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US House candidates' energy plans reveal contrasts

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 3, 2014 at 6:44 pm •  Published: August 3, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana's U.S. House candidates claim to offer "all-of-the-above" solutions to the nation's energy problems— a familiar mantra among politicians keen to give equal attention to fossil fuels and renewables such as wind and solar.

Yet stark differences in the details of their proposals reveal a wide divide. Republican Ryan Zinke is a staunch fossil fuels advocate who questions humanity's role in climate change. Democrat John Lewis touts the potential for renewables that he says could transform the state's energy sector over the long-term, and says the effects of climate change are evident.

The candidate's dueling visions could play a significant role in November as voters in energy-rich Montana seek distinctions in the contest for the state's sole House seat, left open when first-term Republican Rep. Steve Daines decided to run for U.S. Senate. Oil and gas are in abundance in eastern Montana, which includes part of the booming Bakken oil region and some of the largest coal reserves in the world.

Zinke said those fuels offer the best hope for the U.S. to break its reliance on foreign sources. His plan seeks to streamline permitting processes to speed up oil and gas drilling on lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

"The opportunity for energy independence in the short term-remains primarily with fossil fuels, primarily driven by the shale play," he said, referring to the shale oil found in the Bakken.

Lewis puts his emphasis on non-traditional energy sources including wind, hydro and solar power and plant-based fuels such as diesel derived from the crop camelina, which is a member of the mustard family.

The long-time aide to former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus said he also supports fossil fuels, although the energy plan Lewis unveiled last month largely skipped over oil and natural gas. Those industries are doing well on their own, Lewis said.

While Zinke says he's against subsidies for wind energy, Lewis wants to revive a wind power production tax credit that expired at the end of 2013.

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