McCain to pledge end of ban on oil and gas exploration

McCain to pledge end of ban on oil and gas exploration

America has a "dangerous" dependence on foreign oil and the US should lift its ban on oil and natural gas exploration, Republican presidential candidate John McCain will say today.

The former Vietnam prisoner of war and Arizona senator will outline his energy policy later tonight in Texas as he takes on Democrat Barack Obama in a bid to become the 44th president of the United States.

Rising oil and fuel prices in the US have made energy concerns a central focus of the general election battle.

"This was a troubling situation 35 years ago. It was an alarming situation 20 years ago. It is a dangerous situation today," Mr McCain will say.

"The next president must be willing to break with the energy policies not just of the current administration, but the administrations that preceded it, and lead a great national campaign to achieve energy security for America."

He will also criticise Mr Obama's call for a windfall profits tax on the oil industry.

"If that plan sounds familiar, it's because that was President Carter's big idea, too… I'm all for recycling, but it's better applied to paper and plastic than to the failed policies of the 1970s," Mr McCain will say.

He will add that the US dependence on foreign oil has grown markedly worse since the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s.

He favours lifting the existing moratorium on offshore oil drilling and leaving it up to the states to decide whether to explore for energy sources in coastal waters.

"The stakes are high for our citizens and for our economy, and with gasoline running at more than four bucks a gallon, many do not have the luxury of waiting on the far-off plans of futurists and politicians," he will say.

"We have proven oil reserves of at least 21 billion barrels in the United States, but a broad federal moratorium stands in the way of energy exploration and production.

"I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions and to put our own reserves to use."

His comments will mark a U-turn for Mr McCain, who said he favoured the existing ban when he ran for president in 2000.

However, Mr McCain still opposes drilling in some parts of the wilderness and says those areas must be left undisturbed.

"When America set aside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, we called it a 'refuge' for a reason," he will say.

He will also call for greater use of nuclear power as well as for alternative energy sources and greater conservation measures.

"Over time, we must shift our entire energy economy toward a sustainable mix of new and cleaner power sources," he will say.

"This will include some we use already, such as wind, solar, biofuels, and other sources yet to be invented.

"It will include a variety of new automotive and fuel technologies - clean-burning coal and nuclear energy - and a new system of incentives, under a cap-and-trade policy, to put the power of the market on the side of environmental protection."

The McCain campaign also began running a new television advert to highlight the 71-year-old senator's call for cutting back on the pollutants that cause global warming.

As his rival tries to link his potential presidency to that of a third term of the Bush administration, the advertisement portrays Mr McCain as an adversary of President George Bush on climate change.

"John McCain stood up to the president and sounded the alarm on global warming - five years ago," the ad states.

"Today, he has a realistic plan that will curb greenhouse gas emissions. A plan that will help grow our economy and protect our environment."

Democrats have opposed offshore drilling for environmental reasons, but Mr McCain said it is needed to provide relief for Americans struggling with record high fuel prices.

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