06/23/2008 09:28 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

John McCain's Contorted Position on the Environment

The Maverick strikes again. No sooner had the senator from Arizona unveiled a flashy new ad touting his global warming bona fides and opposition to the Bush administration's (non-existent) climate policies than he had already proclaimed the need for more offshore drilling -- and sought cash from his new Texas oilmen friends (curiously, soon thereafter the president announced his support for offshore drilling). This shameless flip-flop marks just the latest backtrack in a long series of environmental policy revisions by the presumptive Republican nominee.

mccain's environmental recordThis, of course, comes as no surprise to those among the blogosphere and environmental community who have been following McCain's environmental missteps since his failed 2000 bid. While the MSM's tongue remains firmly planted down the senator's throat, most independent-minded observers have witnessed his early advocacy fall prey to lobbying interests and his party's ideological allies in the business community. Indeed, the man described as having "strikingly different views" from the president on the environment by NYT reporter Elisabeth Bumiller has a lifetime League of Conservation Voters (LCV) score of 24 percent. His 2007 LCV score -- wait for it -- was a pathetic 0.

Yes, thanks to his cheerleaders in the press, we've consistently been led to believe that the man who supported a gas tax holiday, who voted to consider a provision allowing drilling in ANWR and who was recently inducted into the Petroleum Club is, in fact, a lifelong environmentalist. The senator himself seems to lack a solid grasp of his own positions on the environment: As Gristmill's Kate Sheppard reported last week, McCain contradicted his proposed cap-and-trade scheme when he told a news conference he would oppose a mandatory cap. This suggests that the senator has either been lying through his teeth or, perhaps even worse, that he simply doesn't understand how a cap-and-trade system would work in practice.

And let's not forget that the Republican candidate opposes extending renewable energy tax credits to support clean energy development (while endorsing massive giveaways for the nuclear industry), is against raising CAFE standards and supports the appointment of conservative judges who would gut existing environmental legislation. Some will undoubtedly try to defend McCain's actions by blaming his current posturing on electoral politics. If that's the case, then why does the senator have such an abysmal lifetime environmental record? And, given his bobbing and weaving on other issues, including tax cuts, civil rights and campaign finance, who's to say he's even to be trusted?

McCain and his acolytes have tried to couch their support for offshore drilling -- a practice he vehemently opposed in 2000 on the grounds that it would degrade coastal areas and only offer temporary relief, at best -- by arguing that record gas prices and the need for energy independence trump other concerns. Never mind the fact that energy analysts (even full-throated skeptics at the American Petroleum Institute) estimate that it could take 7-10 years before we can gain access to that offshore oil. The senator and his allies would do well to listen to the words of a prescient colleague who argued against offshore drilling in 2005: "The worst thing we can do as a nation is taking the easy way out. ... If you start opening up offshore drilling, then you are buying time and you are not addressing the fundamental problem with fossil fuels." The senator who made that informed statement? Lindsey Graham, one of McCain's top boosters.

Image from Ohio AFL-CIO Labor '08