McCain hinders solar energy

Justin Huggins

At the first presidential debate, as Sen. Barack Obama hammered his opponent on alternative energy, Sen. John McCain remarked, “”No one from Arizona is against solar.””

The comment was facetious, clearly, since the sun could power a Christmas tree in the dead of winter here. But it also got me thinking. If no one from Arizona opposes solar energy, then where are all the solar panels? Where exactly is the solar energy we so desperately need?

As it turns out, Sen. McCain may be the one Arizonan who opposes solar.

McCain’s Senate voting record on renewable energy is abysmal, although he maintains, “”I have a long record of that support of alternate energy … I’ve always been for all of those and I have not missed any crucial vote.””

A quick Google search reveals that McCain is the most absent senator of the 110th Congress, having missed over 60 percent of the votes. In fact, Amanda Terkel of Think Progress writes, “”He even beats Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who took several months off while recovering from a brain hemorrhage.”” I’ll let you decide whether any of those votes he missed were “”crucial.””

For starters, last December the Senate voted on a measure that would have provided $13 billion for renewable energy – er, or should I say “”alternative energy”” – over the next five years. The vote for closure, which requires 60 “”for”” votes, on the measure failed but only just, with 59 senators in support, 40 against and one missing in action. That missing senator? None other than McCain. The measure failed by one vote as a direct result of McCain’s absence.

In February this same scenario played out: different bill, same one-vote failure. According to the Huffington Post, “”The Senate version of the Stimulus package had provisions for roughly $5 billion in renewable energy, energy efficiency and green jobs.””

Again, the vote played out to be 59 for, 40 against and one absent. I won’t tell you who that one senator was because you’ll probably pull out your hair and scream, but I’ll give you one guess. If you’re stuck, here’s a helpful hint: His last name starts with “”Mc”” and rhymes with “”same.””

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times highlighted another instance: “”On July 30, the Senate was voting for the eighth time in the past year on a broad, vitally important bill – S. 3335 – that would have extended the investment tax credits for installing solar energy and the production tax credits for building wind turbines and other energy-efficiency systems.””

Again, however, McCain’s seat in the Senate was collecting dust, and the measure was defeated, providing a crippling blow to the solar industry that relies on these credits, which will expire this December.

Solar projects here in Arizona have even been put on hold as a result of this vote, including the Solana solar power plant – the biggest proposed solar energy project in history, some 70 miles southwest of Phoenix. For now, the solar panels are still largely absent from McCain’s home state, although the sun is here most every day – energy for the taking, yet no one is taking.

Friedman sums it up concisely, “”In fact, John McCain has a perfect record on this renewable energy legislation. He has missed all eight votes over the last year – which effectively counts as a no vote each time. Once, he was even in the Senate and wouldn’t leave his office to vote.””

And yet McCain claims he supports solar energy and alternative energy strategies. His words are hollow and patently false, but his actions are inexcusable.

If it isn’t obvious, these votes were crucial. These bills are not only critical to Arizona, but to all of America, for the dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue.

A single McCain vote would have made the difference in many of these instances, but sadly his priorities are askew.

Perhaps, then, McCain said it best at the debate: “”No one can be opposed to alternate energy.”” No one except McCain.


– Justin Huggins is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.