As many reports have noted, the McCain/Bush policy on offshore drilling doesn’t make sense as a response to $4-a-gallon gas: the White House’s own Energy Information Administration says that exploiting the outer shelf wouldn’t yield noticeable amounts of oil until the 2020s, and even at peak production its impact on oil prices would be “insignificant.”
But what I haven’t seen emphasized is the broader picture: Mr. McCain has now aligned himself with an administration that, even aside from its blame-the-environmental-movement tendencies, has established an extensive track record as the gang that couldn’t think straight about energy policy.
Remember, they didn’t just insist that the Iraqis would welcome us as liberators; on the eve of the Iraq war, administration officials were also adamant that regime change in Iraq would add millions of barrels a day to the world oil supply, driving oil prices way down. (In fact, Iraq’s oil output took five years just to recover to preinvasion levels.)
So why would Mr. McCain associate himself with these characters? The answer, presumably, is that it’s a cynical political calculation.
I’m reasonably sure that Mr. McCain’s advisers realize that offshore drilling would do nothing for current gas prices. But they may believe that the public can be conned. A Rasmussen poll taken before Mr. McCain’s announcement suggests that the public favors expanded offshore drilling, and believes (wrongly) that this would lower gasoline prices.
And Mr. McCain may also hope to shore up his still fragile relations with the Republican base. As anyone who has read what’s in his inbox after publishing an article on oil prices can testify, there are many people on the right who believe that all our energy problems have been caused by sanctimonious tree-huggers. Mr. McCain has just thrown that constituency some red meat.
But I very much doubt that Mr. McCain’s gambit will work. In fact, it’s almost certainly self-destructive.
To have a chance in November, Mr. McCain has to convince voters that he isn’t just Bush, continued. Energy policy is one of the areas where he could best have made that case.
Instead, he has ceded the high ground on energy to Mr. Obama, and linked himself firmly to the most unpopular president on record.
It's a matter of guesswork and opinion but this switch helps McCain with some people and hurts him with others. My guess is on net, it hurts. McCain has been nicely distinguished from Bush by his environmental stands, and this muddies those waters.
What McCain should have done is gone nuclear on Obama - McCain is calling for 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030; Obama has had a hard time getting off the dime on this topic, since a notable slice of the Dem base is utterly and irrevocably opposed to all nukes (and critics Yucca it up every time Obama addresses this).
If McCain pushed a "Yes to nukes, no to offshore" platform he could distinguish himself from both Bush and Obama in a way that actually made sense.