NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 10, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) differ on energy and the environment?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of Obama's positions on energy and the environment.

Climate change:

  • Obama backs ambitious legislation to cut U.S. global-warming pollution 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Under his cap-and-trade proposal, the federal government would auction greenhouse-gas emission "credits" to companies that want to continue to pollute.
  • Money from the auction would be used to develop clean-energy technologies, increase efficiency and underwrite the labor costs of transitioning to new technologies.

Nuclear power:

  • Obama wants to keep the nuclear power option open but says that the United States should not build more reactors until the industry finds a safe way to dispose of commercial nuclear waste.
  • He opposes dumping radioactive wastes at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.


  • Obama reversed his anti-drilling position to support oil exploration along the southeastern coast and Florida shores.
  • He favors proposals to require oil companies to use existing drilling leases, and calls for selling 70 million barrels of oil stockpiled in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
  • He would impose tougher controls on oil speculation, end tax breaks for the oil and gas industry, impose a "windfall profits" tax on multinational oil companies and enact tougher fuel-economy standards on new cars and trucks.


  • Obama would require power companies to generate one-quarter of their electricity from solar, wind or other sustainable sources by 2025.
  • He also favors ambitious efficiency goals for new and existing buildings.

Alternative transportation fuels:

  • Obama backs federal ethanol mandates and seeks greater federal support for making ethanol from nonfood crops.
  • He supports development of coal-to-oil technologies, although he now says that all new fuels should have to meet a national low-carbon standard.

Source: "Obama on Energy and the Environment," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues