Party lines and pipelines: New Hampshire US House candidates discuss energy

IndustriesAssociated Press

There are pipelines and there are party lines, and what New Hampshire candidates say about the former appears largely influenced by the latter.

Asked what specific steps the U.S. should take to reduce its reliance on foreign oil, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster barely mentions natural gas, while her Republican challenger in the 2nd District, Marilinda Garcia, doesn't mention renewable energy sources. In the 1st District, there's a bit of overlap between Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Frank Guinta, but like the others, the two largely echo familiar partisan refrains.

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Garcia said the focus should be on increasing domestic energy production — namely the production of safe and clean natural gas — and increasing oil refinement capacity. Both she and Guinta support the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project that would carry oil from Canada south to the Gulf Coast, while the two Democrats oppose it, citing concerns about pollution and groundwater contamination.

Both Democrats also said they have serious concerns about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — a process that uses large amounts of water and sand along with chemicals to break rock apart and free natural gas.

"Renewable energy is the true key to energy independence and our national security, but until these technologies are fully implemented, it's important to strike a balance between oil and gas development and the protection of America's environment and natural resources," Shea-Porter said.

Garcia voiced no reservations about fracking, calling it a growing industry that has helped spur new energy production and created jobs.

"It is crucial that we allow this industry to grow and be an engine that powers our economy forward," she said.

Guinta declined to answer the fracking question but gave a broad statement on energy issues, saying he favors a "comprehensive, all-of-the-above energy approach which includes alternative energy sources, coupled with responsible exploration of our own natural resources."

The Democrats are more focused on renewable energy such as solar, wind, geothermal and wave power.

"We need more than strengthened regulations to curtail climate change; we also need increased investment in new green, alternative, and renewable technologies," said Shea-Porter, who has long called for an "Apollo-type" program for clean energy for national security reasons. "Countries as different from each other as Germany and China understand how important investment in renewable energy is for economic and national security."

Kuster agreed and called for greater investment in energy efficiency. But she said New Hampshire's long tradition of local control should be preserved so that local communities play a big role in the siting and approval of energy infrastructure projects.

"We must consider all options for meeting our energy needs, but pursue only those projects that are environmentally responsible," Kuster said.