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The Louisiana Associated Press - Western Oil Shale Becomes Issue in La. Senate Race

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The Louisiana Associated Press - Western Oil Shale Becomes Issue in La. Senate Race

By Melinda Deslatte

A supply of oil sealed in rock out West is becoming a flash-point in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, in a bid to gain the attention of drivers feeling the pinch of gasoline prices.

Republican candidate John Kennedy said unlocking the energy source from oil shale — as much as 800 billion barrels of oil locked in underground rock in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah — could shrink the nation's dependence on foreign oil and could help ease prices at the pump."

Kennedy, the state treasurer, said his Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, has helped block the oil shale development. Kennedy's campaign is highlighting the energy issue, hoping to undercut Landrieu's image — and campaign pitch — as a senator who has crossed party lines to push for more oil and gas drilling and exploration.

Earlier this year, Landrieu cast the deciding vote in committee against lifting a moratorium on commercial oil shale leases, a vote she said she made at the request of U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

Congress must agree to remove the ban before oil shale development can begin. Kennedy said Landrieu's vote shows the senator is out of touch with people struggling to cope with $4-a-gallon gasoline prices.

"Sen. Landrieu voted against oil shale development as a favor to a friend in Washington. It's a case of putting party needs ahead of the state," Kennedy said Friday. "That's what people hate about Congress. It's just all double talk. They don't do anything."

"Now, there is a debate over energy projects in his state, and Sen. Salazar asked me to vote to decide the matter on the Senate floor, rather than in a committee where his opinion could not be fully voiced," Landrieu said. "I agreed because I believe the oil shale question merits an open and thorough debate."

Kennedy said oil shale development is one piece of a larger shift in energy policy needed at the federal level.

"You can't just turn your back on a billion plus barrels of oil for politics," Kennedy said.

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