Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Town Hall in Youngstown, Ohio

August 05, 2008

We meet at a moment when this country is facing a set of challenges unlike any we've ever known. Right now, our brave men and women in uniform are fighting two different wars while terrorists plot their next attack. Our changing climate is putting our planet in peril and our security at risk. And our economy is in turmoil, with more and more of our families struggling with rising costs, falling incomes and lost jobs.

So we know that this election could be the most important of our lifetime. We know that the choices we make in November and over the next few years will shape the next decade, if not the century. And central to each of these challenges is the question of what we will do about our addiction to foreign oil.

Without a doubt, this addiction is one of the most urgent threats we've ever faced - from the gas prices that are wiping out your paychecks and straining businesses, to the jobs that are disappearing from this state; from the instability and terror bred in the Middle East, to the rising oceans, record drought and spreading famine that could engulf our planet.

Now how, exactly, did we get to this point? Well, you won't hear me say this too often, but I couldn't agree more with the explanation that Senator McCain offered a few weeks ago. He said, "Our dangerous dependence on foreign oil has been thirty years in the making, and was caused by the failure of politicians in Washington to think long-term about the future of the country."

What Senator McCain neglected to mention was that during those thirty years, he was in Washington for twenty-six of them. And during that time, he voted against increased fuel efficiency standards and opposed legislation that included tax credits for more efficient cars. He voted against renewable sources of energy. Against clean biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. Against an energy bill that - while far from perfect - represented the largest investment in renewable sources of energy in the history of this country.

And unfortunately, in this election, Senator McCain has proposed an energy plan that's nothing but four years more of the same.

He's offering a plan with no significant investments in alternative energy. He's offering a gas tax holiday that will pad oil company profits and save you - at best - half a tank of gas over the course of an entire summer. And he's offering $4 billion more in tax breaks to the biggest oil companies in America - including $1.2 billion to Exxon-Mobil, a company that just recorded the largest profit in the history of the United States. A company that, last quarter, made the same amount of money in 30 seconds that a typical Ohio worker makes in a year. All while here in Ohio, you're paying nearly $3.70 a gallon for gas - two and a half times what it cost when President Bush took office. Senator McCain not only wants oil companies to keep every dime of that money, he wants to give them more. Well, I don't know about you, but I don't think that's the change we need.

Instead of offering a real plan to lower gas prices, the only energy proposal he's really promoting is more offshore drilling. This plan won't lower prices today. It won't lower prices during the next Administration. The truth is, we wouldn't see a drop of oil from this drilling for at least seven years. While increased domestic oil exploration certainly has its place as we make our economy more fuel-efficient and transition to other, renewable, American-made sources of energy, it is not the solution. It is a political answer of the sort Washington has given us for three decades.

And while Senator McCain's plan won't save you at the pump anytime soon, it sure has done a lot to raise campaign dollars. Senator McCain raised more than one million dollars from the oil industry just last month, most of which came after he announced his plan for offshore drilling to a room full of cheering oil executives.

So to sum up, under Senator McCain's plan, the oil companies get billions more, we don't pay any less at the pump, and we stay in the same cycle of dependence on oil that got us into this crisis. The oil companies have placed their bet on Senator McCain, and if he wins, they will continue to cash in while our families and our economy suffer and our future is put in jeopardy.

That's the choice we face in this election. We can choose four years more of the same failed policies that have gotten us where we are. Four years more of oil companies calling the shots while hard working families are struggling. That's what Senator McCain is offering.

Or we can choose a new, clean energy future that gets us where we need to be. We can make a different bet - a bet on the ingenuity, industry and determination of the American people. That's what I'm offering.

Because after one president in the pocket of the oil companies - we can't afford another. For the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we must end the age of oil in our time.

Now, we know our families need immediate relief from high gas prices - relief to the mother who's cutting down on groceries because of gas prices, or the man I met in Pennsylvania who lost his job and can't even afford to drive around and look for a new one. And if I'm elected President, unlike Senator McCain, I won't be giving tax breaks to oil companies that are doing better than ever while you're struggling more than ever. Instead, I'll immediately give working families across America a $1,000 energy rebate, paid for with part of the record profits the oil companies are making right now.

And in the short-term, as we transition to renewable energy, we can and should increase our domestic production of oil and natural gas. Right now, oil companies have access to 68 million acres where they aren't drilling. So we should start by giving them a choice: use the land you have, or give up your leases to someone who will.

But the truth is, neither of these steps will seriously reduce our energy dependence in the long-term. We simply cannot pretend, as Senator McCain does, that we can drill our way out of this problem. Breaking our oil addiction will take nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy. It will take an all-hands-on-deck effort from America - effort from our scientists and entrepreneurs; from businesses and from every American citizen.

