Barack Obama's first statement on Sarah Palin attacked her on a number of issues, including energy:
Governor Palin shares John McCain's commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade, the agenda of Big Oil and continuing George Bush's failed economic policies -- that's not the change we need, it's just more of the same."
It has been well-noted that the politics of this attack are completely tonedeaf. But the substance of these attacks are completely dishonest. In fact, Palin's record clearly demonstrates that she is pro-energy, but has a more complicated relationship with the oil companies. At the same time, Barack Obama can be credibly argued to be in the pocket of "Big Corn" and "Big Coal."
First, Palin's record on energy is clearly more populist than the traditional Republican line. She has found a way to be pro-energy but express some hostility to energy companies. I point to two things: her support for a windfall profits tax. I don't understand the details of Alaska energy policy, so I don't now how to frame this, but I can't imagine that the energy companies were lobbying for this. Then there's the pipeline issue I mentioned previously. I don't now if I support these policies, but I do note that these are clearly not "Big Oil" favoring practices. The take home:
Barack Obama talks about fighting "Big Oil", but he voted for the horrific Energy Bill that Joe Biden and John McCain voted agianst. Sarah Palin, as governor, has beaten "Big Oil" twice.
On a broader strategic level, sometimes we are "pro-energy" and sometimes, indeed, pro-"Big Oil". There are two ways to be opposed to this. You can be anti-"Big Oil" but pro-energy, which seems to be Palin's answer. Or you can be anti-energy, which is Obama's answer.
Now let's actually look at the special interests he has sucked up to. It turns out that Grist, the leading enviro blog, is not at all happy about his positions. Obama's position seem to result in higher energy prices, environmental degradation, and sucking up to special interests.
At Yearly Kos last year, the Grist blog asked Obama about his coal record. What did he do?
So, lots to talk about, but for now: I'm in a candidate forum with Barack Obama and he was just asked directly about coal. He dodged and weaved, said there would have to be a "transition," and that there would need to be "investments," etc. etc.
The piece notes that when Obama ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, he claimed that "there's always going to be a role for coal" in Illinois, standing with miners in a press conference. USA Today also reminds readers that employees of coal companies and electric utilities have contributed $539,597 to his Senate and presidential campaigns, according to campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.
In May 1998, state Sen. Obama voted in favor of a bill condemning the Kyoto global warming treaty and preventing Illinois from making moves to regulate greenhouse gases, at least in part because of pressure from the state's coal industry. Fast forward a decade, and now Obama calls climate change "one of the greatest moral challenges of our generation."
The dynamic here is that there is a lot of Democratic union votes in downstate Illinois that are tied to the coal industry. As the Washington Post put it, he is "stuck between industry and environment." Grist criticizes the underlying ideas behind Obama's legislative strategy:
With regard to global warming, the very best we could do with CTL is stay on the same disastrous trajectory we are on now. Does that sound like something that deserves taxpayer subsidies?
Why is Obama giving subsidies to companies in exchange for no positive environmental impact? Because he is paying off his buddies. The big interests in his state, he opens the federal treasury to them.
Let's be clear: Obama is a coal whore.
It doesn't stop with "Big Coal". There's also "Big Corn." A friend who is an ethanol lobbyist says that they are big into Obama because McCain opposes both ethanol subsidies and the ethanol tarriff. (I actually asked McCain about the ethanol tarriff when I was with him on the bus in March of 2007, and the MSM people mocked me)
Well, anyway — the news on ethanol just keeps getting worse. Bad for the economy, bad for consumers, bad for the planet — what’s not to love?
So let's be clear: Obama is an ethanol whore.
Now, Obama defenders will say that he is just supporting constituencies in his states, even if it isn't great for the country or the environent. Sure. That's true. I accept that explanation.
Except that Sarah Palin, who has oil in her state, is sticking to the oil companies.
Which one is a reformer, an independent, and fights special interests?