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More energy back and forth

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
NEWPORT, Mich. -- After touring the Enrico Fermi Nuclear facility here this afternoon, McCain stood in the shadows of the plant's cooling towers and gave a brief statement on the need to expand nuclear power. But first he found some time to respond to Obama's newest line of attack.

"I saw that Sen. Obama's latest attack is got to do with oil and campaign contributions," McCain said. "I think he might be a little bit confused because when the energy bill came to the floor of the senate, full of goodies and breaks for the oil companies; I voted against it. Sen. Obama voted for it. People care, not only what you say, but how you vote."

Campaign aides said McCain was responding to charges in the ad released yesterday by the Obama campaign and not to his opponent's latest charge. Today, Obama alleged that McCain's energy plan has helped him raise money from oil companies.

"While Sen. McCain's plan won't save you at the pump any time soon, I have to say this, it sure has raised him a lot of campaign dollars," Obama said today in Youngstown, Ohio. "Sen. McCain raised more than $1 million from the oil industry just last month. Most of it came after he announced his plan for offshore drilling to a room full of oil executives."

In his remarks today, McCain tried to shift the energy argument back towards the Democratic congress and its "refusal" to vote on offshore drilling.

"I noticed that there's confusing now information from Senator Obama as to whether he actually supports offshore drilling or not," McCain said. "The fact is we have to drill here and we have to drill now and we have to drill immediately. And it has to be done as quickly as possible and I believe that it's vital that we move forward with that regardless of what we do on other energy issues."

He then called on congress to end their summer vacation early and reconvene to address the issue of America's dependence on foreign oil. As president, McCain said he would call them back into session and "keep calling them back until they act on behalf of the interests of the American people in this compelling national security issue, and it's time we got serious about energy independence."

Today's tour was scheduled at nuclear facility with a less than stellar safety record, which opened the door for McCain's opponents to poke holes in his argument that nuclear power is completely safe. He said in his remarks that his experience with nuclear energy goes back to his service on the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, "I knew it was safe then, and I know it's safe now."

But as many Democratic groups were quick to point out, one of the Fermi plant's two nuclear reactors suffered a partial fuel meltdown in 1966 and is in the process of being decommissioned. Several years ago, Fermi 2 -- the plant currently in operation -- was also shut down due to a leak, but no evidence of external radiation leakage was found. According to the pool report of McCain's tour, the plant was also shut down last February but has been in operation since.