Gubernatorial candidates outline different energy plans for Virginia

Virginia’s two main gubernatorial candidates—Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe—offered different strategies to improve the commonwealth’s energy future in separate addresses to a forum at George Mason University’s campus near Washington, DC.

Both acknowledged that energy would be a key element of Virginia’s economic growth, and expressed support for an “all of the above” policy approach. Cuccinelli said he would press the federal government to move faster toward an oil and gas lease sale off Virginia’s coast as part of his broader effort to keep electricity prices competitive with other states.

McAuliffe said he would work hard to generate more jobs in alternative energy development and fully fund research at universities on cleaner uses of traditional forms of energy, but did not specifically mention oil and gas. An e-mail from his campaign said he now supports oil and gas leasing offshore Virginia because of technological progress.

Cuccinelli said he supports energy policies that encourage economic growth and keeps electricity prices, in particular, from climbing needlessly. “I will fight for Virginia’s right to develop its energy resources…and will fight burdensome regulations that put coal, oil, and gas out of business,” he said.

“We know, the federal government knows, and the industry knows there’s oil and gas beneath our continental shelf,” Cuccinelli said. “The industry is ready to go, but the federal government stands in its way. We can make our economy grow with environmentally safe drilling off our coast. This means more as oil prices rise because of the crisis in Syria.”

Virginia will need to become an energy technology leader if it plans to keep energy costs low, McAuliffe said. “There’s so much work we can do on energy efficiency,” he said, adding, “We need to provide incentives for homeowners, and move ahead on offshore wind energy development. We could light up 10,000 homes, but we also could create thousands of jobs.”

McAuliffe said Virginia will have trouble attracting and keeping new businesses if it doesn’t complete mass transit projects in its urban areas to reduce traffic congestion. “We have to take our universities’ energy research and help commercialize it, possibly with public-private partnerships,” he said. “They are taking the lead, but we have to all work together.”

The Consumer Energy Alliance sponsored the Aug. 29 forum, with cosponsors including the American Petroleum Institute, the National Ocean Industries Association, Shell Oil Co., the Virginia Manufacturers Association, and Babcock & Wilcox.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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