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Obama's Speech in Chicago on Energy

Speaker: Barack Obama
Published June 25, 2008

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gave this speech in Chicago, Illinois on June 25, 2008.

"I just had the chance to meet with some of our nation’s top business leaders. We had a productive conversation about some of the challenges facing our economy and the role that a robust private sector can play in meeting them. This summit was part of a broader dialogue I’ve been having in recent weeks and months with Americans who work in different corners of our economy.

But no matter who I’ve met with – whether it was the business leaders today or the labor leaders I met with the other week – my message has been the same. It’s that America is at its strongest when we have an economy that reflects our values; when we reward not just wealth, but the work and workers who create it. Because what we’ve relearned in painful fashion over the past few months is that Wall Street can’t thrive so long as Main Street is struggling. So to strengthen our long-term economic competitiveness – a subject I’ll be addressing in depth tomorrow – we need to build an economy that lifts up all Americans.

But if we’re serious about making America more competitive in the 21st century, we also have to finally solve our energy crisis. This is something John McCain talked about in a speech earlier today. Now, Senator McCain has done more than some in his party when it comes to climate change, and that’s commendable. But there are real differences between us on energy reform and I think that’s important for the American people to understand.

Time and time again, when he’s had the chance, Senator McCain has opposed real solutions to our energy crisis. While I was reaching across the aisle to build support for a plan to double our fuel efficiency standards, Senator McCain was voting against biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. And against an energy bill that his own campaign co-chair called “the biggest legislative breakthrough we’ve had” since he’s been in the Senate. That bill certainly wasn’t perfect – it contained irresponsible tax breaks for oil companies that I consistently opposed, and that I will repeal as President. But it also represented the largest ever investment in renewable sources of energy, and that’s why I supported it.

But it’s not just that there’s a difference between what we’ve done in the past; it’s that there’s a big difference between what we’re proposing for the future. Because while I’m glad Senator McCain is talking about energy on the campaign trail, what he’s proposing isn’t a serious plan to solve the problem. He wants a gas tax holiday that will save you – at most – thirty cents a day for three months. And that’s only if the oil companies don’t just jack up the price and pocket the savings themselves, which is exactly what they did when we tried to do the same thing in Illinois.

And he wants to open our coastlines to drilling – a proposal that his own top economic advisor admitted won’t provide any short-term relief at the pump. It’s a proposal that George Bush’s Administration says will not provide a drop of oil for at least a decade. And by the time the drilling is fully underway in twenty years, our own Department of Energy says that the effect on gas prices will be “insignificant.” Just today, we heard from the head of the government office whose mission is to provide an unbiased analysis of energy policy – and he said that this idea won’t affect gas prices much.

Now, Senator McCain noted the other day that the idea on coastal drilling that he and President Bush have offered polls well, and I acknowledge that. Perhaps that’s why Senator McCain changed his position. But what we need now are not appealing but meaningless gimmicks designed to get politicians through the next election – gimmicks that offer no real relief to struggling motorists.

What we need now is a serious, national commitment to meet our responsibility to our country and the next generation; a serious and sustained commitment to transition our economy from our dependence on oil to clean, affordable sources of energy. What we need now is to make America the world leader in the development of these fuels and environmental technology.

That’s what I’m offering. I wish I could just make gas prices come down on their own, but I can’t.  What I can do – and what I will do – is push for a second stimulus package that will send out another round of rebate checks to the American people.  What I will do as President is tax the record profits of oil companies and use the money to help struggling families pay their energy bills.  I will provide a $1,000 tax cut that will go to 95% of all workers and their families in this country. And I will fully close the loophole that allows corporations like Enron to engage in unregulated speculation that ends up artificially driving up the price of oil.

That’s how we’ll provide short-term relief to the American people. But we also need a long-term strategy to solve this crisis.  When America wanted to send a man to the moon, we put the full resources of our federal government behind it and spent over $100 billion in today’s dollars. Well, I want to make an even bigger commitment to free this nation from its addiction to oil. And that’s why I will invest $150 billion over the next ten years in alternative sources of energy like wind power, and solar power, and advanced biofuels – investments that will create up to five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced; and that will create billions of dollars in new business. That’s the kind of leadership we need to realize the promise of clean energy for our economy, our safety, and our security. And that’s the kind of leadership I will offer as President of the United States."

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