Maine’s major U.S. Senate candidates all agree about the need to reduce America’s dependence on imported oil, but they disagree about what to replace it with and how to get there.
Democrat Cynthia Dill and independent Angus King both want Congress to support clean, renewable energy technologies to help replace oil. However, King supports expanded natural gas production as a transition fuel, while Dill says the extraction method is too risky for the environment.
Republican Charlie Summers, meanwhile, wants to replace foreign oil with whatever domestic sources can compete in the market, including oil, gas, nuclear power and renewables.
Energy is an important issue for voters in Maine, where about 70 percent of the state’s residents rely on oil for heat and high oil prices are having an especially big impact on family budgets and the state economy.
Heating oil prices have inched up to an average of $3.76 statewide and the U.S. Energy Information Administration has projected it will cost more to heat with oil this winter than any winter on record.
Mainers also are heavily reliant on cars — and gasoline — to get to work or the supermarket because so much of the state is rural and there is little public transportation. Gasoline costs an average of $3.76 per gallon, 21 cents higher than a year ago and about $1 higher than two years ago.
Here is a closer look at what the major candidates for Maine’s U.S. Senate seat have been saying about energy policy.
Dill: No environmental risk
State Sen. Dill, D-Cape Elizabeth, said the country needs to promote clean, renewable sources of energy and reject environmentally risky oil and gas development.
Dill supports federal subsidies for new domestic energy sources such as wind and tidal, but wants to end subsidies for fossil fuels.
“Government can play a role in leading the United States to energy independence by making smart investments,” she said at the energy forum in September. “It’s high time that subsidies to oil and gas companies be ended.”
Dill said the Obama administration deserves credit for expanding domestic production of oil and natural gas in the last four years, but that she would not expand oil or gas production in ways that present unnecessary environmental risks.
She opposes opening up new areas such as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, for example.
She said climate change is clearly being fueled by humans and that it presents “the biggest threat to civilized society.”
She opposes the extraction of natural gas by fracturing bedrock, or fracking, saying it is too risky for the environment.
Dill also opposes the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry Canadian tar sands oil through the United States. The project would not create American jobs, perpetuates the dependence on fossil fuels and “presents a huge environmental risk.”
Dill also opposes nuclear power development, saying there is no solution to the waste disposal problem.
King: Transition to renewables
King said he wants to move the country off oil and transition to renewable domestic sources of energy.
And he has called natural gas a transitional fuel that can reduce oil imports and lower energy costs in the short run.
Gas “gives us an unparalleled opportunity to get off oil and coal,” King said at the energy forum in September.
King said the process of extracting gas by fracturing bedrock, or fracking, can be done safely if properly regulated.
He has said moving away from oil is critical to the economy and the environment. The science linking energy use to climate change is clear, according to King.
He opposes opening up new areas such as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, saying the output would be too small to make a difference in supply or price.
He opposes nuclear power development, saying it is more expensive than other technologies and there is no waste disposal solution.
King supports extending and expanding tax credits for new technologies, such as wind and tidal power development. He opposes subsidies for the oil industry, however, saying it is well established and does not need continued support.
The Keystone XL pipeline should be allowed to carry tar sands oil from Canada through the United States if it meets environmental standards and gets approval from the affected states, King says.
King founded an energy conservation business, which he sold in 1994, and co-founded a wind power development business, which he divested from earlier this year.
Republicans have criticized King’s energy connections, accusing him of exploiting federal wind subsidies as a private developer and supporting the use of natural gas because he serves on the board of directors of a local environmental engineering company. King has denied any personal gain from public subsidies and said his political positions on energy are based on science.
Summers: Domestic production
Charlie Summers wants to expand domestic energy production and reduce oil imports as a matter of national security.
“In effect, we’re paying the people we’re fighting against,” Summers said at a forum on energy issues in September. “We need to be looking for energy sources here in the United States.”
Summers, a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, says he supports development of all domestic sources, including oil and gas, coal, renewables and nuclear power. He says Europeans have shown that nuclear power can be safe and efficient.
He wants to open more areas to oil drilling, including the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. He supports expanded natural gas production through bedrock fracturing, or fracking.
He is less concerned about moving from oil and coal for environmental reasons, saying he does not believe humans are the primary cause of climate change and that other factors also are at work.
Summers says he opposes subsidies for wind power and other renewables that cannot compete on their own in the marketplace.
He has defended subsidies for oil production, on the other hand, saying the industry employs “millions of people” and will continue to fuel the economy for the foreseeable future.