08/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lies, Damn Lies, and the McCain Campaign

mccain-cheney.jpgJohn McCain has morphed into Dick Cheney's evil twin, hellbent on destroying the possibility of ever having serious energy and climate policy in this country. All those who care about peak oil or global warming must work together to ensure his cynical lies don't triumph.

Yet Cheney never pretended to believe in the threat global warming poses to our nation and the world. McCain, however, did at least pretend, which makes his outright mockery of the primary solution -- energy efficiency and conservation -- something more than just classic Rovian lies and damn lies. Let's call them soul-destroying lies.

Once McCain was a lonely voice in the conservative movement pushing real action on global warming and opposing phony solutions like offshore drilling. True, like most conservatives he opposed and still opposes incentives and standards for renewables as well as levels of vehicle fuel economy needed to actually move us toward energy independence. And yes, McCain has walked away from serious climate policy in recent months (see McCain"s climate plan = Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic).

But McCain now sees his only road to the White House as lying again and again to the American public:

We need to off-shore drill for oil and natural gas," McCain said, "And anybody who says we can achieve energy independence without using and increasing these existing energy resources either doesn't have the experience to understand the challenge we face or isn't giving the American people some straight talk.

There is no truth whatsoever in that statement. The amount of offshore oil currently unavailable for drilling is negligible and even Bush's own energy analysts admit that. The amount of offshore natural gas currently unavailable for drilling is not a substitute for oil now and never will be. Anyone who claims otherwise doesn't have the experience to understand the challenge we face and isn't giving the American people some straight talk.

But even more destructive to any hope of serious national discourse on our energy and climate problem is this:

"We're not going to achieve energy independence by inflating our tires," McCain said.

Aside from the fact that Obama never said that, in fact, we cannot possibly solve our energy and climate problems without such efficiency measures, as Obama's comprehensive plan, unlike that of John McCain, clearly understands.

As we've seen efficiency and conservation measures available to all Americans and now can deliver at least 10 times as much oil as we are going to get from coastal waters in 15 years. And that doesn't even count the vastly larger savings from even tougher fuel efficiency standards, which McCain opposes. Sure, like Bush and Cheney, McCain was never someone who believed in energy efficiency (see "McCain on energy efficiency: He is Cheney's third term!") -- but now the entire Republican Party is mocking energy efficiency and conservation by handing out tire gauges and lying about them.

As one commenter on HuffingtonPost has noted, "If [conservatives] do, in fact, distribute tire gauges it will one of the most beneficial things they've done for the general populous in at least the last 28 years."

The media refuses to police the most absurd of McCain's energy lies, such as his claim of oil producers "within a matter of months [of ending the federal moratorium on coastal drilling], they could be getting additional oil" (see "Note to media: Are you going to allow McCain to just make up stuff on oil drilling?") If you want some typically mindless political coverage of McCain's tire gauges ploy that focuses on its political value rather than its accuracy, read ABC's popular The Note (but I would recommend doing so on an empty stomach).

That leaves only progressives to save the debate from descending to drilling vs. tire gauges. McCain may be trying to sell the last vestige of his soul for the Presidency, but we mustn't buy it. Those who genuinely care about what peak oil and catastrophic climate change will do to this country must speak up now. The stakes have never been -- nor will they ever be -- higher.