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Texas Senate Candidates Outline Energy Plans

Rick Noriega (top) John Cornyn (bottom)

By Bill Zeeble

Dallas, TX – Do either U.S. Senate candidates in Texas offer a viable energy plan? KERA caught up with Republican Senator John Cornyn and Democratic challenger Rick Noriega, both campaigning in North Texas this week.

Bill Zeeble: Many of us rely on our cars. The record high price of gas at the pump is angering a lot of people, forcing other prices up, and driving both candidates to find solutions voters will like. That's why Republican Senator John Cornyn was at the North Texas Food Bank this week. He says more hungry people are turning to food banks because they're using food money for fuel. He says his solution is simple.

Senator John Cornyn: My plan is to produce more and use less. We need to produce more of natural resources we have here in America so we're less dependent on imported oil from the Middle East.

Zeeble: What that means to Cornyn is new drilling for oil and gas in currently restricted regions. Like along the outer continental shelf, parts of the west, and portions of Alaska. Cornyn wants restrictions lifted.

Cornyn: The first thing I would do is have Congress not be part of the problem but be part of solution.

Zeeble: Cornyn also talks generally of the bigger picture, meaning investments in bio fuel, solar, wind and other alternative energy sources, outlined in Senate Bill 3202 which he backs. Democratic challenger Rick Noriega does not.

Rick Noriega, Democratic Senate Candidate: He's had 6 years to address issues and he's failed the people of state of Texas. People must decide will they rehire someone who's failed them or do we chart a new course?

Zeeble: That's politics talking, as the Democrat tries to unseat Cornyn. Noriega also says nows the chance to take advantage of an emerging energy economy that Texas can lead. He wants all the state's residential power to come from renewable sources in 11 years. He says existing coal and nuclear plants will fill other energy needs.

Noriega: We have an opportunity here. We need to seize that opportunity. In terms of renewable resources we now produce, be that wind, solar, bio fuels.

Zeeble: Noriega, like Cornyn, favors offshore drilling, but rejects exploration in the Alaskan refuge. And, like his opponent, he's also short on details, although he wants all energy options on the table.

SMU Political Science professor Cal Jillson says while both candidates sound like they're carving out new plans, they're not. They've just lifted programs from party playbooks.

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson: In an election it's all about sounding reasonable to that suburban moderate mainstream voter. If they lean Republican they want to drill. If they lean Democrat they want to conserve and bring on alternative fuels.

Zeeble: Jillson says once either man gets to Washington, the party's hard liners will take over. Stale mate.

Jillson: You me and 3 people off the street could put together a new energy policy for this country in about 15 minutes which would take seriously from both sides. Which would open some new drilling but would also mandate serious conservation, and we would then have a sensible policy 80 percent of America could get behind.

Neither party is offering that.

Copy of Energy Bill that Cornyn is Endorsing.

Copy of the Noriega energy plan.