Yesterday Barack Obama was in Detroit to talk about plug-in hybrids and a new energy future. Today John McCain is showing up on another leg of his "Greatest Energy Misses" campaign tour. The tour began on June 17, in Houston, near the site of the huge Bay of Campeche oil spill, where McCain announced his flip-flop on offshore drilling.
He then meandered to Santa Barbara, site of the famous 1969 oil spill, which he used as a venue to dismiss the concerns of the residents of Nevada about the legendarily unsafe Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, saying "it's a NIBMY problem. It's a NIMBY problem. We've gotta have the guts and the courage to go ahead and do what other countries are doing ..."
He next showed up in Las Vegas, where he didn't mention Yucca, but did talk about how important it was to drill for oil off Santa Barbara. He planned to fly to Louisiana on July 25, to talk about how safe the oil industry has become in recent years, but canceled his trip after a huge oil spill shut down 25 miles of the Mississippi River. Instead he doglegged over to Ohio, where he never mentioned his opposition to ethanol, but instead talked about how great agriculture was.
Now he's arrived in Detroit, where he lost the primary to Mitt Romney by telling Michigan voters that lost auto jobs simply weren't coming back -- ever. But he's not appearing at an auto plant. Instead, he's going to the infamous Fermi 1 Reactor, whose near meltdown in 1966 led to the coinage of the term "the China syndrome," and was analyzed in the book We Almost Lost Detroit. Fermi's never been turned into a safe nuke. After years were spent cleaning up the 1966 meltdown, the reactor suffered a "sodium explosion," and startup was delayed again. Finally the NRC denied the license renewal, and they had to shut it down in 1972. Fermi is now being decommissioned, but it's still a hazard. On May 22 of this year, another sodium fire broke out inside the reactor, and the decommissioning process had to be suspended.
So what in the world would McCain say about this history? His staff evidently decided that discretion was the better part of valor. McCain still went to Fermi, but he announced there would be no public appearance there -- which avoided the awkward problem of media questions about Fermi as the poster child for "nukes are safe -- it's all NIMBYism" platform on which McCain is running.
It's hard to understand how McCain can pretend that he is doing anything other than chasing the polls -- and the oil and nuclear industry's increasingly abundant lubrication of his campaign.
And if you'd like to hear the song "We Almost Lost Detroit," here it is.