• This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," June 21, 2008.

    PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Up next on "The Journal Editorial Report," the presidential candidates square off over energy with drilling and nuclear power front and center. We'll break down their plans.

    And as Midwest flood waters continue to rise, a look at what the damage means for food prices in the months ahead.

    Congress finally finds a federal program it wants to cut. Too bad this one actually works. The latest in the battle over school choice.

    But first, these headlines.

    (NEWS BREAK)

    GIGOT: Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

    With gasoline prices continuing to hover around $4 a gallon, the presidential candidates squared off this week over their energy plans. In a change of course Republican John McCain called for lifting the ban on off-shore oil drilling and exploration and accused Democratic rival Barack Obama of resurrecting the failed policies of the 1970's.

    Here is a closer look at what each candidate proposes, Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Washington columnist Kim Strassel.

    Kim, let's start with you.

    A month or so ago, the Republicans were on defensive on oil prices. Now, John McCain tried to change that debate by calling for more oil drilling. Is it working?

    KIM STRASSEL, WASHINGTON COLUMNIST: I think it is. When you have $4 a gallon gas it focuses the mind out there in the public. What helps him is there is a very clear distinction between what he and Barack Obama are proposing. He says, look, America has a lot of oil resources with huge potential. We don't —supply is tight. We should go in there and drill. It will help with oil prices.

    Barack Obama is saying, you know, I am not going to do anything about more drilling. In fact, I want to do is take a lot of tax dollars and spend it on more alternative energy research. A lot of Americans go, how does that help me now?

    DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST AND DEPUTY EDITOR: Paul, there is tremendous political paradox and dilemma at the center of all of this. Back in the past, when gas prices got to $3, the public would go ballistic. They hate it had. Now it is at $4. They simply refuse to pay those prices for gasoline.

    But all these alternative energy ideas have to have gasoline and oil prices at this level to be economically viable. So the alternative really is to go with the energy and the oil that we have got and while we bring markets into some sort of equilibrium that will allow some of these alternatives in. You can't force them down people's throats.

    GIGOT: Aren't their a couple of contradictions in John McCain's message? On the one hand, he says I want to increase oil drilling in order to reduce prices. On the other hand, he says, we have to do something about global warming with a cap and trade regime. The goal of which is to raise prices. On one hand he says, yes, I will OK off-shore drilling off the coast, but I don't want to do it in Alaska.

    MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY, COLUMNIST: This is the big tent of Republican politics. He wants to bring in as many people as possible.

    GIGOT: It is a big tent and it's a contradictory tent.

    O'GRADY: It is contradiction. He hopes no one will notice. Speaking of contradictions, I notice the Democrats are saying that all of these oil companies are sitting on lease and they just don't want to bring the oil up. This is the most preposterous thing...

    GIGOT: That's one of the arguments that Democrats are using to say, look, this he drilling thing won't work. What's your response to that?