The major party presidential candidates are devoting more energy on the campaign trail to ... energy.
Sen. Barack Obama ripped into the oil companies Tuesday, promising alternatives to gasoline, while Sen. John McCain toured a nuclear power plant and vowed to support building 45 more like it.
Standing on a small stage set up on the basketball court at Austintown Fitch High School in northeastern Ohio, it didn't take long for Obama to go after McCain — linking the Arizona Republican to a pair of Washington politicians with low approval ratings.
"President Bush, he had an energy policy," Obama told the crowd. "He turned to Dick Cheney and he said, 'Cheney, go take care of this.' Cheney met with renewable-energy folks once and oil and gas (executives) 40 times. McCain has taken a page out of the Cheney playbook."
It's a playbook that Obama says favored big oil companies. The Democrat from Illinois told the crowd of more than 2,000 in the gymnasium that once in the White House, he would fund alternative and renewable fuels.
He promised to meet immediately with the Big Three car companies to see how the federal government can work with them to retool and speed the production of highly energy-efficient vehicles — including plug-in hybrids, which can be charged up in a few hours and make short commutes using no gasoline at all.
He said Ohio lost more than 200,000 manufacturing jobs during the Bush administration and that investing in a "green" economy — including the manufacture of fuel-efficient cars — could mean jobs for the state.
McCain Pushes Nuclear Power
Meanwhile, McCain showcased his support for nuclear power, visiting the Enrico Fermi nuclear plant in Newport, Mich.
McCain has called for a crash program to build 45 more nuclear plants by 2030.
"If we really want to enable technologies of tomorrow, like plug-in electric cars, we need electricity to plug into," he said.
McCain also criticized Obama for his lukewarm support of nuclear power.
"Sen. Obama has said that expanding our nuclear power plants — quote — 'doesn't make sense for America,'" McCain said. "He also says no to nuclear storage and nuclear re-processing. I could not disagree more."
In fact, Obama has said nuclear plants are likely to be part of the nation's energy mix, but he adds that a safe method of waste disposal is needed before additional plants are built.
McCain backs the Yucca Mountain waste-disposal site in Nevada — like Michigan and Ohio, a swing state in the fall election. Obama has opposed it.
Energy policy has become a major battleground for the two candidates, with McCain touting his "drill here, drill now" strategy and Obama calling for big investments in alternatives, such as wind and solar.
Neither of those strategies is likely to bring quick relief to drivers unhappy about high-priced gas this summer.
So both candidates have tried to sweeten their offer — McCain with a summer gas tax holiday; Obama with energy rebate checks, paid for with a tax on oil companies, and a release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
An editorial in Tuesday's Detroit News says both these plans appear to be governed by political calculation rather than solid economics.
Editorial Page editor Nolan Finley says his paper has been very critical of McCain's gas-tax holiday. And, he says, Obama's proposals are equally short-sighted.
"It's pure pandering," Finley says. "It makes absolutely no sense in terms of long-term energy policy."