Virginia Senate race focuses on energy

Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine unveiled an energy agenda Tuesday that would promote renewable fuel sources while backing offshore drilling and the use of fossil fuels, including Virginia's coal reserves, as he looks to neutralize a top campaign issue of Republican rival George Allen.

Kaine's plan echoes an all-of-the-above approach to energy production backed by the state's two Democratic senators, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, and its Republican governor, Bob McDonnell. He unveiled it just days after those three officials came out in support of federal legislation that would overturn President Obama administration's policy and allow oil drilling off Virginia's coast.

"We need to be on the cutting edge of new technologies like wind, solar and nuclear power while continuing to utilize our wealth of traditional domestic energy resources like Virginia's plentiful coal reserves and natural gas," Kaine said.

Allen, who made energy independence a cornerstone of his campaign and who once served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has repeatedly bashed Kaine for supporting another Obama energy policy, the delay of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

"If we want to have a debate on energy, I think most people realize the proposals we've been advancing in our campaign are ones that will help create more jobs, more affordable fuel and electricity and make our country less vulnerable to hostile outside forces," Allen said Tuesday after touring First Line Technology, a small defense contractor in Chantilly.

Like Kaine, Allen is calling for a "diversity of energy supply" that would include offshore drilling, nuclear power, natural gas and clean coal technologies. While Kaine, and even McDonnell, have advocated bolstering green-energy initiatives, Allen said "the market place should decide which is the most affordable [and] reliable."

Kaine said he would "level the playing field for all sources of energy by repealing subsidies to the Big Five oil companies." Kaine often points out Allen supported those oil industry tax breaks while in the Senate.

Allen on Tuesday also hit Kaine on looming federal defense cuts, the result of a debt ceiling deal that Kaine supported and Allen opposed.

Defense spending and energy are two issues that promise to resonate with Virginia voters in a deadlocked race. Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads are dependent on the Pentagon and the military for jobs, southwest Virginia is coal country, and the coastal regions would benefit from oil drilling.

"Tim Kaine is trying to use the military for a bargaining tool to raise taxes," Allen said. "If you really want to get our economy going, unleash our energy resources."

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