Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Following their party platforms, 3rd Congressional District opponents Jon Porter and Dina Titus largely disagree on what course the nation should take toward energy independence, with Porter embracing coal and nuclear power and Titus emphasizing development of renewable energy.
Porter, the incumbent, is a “drill baby, drill” Republican with an “all of the above” approach to solving high gas prices, dependence on foreign oil and rising electric bills.
Democrat Titus, a state senator and UNLV professor, supports offshore drilling with states’ consent, but unlike Porter would require oil companies to invest a percentage of profits in renewable energy.
Titus also supports drawing on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, cracking down on speculation in the oil market by empowering the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to investigate and punish speculators, and removing tariffs on Brazilian ethanol.
The Titus campaign notes that the reserve — intended to protect the nation during an energy emergency — holds far more than its intended 90-day supply, and that when President George H.W. Bush tapped the reserve in 1990 the price of oil dropped $8 a barrel.
Porter has supported fast-tracking new U.S. oil refineries and opening military installations for siting those refineries.
Porter also supports drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. A U.S. Department of Energy report said drilling in Alaska would reduce oil prices by about 75 cents per barrel.
And he proposes using oil shale, tar sands and coal-to-liquid fuels technology — a process that turns coal into liquid fuel — to meet U.S. oil demand, all measures opposed by environmental groups.
Titus has criticized Porter for voting against increasing automobile fuel efficiency standards to 33 miles per gallon in 2005.
Porter spokesman Matt Leffingwell said the “legislation would have killed the domestic auto industry. There were no provisions in the legislation to protect American jobs.”
Porter voted in 2007 to increase fuel efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon. That bill had “provisions ... that would prevent the displacement of more jobs.”
Energy economists doubt whether U.S. government policy can have much effect on the price of gasoline, at least in the short term. The price of oil has been driven up in recent years by rising demand in Asia and the falling dollar, which has had safety-seeking investors buying oil futures instead of dollars.
And, sure enough, the price of oil has collapsed in recent weeks, not because of any government policy, but because of a slumping economy that will almost certainly mean less demand for oil in the near future.
Porter’s campaign also says he supports development of renewable energy, a claim the Titus campaign disputes.
Titus has supported tax incentives for green businesses to locate here and a state law requiring utilities to buy renewable power, Titus spokesman Andrew Stoddard said.
Stoddard said Porter has voted against bills that would extend tax incentives for renewable energy companies when those rebates were paid for by cutting tax incentives to oil companies. Porter did vote for the renewable energy tax credits when they were part of the recent financial sector bailout bill.
Titus has supported repealing tax incentives for oil companies to pay for tax credits for renewable energy developers.
Titus and Porter support a law requiring utilities nationwide to buy a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.
Although the Titus campaign says the votes show Porter “has sided with big oil,” Leffingwell said Porter knew oil companies would compensate for any loss of tax incentives by increasing prices at the pump.
Porter also supports new nuclear power; Titus does not.
And Porter supports new coal plants to meet growing energy demand in the Southwest. He supports renewable energy, too, Leffingwell said, pointing to a 64 megawatt solar plant in Boulder City built on land the City Council set aside when Porter was mayor.
Leffingwell pointed out that the Boulder City solar plant, despite being the third largest of its kind in the world, meets only a tiny fraction of Las Vegas’ power needs.
“Our economy is not at a point where we will be able to meet future demand based on the availability of renewable power right now,” he said.