Republican presidential candidate John McCain visited Santa Barbara Tuesday. At the city's natural history museum he touted his environmental platform. The Arizona senator also ran into stiff criticism of his support for lifting a decades-old federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling. KPCC's Frank Stoltze reports.
Frank Stoltze: McCain told an audience of about 200 people that regaining energy security is America's most urgent issue. He said that's why it's important to seek out new and proven sources of energy.
John McCain: When people are hurting and struggling to afford gasoline, food, and other necessities, common sense require that we draw upon America's own vast reserves of oil and natural gas.
Stoltze: McCain didn't mention offshore oil drilling at this appearance. But last week he said he wanted to allow new drilling off America's coasts. That message may play well in Midwestern states that could swing Republican or Democrat in the November election. It's less popular among Californians who cherish their 1,000 miles of coastline. Mike Feeney of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara joined McCain on stage.
Mike Feeney: Were we to open the California coast to drilling, it would be 12, 15, maybe 20 years before those resources came on line and got to full production.
Stoltze: Thirty-nine years ago, Santa Barbara was the site of one of the nation's worst oil spills. That event helped spawn environmental activism that continues to this day. The memory of oil-slicked beaches and birds choking on sludge is seared into the collective memory of this coastal city. Reg Campbell is a lifelong Republican.
Reg Campbell: Of course we were down on the beach, cleaning up the oil trying to save birds, etcetera. That's why, as far as I'm concerned, it's very dangerous to drill off the coast. And there's very little oil there anyway. I want us to get off the oil economy, as I said.
Stoltze: Campbell took comfort in Governor Schwarzenegger's endorsement of McCain. Schwarzenegger opposes offshore oil drilling. He didn't mention the issue either, but he did vouch for McCain's environmental policies. They promote incentives for clean technology and pledge to switch federal office buildings and vehicles to greener technologies.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: I have every confidence that once Senator McCain is in the White House, America will get back in the game of having a sensible, consistent, and forward-looking energy policy.
Stoltze: Some political analysts maintain that McCain has written off heavily Democratic California in the November election, and that the main purpose of this trip to California was to raise money. But McCain promises to campaign competitively in the state, and to carry many of its environmental policies beyond its borders.
McCain: Many Californians have understood the benefits of green technology for a while now. And your governor sure understands them. Now we need to bring that smart ethic of environmental care to Washington, D.C., and act.
Stoltze: During his two-day California swing, McCain held fundraisers that generated about three-and-a-half million dollars for his campaign. His regional finance director said that in the last 60 days, the campaign had raised more than $11 million in the state.