Senate candidates from South Dakota show wide range on government's role in energy development

South Dakota's candidates for U.S. Senate hold diverse positions on the government's role in energy development, from advocating a hands-off approach to supporting the regulation of power plants' carbon emissions.

The four people seeking the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson are Democrat Rick Weiland, a Sioux Falls businessman; Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds; and two people running as independents — former Republican U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler and former Republican state Sen. Gordon Howie.

Here's what they had to say about energy policy:


Weiland said large oil companies have been writing the nation's energy policy, and until that changes, it's going to be difficult to develop a smart approach that works both for the people and the planet.

The U.S. has an opportunity to transition from fossil fuels to more renewable sources, he said, but big oil companies don't like it because it affects their profits. Weiland supports the development of wind and solar power, cellulosic ethanol and conservation measures.

"If you level the playing field and get money out of it, the country will do the right thing because it will all be driven by good science," he said.

Weiland served from 2006 to 2012 as CEO of the International Code Council, an association that develops model codes and standards for buildings. Weiland said he pushed the organization to develop a green building code to encourage more sustainable development.

"Consume less and invest in more renewable sources," he said.


Rounds said government should encourage all energy development, including coal and domestic oil as well alternative sources such as ethanol, biodiesel and wind.

He said the new rule under President Barack Obama's administration to limit carbon emissions from power plants in an effort to reduce the pollutants blamed for global warming is a big mistake.

Wind energy is an important part of the country's electricity mix, Rounds said, but the nation needs a high percentage of its energy to come from firm resources such as coal-fired and hydroelectric plants.

"We don't want to exclude any energy development. We should encourage them," Rounds said. "But government should not be picking the winners and the losers and then taxing one type of energy because it has carbon in it."

Rather than extending wind energy credits annually, lawmakers should specify a time frame and then phase out the credits to give the industry an incentive to become profitable without help — a strategy that worked for the ethanol industry, he said.


Pressler, who decades ago backed controls on automobile emissions, said the nation should develop a long-term strategy to shift from carbon-based energy in favor of more environmentally friendly sources such as wind, water and solar — but it will need oil and coal for its immediate needs.

He supports a cap-and-trade-type program to encourage carbon-based energy companies to pollute less, and he would like the nation to expand its research into alternative energy sources.

He opposes the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which he said is aimed at sending Canadian tar sands oil to China, but he supports the expansion of the domestic oil pipeline system to tap into the Bakken fields in North Dakota.

"The real world that we're in is kind of a practical, moderate approach to these problems," Pressler said.


Howie said the nation has spent billions of dollars on alternative energy subsidies but has accomplished little or nothing. He said he'd like to do away with the U.S. Department of Energy and let private enterprise decide the best energy options to pursue.

He said no industries should be given long-term government subsidies.

"We have allowed left-leaning politicians to impose their favorites and subsidize the industries," Howie said. "Allow the free market to determine what works and let businesses try to make a profit."


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