ENERGY INDEPENDENCE….On Friday, John McCain announced that his forthcoming energy plan would “eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East.” On Saturday I ridiculed this as idiocy. After all, there isn’t an energy analyst in the world who seriously thinks we can eliminate oil imports from the Middle East. Saying otherwise, I said, was “a child’s fantasy.”

On Sunday, one of my regular conservative correspondents took me to task. If McCain is an idiot, what does that make Barack Obama? Here’s an excerpt from his energy policy page:

Set America on Path to Oil Independence

Obama’s plan will reduce oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or 10 million barrels per day, by 2030. This will more than offset the equivalent of the oil we would import from OPEC nations in 2030.

“Take off the Obama beer goggles already,” my emailer said. (We have one of those warm internet friendships.) Since we currently import less than 10 million barrels per day from the Middle East, Obama was actually promising to do more than John McCain.

Yes and no. It’s true that reducing American oil consumption by 10 million barrels a day is an aggressive goal — as it should be. Unlike McCain, though, who doesn’t care about this enough to even bother with a placeholder energy plan on his issues page, Obama (like Hillary Clinton) has a pretty thorough set of proposals to get us there. The real question, however, is how tolerant you are of clever wording. Unlike McCain, Obama doesn’t promise to eliminate reliance on Middle East oil. This is probably because his policy people have told him that not only is this impossible, but as oil production falls in the rest of the world our reliance on the Middle East is almost certain to grow, not decline in the future. So instead he pledges to “offset the equivalent” of the oil we import from OPEC. This isn’t actually a promise to cut Middle East oil imports at all, but it sounds an awful lot like it.

(Hillary Clinton, by comparison, promises to “cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from 2030 projected levels, more than 10 million barrels per day.” Make of that what you will.)

So, which is worse: flat out BS (McCain) or wording that’s technically correct but a bit dodgy in the impression it leaves (Obama)? I’d vote for the BS, but your mileage may vary.

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