RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
John McCain is in the Pacific Northwest touting his plan to combat global warming. Today, he's holding an environmental forum outside Seattle. Yesterday, McCain was in Portland, Oregon, where he visited the offices of a windmill company and called for a mandatory limit on greenhouse gas emissions. That's something President Bush has rejected.
McCain hopes his conservative approach to global warming will appeal to moderate Democrats, as well as Republicans. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY: John McCain is counting on market forces to help solve the challenge of global warming. After all, he told millions in Portland yesterday, it was market forces that helped create the problem.
Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): For all of the last century, the profit motive basically led in one direction -toward machines, methods and industries that used oil and gas. Enormous good came from that industrial growth, and we are all the beneficiaries of the national prosperity it built. But there were costs we weren't counting.
HORSLEY: McCain says those costs, in the form of greenhouse gases, can no longer be ignored. So he's hoping to create a profit motive that works in the opposite direction, encouraging polluters to cut their carbon emissions. McCain says as president, he would cap overall production of greenhouse gases. Companies that produce more pollution would then have to buy carbon credits from those who find a cleaner way of doing business.
Sen. McCAIN: Instantly, automakers, coal companies, power plants and every other enterprise in America would have an incentive to reduce carbon emissions, because when they go under those limits, they can sell the balance of permitted emissions for cash.
HORSLEY: McCain delivered his speech at the U.S. headquarters of a wind-energy company. Oregon is becoming a hub for alternative energy firms, and McCain hopes his environmental message will resonate here. Democrat John Kerry won handily in Oregon in 2004, but four years earlier, George Bush came within 7,000 votes of carrying the state.
The League of Conservation Voters has been tracking candidates in an effort to raise the profile of climate change as a campaign issue. League President Gene Karpinsky says McCain has been more outspoken than the other Republicans in the race were, but he doesn't think the Arizona Senator goes far enough.
Mr. GENE KARPINSKY (President, League of Conservation Voters): We give him credit for understanding the problem is real and making it a priority. But his particular plan - both on his global warming emissions bill, as well as some of the specific energy measures - they're outdated, and they fall far short of what we need to do.
HORSLEY: By the year 2050, for example, McCain wants to reduce greenhouse gases by 60 percent, compared to 1990 levels. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have called for reductions of 80 percent.
Some environmental groups, like the Sierra Club, also criticized McCain for his outspoken support of nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuel. He often talks on the campaign trail about the safe track record of nuclear-powered Navy vessels and how France relies on nuclear plants for more than half its electricity.
McCain acknowledged yesterday that nuclear power has drawbacks, including the challenge of transporting and storing nuclear waste. But he says a cap-and-trade system would make nuclear plants more cost-competitive, since they don't produce greenhouse gases and wouldn't have to buy carbon credits.
Sen. McCAIN: It doesn't take a leap in logic to conclude that if we want to arrest global warming, then nuclear energy is a powerful, powerful ally in that cause.
HORSLEY: McCain says any meaningful international effort to address climate change would have to include China and India. But even if those countries don't sign on, he says, the U.S. has a responsibility to act.
A prepared text of his speech supplied to reporters suggested that Western countries might use trade sanctions to push China and India into cutting their carbon output. But McCain substituted softer language, saying diplomacy and technical support should be enough to move the two countries.
Sen. McCAIN: Pressing on blindly with uncontrolled carbon emissions is in no one's interest, especially China's. And the rest of the world stands ready to help.
HORSLEY: McCain hopes that message helps him with environmentally minded voters, especially in battleground states like Oregon and Washington.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, Portland.
MONTAGNE: An update now on recovery efforts in China, following yesterday's massive earthquake. At this hour, the death toll stands at nearly 12,000. That's a number that's certain to rise, with thousands more missing. Images from China show masses of rubble, twisted metal and huge chunks of concrete and survivors mourning the dead.
This MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.