Candidates Differ on Energy Policy
By Peter Slevin
LAS VEGAS -- Prompted to discuss energy policy and nuclear power -- key issues to a range of political constituencies -- the three Democratic candidates took different tacks.
Sen. Barack Obama defended his vote for the 2005 energy bill as a vote for the "single largest investment in clean energy...that we have ever seen."
Moments later, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who voted against the bill, criticized the measure as providing "enormous giveaways to the oil and gas industries."
She called it "the Dick Cheney lobbyist energy bill." She described how she would reverse the bill's tax credits to industry to fund investment in renewable energy. She said the bill "was a big step backward on the path to clean, renewable energy."
Describing a range of policy options, she delivered a subtle dig to Obama, saying, "It's not going to happen by hoping for it."
Obama said tonight that he is open to building the first new nuclear power plants if scientists and engineers can design safe ways to produce nuclear energy and store nuclear waste.
"Let's see where the science and technology of the American people take us," Obama said. He added that he would try to mobilize Americans to use less energy, from buying more efficient appliances to designing greener buildings.
"That is actually the low-hanging fruit," Obama said. "That is the thing we can do most rapidly."
Former senator John Edwards declared that he opposes all new energy plants.
He went further, calling for a moratorium on construction of coal-powered plants until carbon can be sequestered. He also used the issue as a chance to assert that Clinton has raised more money from the oil and gas industry "than any candidate, Democrat or Republican."
"We have to be able to take them on," said Edwards, who is trying to elbow his way past the two front-runners after losing to Obama in Iowa and both of them in New Hampshire.
He might as well have been talking about Clinton and Obama.
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