:37 PM | Report abuse

"Former senator John Edwards declared that he opposes all new energy plants."

Wrong! Edwards said he opposes all new NUCLEAR energy plants.

Is the WP intentionally misrepresenting Edwards' position to it's readers?

Posted by: oddbobber | January 16, 2008 3:20 PM | Report abuse

The reason Clinton said she didn't vote for the energy bill was telling, and patently untruthful I might add. If you read today's Washington Post fact checking section, you will see that Hillary's claim that the energy bill was a give-away to the oil companies was absolutely false. Although the bill included some tax credits, it included even more tax increases on the industry. Thus, the industry's net tax burden actually increased! So Clinton's remarks are exactly the type of subterfuge and lies propagated by the administration of the past 8 years. They rely on the fact that the public won't know any better, so they have no compunction about spewing whatever lies they desire. Its how we got into Iraq. You actually want more of this nonsense?

Furthermore, I think this question also provided insight into what would happen in a Clinton administration. Obama voted for the engergy bill because it was the largest investment in alternative sources of energy in u.s. history. Yet, Clinton didn't vote for it because her political adversaries were involved. Again, this is an example of a typical closed-minded washington politician whose self-interested partisan politics prevents them from making substantive progress on important issues. This behavior is completely asanine.

If politicians in this country continue to vote for bills depending on the basis of the author's party (as was the case here because the bill was NOT a give-away to the oil industry), we are going to continue to fail to make progress on anything of importance. Why do you think congress has the approval rating it has? Because its full of folks, like Clinton, who have loyalties to a party instead of to the American people.

Its is so abudnantly clear now that Clinton simply does not have the judgment to get anything done in washington. The status quo must change. We can't afford it not to.

Posted by: icr7 | January 16, 2008 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I like Barack's position on a well rounded energy policy. It takes strength to speak the truth about nuclear energies part and our broad national interests hinging on consensus around this issue.

I also like the way Hillary invokes the Apollo missions as a measure of national priority on this issue. I've heard her say this a couple times.

Barack Obama for President of the UNITED States.

Posted by: PulSamsara | January 16, 2008 2:52 AM | Report abuse

So how does Edwards expect to provide electricity to power his 26,000 sq. foot mansion? Hot air, perhaps?

Posted by: merganser | January 16, 2008 12:39 AM | Report abuse

A good performance from all three candidates, and a welcome change from the acrimony of the past week. Thought Obama did a good job of expounding on specifics and explaining his positions, while Edwards really drove home his differences in opinion. Hillary didn't blow me away, but didn't make any mistakes either. For the first time I feel pretty positive about all three.

Posted by: BABucher | January 16, 2008 12:13 AM | Report abuse

Take a GOOD look people.

The Photo shows a pair of calculating and powerful LAWYERS! Senatorial Lawyers.

The Exectutive Branch is NOT Congress. It is the Check Point, on a large collection of Powerful, Calculating Lawyers.

Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee, are Statesmen! AKA-Exectutives!

Posted by: rat-the | January 15, 2008 11:29 PM | Report abuse

Democrats Debate in Las Vegas

Who Won the MSNBC Democratic Debate in Las Vegas?


Posted by: jeffboste | January 15, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

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