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Atlantic City Press - "Pennacchio, Andrews Push Energy Issues"

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Location: Trenton, NJ

Atlantic City Press - "Pennacchio, Andrews Push Energy Issues"

With escalating gasoline and energy costs, two of New Jersey's five U.S. Senate candidates have made the cost of powering our lives an issue in the upcoming election.

Republican candidate and state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio, D-Morris, Passaic, said on his campaign Web site that he dedicated his campaign as well as his time as state senator to securing energy independence within a decade.

"Energy is an issue, and when you start talking about it trickling down into food costs, it becomes a primary, primary issue," Pennacchio said Friday. "We have to take this a lot more seriously."

Democratic candidate and U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews, D-1st, based the discussion in terms of foreign influence, commenting Friday as he drove past Atlantic City's windmill farm, "Borrowing money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis is just a ruinously bad idea for the future."

None of the other candidates, including Republican candidates Dick Zimmer and Murray Sabrin, has explicit energy platforms on their campaign Web sites, nor have they apparently released position papers on the topic.

Incumbent Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., indirectly addressed it, saying on his campaign site he introduced legislation that would ban East Coast offshore drilling and encourage alternative fuel investment.

Both Pennacchio and Andrews frame the energy discussion as less about environmental and economic concerns and more about national security.

Pennacchio pointed to 9-11, partly inspired by the outrage felt by Osama Bin Laden and others over the oil-required American presence in Saudi Arabia. He also cited Hugo Chavez, a strong American critic and president of oil-rich Venezuela.

"Unless we attack this, and unless we face this head on, we are going to have to deal with the same issues over and over again," Pennacchio said.

Pennacchio has been interested in this for a long time. As far back as 1991, in a series of position papers attacked this year as a "fascist manifesto" by rival candidate Sabrin, he called for gasohol production and higher fuel-efficiency in vehicles.

Pennacchio said American leaders should have pushed for alternative fuels following the 1973 oil crisis, writing 17 years ago, "How much longer can the United States be held hostage to foreign oil cartels?"

He also called for research into cold fusion, a tantalizingly unproven theory of nuclear reaction at about room temperature and standard atmospheric pressure.

On his current campaign Web site, he writes "Our goal should be the eventual elimination of fossil fuels and the proliferation of clean, safe, renewable energy resources."

While working toward that goal, his site calls for additional oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well. He also references the American Coal Foundation, a trade group, in saying the nation has enough recoverable coal reserves to last 250 years.

Saying our imagination is the only limit to alternative energy, he called for the short-term use of ethanol, further examination of hydrogen fuel cells and increased solar power, which he calls "probably the most encouraging long-term solution to our energy needs."

Asked about carbon dioxide emissions, principally blamed for global warming, Pennacchio said the nation needs to investigate nuclear power.

"The difference between now and 50 years ago is light years," he said. "Should we do it? I don't know, but we shouldn't take it off the table before we consider it."

For Andrews, energy policy is important but not the paramount issue.

He proposed tax breaks for the installation of alternative energy sources that produce little or no carbon dioxide as well as public funding for the development of zero-carbon footprint energy sources.

Andrews called for legislation Friday requiring the government to buy at least a quarter of its energy from renewable energy sources.

If the federal government, which he called the largest purchaser in the world, did this then private developers would create new technology others would use, expanding its adoption.

He said this would create jobs in this country and could help lessen carbon dioxide emissions.

Andrews, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Department of Defense wants 25 percent of American energy to come from alternative fuel 2020, but he wanted to see it done sooner. He said the standard would not be used for critical needs like jet fuel.

Also on his campaign Web site, he supported the criminalization of oil cartels like OPEC when it forces an arbitrarily higher oil price.

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