We all know that this is the great challenge of our time. If we fail to act, there the implications will be grave for our economy, for our security, for our planet.

But if we seize this moment, and meet the challenge, we can open to door to a new economy for the 21st century that will bring new energy, new jobs and new hope to Youngstown and communities across Ohio and this nation.

So if I am President, I will immediately direct the full resources of the federal government and the full energy of the private sector to a single, overarching goal - in ten years, we will eliminate the need for oil from the entire Middle East and Venezuela. To do this, we'll invest $150 billion over the next decade and leverage billions more in private capital to harness American energy and create five million new American jobs - jobs that pay well and won't be outsourced, good union jobs that lift up our families and revitalize our communities.

There are three major steps I will take to achieve this goal.

First, we'll commit ourselves to getting one million 150 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrid cars on our roads within six years. And we'll make sure these cars are built not in Japan, not in China, but right here in the United States of America.

We'll do it by investing in research and development; providing $4 billion in loans and tax credits to auto companies so they can re-tool their factories to build these cars; and by giving consumers a $7,000 tax credit to buy them. That's how we'll make sure American workers and American companies can thrive in a 21st century economy.

Second, we'll double the amount of our energy that comes from renewable sources by the end of my first term. That means investing in the clean technology research and development that's occurring in facilities all across the country. It means investing in tax incentives to encourage the production of renewables like wind and solar power and to develop next generation biofuels. It means finding safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste, and to use more coal, ones of America's most abundant energy sources. And it means working to modernize our national utility grid so it can accommodate these new power sources without being overrun by blackouts.

The payoff from these investments in renewable energy sources will be renewable energy jobs across Ohio and across America. Now, I know that over the past eight years, you've lost more 236,000 manufacturing jobs in this state. But I also know that Ohio has the second highest potential of all fifty states to create new wind energy manufacturing jobs - and investing in wind power could increase workers' wages in Ohio by more than $3.5 billion through the year 2020. I also know that with the right investments, this state could save $24 billion a year that you spend importing energy, and instead, power two million homes using wind power.

Finally, I will call on businesses, government, and the American people to meet the goal of reducing our demand for electricity 15% by the end of the next decade. This is by far the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to reduce our energy consumption - and it will save us $130 billion on our energy bills. One report found that right here in Ohio, improvements in energy efficiency can help save homes and businesses $1.5 billion in energy costs by 2020.

The state of California has implemented such a successful efficiency strategy that while electricity consumption grew 60% in this country over the last three decades, it didn't grow at all in California. There is no reason we can't do the same thing all across America.

In just ten years, these three steps will produce enough renewable energy to replace all the oil we import from the Middle East. Along with the cap-and-trade program I've proposed, we will reduce our dangerous carbon emissions 80% by 2050, slow the warming of our planet, and create five million new jobs in the process.

I won't pretend the goals I've laid out today aren't ambitious. They are. I won't pretend we can achieve them without cost, or without sacrifice, or without the contribution of almost every American citizen. We can't.

But I will say that these goals are possible. And I will say that achieving them is absolutely necessary if we want to keep America safe and prosperous in the 21st century. It's necessary if we want our families to thrive again - to have good jobs with good wages that let them get ahead again.

So in this election, we face a choice. We can continue down the path we've been traveling. We can keep making small, piece-meal investments in renewable energy, keep paying more and more at the pump, and keep sending our hard-earned dollars to oil company executives and Middle Eastern dictators. We can watch helplessly as the price of gas rises and falls because of some foreign crisis we have no control over, and uncover every single barrel of oil buried beneath this country only to realize that we don't have enough for a few years, let alone a century. We can watch other countries create the industries and jobs that will fuel our future, as our workers fall behind and our planet grows more unlivable by the day.

Or we can choose another future. In just a few years, we can watch cars that run on plug-in batteries come off our assembly lines. We can see shuttered factories open their doors to manufacturers that sell wind turbines and solar panels that will power our homes and our businesses. We can watch as millions of new jobs with good pay and good benefits are created for American workers, and we can take pride as the technologies, and discoveries, and industries of the future flourish in the United States of America. We can lead the world, secure our nation, and leave our children a planet that is safer and cleaner and healthier than the one we inherited.

This is the choice we face in the months ahead. This is the challenge we must meet. This is the opportunity we must seize - and this may be our last chance to seize it. So I ask you to join me, in November and in the years to come, to ensure that we will not only control our own energy, but once again control our own destiny, and forge a new and better future for the country that we love. Thank you.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Town Hall in Youngstown, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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