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Obama vs. McCain: The energy debate

The New York Times says Obama yesterday "proposed tightening the regulation of oil speculators in an effort to ease record high gasoline prices and address one of Americans' top concerns. Mr. Obama proposed closing the so-called Enron loophole, a legal provision requested by that company in 2000 that exempts crucial energy commodities from government oversight." More: "How large a role speculative investment plays in pushing up oil and other commodity prices is not entirely clear. While some analysts believe that large flows of money into largely unregulated exchanges have distorted markets and pushed up prices, most energy experts see no support for that theory."

VIDEO: Newsweek senior Washington correspondent Howard Fineman talks with TODAY's Ann Curry about the presidential candidates' positions on taxes and energy.

Reuters: The campaign also said he backed legislation that would direct the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the top US futures market regulator, to investigate proposals such as increasing margin requirements in the market."

"McCain hopes to solve the country's energy crisis with cold hard cash," the AP says. "The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting is proposing a $300 million government prize to whomever can develop an automobile battery that far surpasses existing technology. The bounty would equate to $1 for every man, woman and child in the country, 'a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency,' McCain said in remarks prepared for delivery Monday at Fresno State University in California."

Excerpts of the speech on energy independence McCain will deliver in Fresno, CA: "[T]he CAFE standards we apply to automakers -- to increase the fuel efficiency of their cars -- are lightly enforced by a small fine. The result is that some companies don't even bother to observe CAFE standards. Instead they just write a check to the government and pass the cost along to you… CAFE standards should serve large national goals in energy independence, not the purpose of small-time revenue collection."

"My administration will issue a Clean Car Challenge to the automakers of America, in the form of a single and substantial tax credit based on the reduction of carbon emissions. For every automaker who can sell a zero-emissions car, we will commit a 5,000 dollar tax credit for each and every customer who buys that car… I further propose we inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people by offering a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package that has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.  This is one dollar for every man, woman and child in the U.S. – a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency – and should deliver a power source at 30 percent of the current costs."

"My friends, energy security is the great national challenge of our time. And rising to this challenge will take all of the vision, creativity, and resolve of which we are capable."
"With communities in the Midwest still under water, Democrat Barack Obama on Saturday criticized Republican John McCain for opposing federal spending on flood prevention programs and opened a new debate in the White House race," the AP reports. "McCain's campaign said Obama was confusing the facts and engaging in typical political attacks that the Democrat rejects in his speeches." 
Bloomberg's Al Hunt has a great piece about how both McCain and Obama are pandering on key economic issues. "McCain is placating economic conservatives in the Republican Party by promising tax cuts that would lead to a fiscal nightmare. Obama is pandering to labor with protectionist threats that would endanger relations with important trading partners. These stances run counter to major themes in both campaigns that seek to differentiate the two contenders from the unpopular Bush administration: McCain as a bipartisan leader, and Obama as a candidate out to change the my-way-or- the-highway approach to foreign policy."

"Moreover, it's difficult to accept that McCain really favors expensive tax cuts tilted heavily toward the wealthy or that Obama really thinks former President Bill Clinton's international economic policies hurt the country. For Obama 'to talk about a more multilateral world and then be unilateral on trade is a contradiction,' says I.M. Destler, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a professor at the University of Maryland."

The New York Post looks at both candidates' tax plans. "Obama takes the Robin Hood approach: taxing the rich and giving more tax breaks to low- and moderate-income workers and seniors, including new subsidies for those who currently pay no taxes. McCain's plan retains the Bush tax cuts for all income earners, nearly doubles the exemption for dependents, slashes the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent, lowers the 'death tax' on estates and maintains lower capital-gains taxes. The Republican's tax cut - aimed at spurring the economy - tilts more to helping higher-income taxpayers, married couples and job producers."