The United States should put the same emphasis in developing alternative fuels this decade as it did in developing a lunar mission in the 1960s and the atom bomb in the 1940s, said Democratic Senate candidate Jim Pederson.
“There’s no more important question facing our country than how we end our dependance on foreign oil,” he said Thursday during a news conference outside the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.
He outlined a four-point plan to overhaul the national energy strategy. He also invited reporters to inspect his new hybrid sports utility vehicle.
Energy policy is developing into a major campaign theme for Pederson, the former Arizona Democratic Party chairman who is running a largely selffunded campaign in an effort to unseat Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
Pederson’s conference came nearly a week after he launched a new television commercial that focuses on his plan to deflate high gasoline prices.
Also, in a sign that his campaign is gaining notice from the opposition, students from the ASU College Republicans club showed up to protest.
Pederson envisions creating an “energy Apollo program” that would focus the attention and labor needed to develop clean-energy technology. He would establish a high-tech virtual campus that would link and coordinate research among the top scientists and researchers around the country.
“A student doing work in the building behind me must be able to know what’s going on and what’s working at the University of Michigan or UCLA if we’re to see real progress,” he said.
To attract the top experts and to spur innovation, Pederson would devise national prizes for scientists doing the best work.
Reducing the country’s dependency on foreign oil also would make the country safer because it would diminish the flow of U.S. dollars to the Middle East, where money often is funneled to terrorists, he said.
Pederson’s plan echoes a strategy promoted by The Apollo Alliance, a Washington-based nonprofit organization supported by labor unions, environmental organizations and alternative-fuel companies.
Pederson also would increase automobile fuel efficiency standards to 43 miles per gallon for cars and to 33 mpg for light trucks by 2012.
He would eliminate tax breaks for big oil companies, and implement federal gas price gouging laws.
The news conference came on the same day Exxon Mobil reported $10.4 billion in profits and Royal Dutch Shell reported $7.3 billion in profits for the second quarter.
Later Thursday, Kyl campaign officials said Kyl is working to pass a “real” energy plan.
Kyl supports a Senate measure to open exploration for oil and gas offshore. Kyl also has proposed legislation to restore royalties paid by oil and gas companies for fuels produced on public lands.
Pederson said he traded in his Lincoln Navigator for a gas-and-electric powered Mercury Mariner Hybrid last week after he “saw the light.” Navigators get 13 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway, the manufacturer says. Mariner Hybrids get 33 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.