McCain runs into opposition over offshore oil plan
McCain appeared with California's popular Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History to promote his ideas on how to wean the United States from foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
Outside the museum, a group of protesters took issue with McCain over backing offshore oil drilling, chanting "Get oil out" and holding up such signs as, "Not off our coast" and "We can't drill our way out of the energy crisis."
Inside, during a round-table discussion, McCain heard complaints from a panelist, Michael Feeney, executive director of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Feeney did not specifically mention McCain, who will face Democrat Barack Obama in the November presidential election.
Santa Barbara was the site of a major oil spill in 1969.
"It makes me nervous to think about those who are proposing to drain America's offshore oil and gas reserves as quickly as possible in hopes of driving down the price of gasoline," Feeney said.
Feeney also said he opposed McCain's plan to jump-start the building of new nuclear reactor plants for meeting America's rising energy demands.
Obama, too, criticized McCain's proposal to encourage the building of 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030. He said it lacked a plan for waste storage and was among several energy-strategy ideas that Obama said were "not serious energy policies."
Obama spoke in Nevada, a state where proposals to build a nuclear waste disposal site at Yucca Mountain have generated strong opposition. He also took aim at McCain's plan to allow more offshore U.S. oil drilling.
"It doesn't make sense for America," the Illinois senator said. "In fact, it makes about as much sense as his proposal to build 45 new nuclear reactors without a plan to store the waste some place other than right here at Yucca Mountain."
During a roundtable discussion on energy security at Santa Barbara's Natural History Museum, one of the panelists invited by the McCain campaign to sit onstage beside the candidate -- disagreed with the Arizona senator's energy plans and lambasted his nuclear energy proposal.
"I'm a little bit bemused that I ended up on this panel," said Michael Feeney, chair of the Santa Barbara Land Trust, a non-profit conservation group.
He excoriated a proposal McCain outlined last Wednesday to build 45 new nuclear plants in the United States by 2030 and another 55 in later years.
"I don’t understand how it’s not compromising our environmental standards to propose a crash program to build more nuclear power plants when the industry has not complied with the federal law that requires there to be safe disposal for the radioactive waste," Feeney said.
McCain responded by citing the example of nuclear technology in Europe and Navy ships powered by nuclear energy.
"My friend, the technology is there. The Europeans do it. I mean it's safe. It's being done. So, to think that that is going to require some pain on the American people economically when the Europeans-- 80 percent of the French electricity is generated by nuclear power. They are doing fine," McCain said to applause from the audience.