By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson said Monday he wants to open parts of the nation’s shoreline to expand oil and natural gas exploration and production.
Thompson voiced his support for expanded gas drilling as part of his energy policy, which also includes building a Canada-to-Texas oil pipeline and protecting the natural gas production method known as hydraulic fracturing.
Thompson, who held news conferences at a bar in Madison and a gas station in Milwaukee to unveil his plan, said he wants to open areas of shoreline along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska to drilling.
Citing gas prices nearing $4 a gallon, Thompson said the country was in crisis and the only opportunity for energy independence was tapping known deposits of oil and natural gas in the U.S.
He called for streamlining the regulatory approval process that he said gives opponents of oil and natural gas exploration too much leverage to delay projects and create uncertainty.
Thompson also said Wisconsin manufacturers would benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline being constructed and called for that project to move ahead.
President Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline this year, citing uncertainty over a route that avoids the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region in Nebraska.
The pipeline’s Canadian builder, TransCanada, said last week that it still hopes to build the full 1,700-mile pipeline, and the White House said it would review an application for a new route.
Thompson said he would fight any attempt by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create new regulations of hydraulic fracturing. That is a technique that blasts a cocktail of sand, water and chemicals deep underground to stimulate oil and gas production in shale formations.
The process allows affordable access to fossil fuel supplies that once were too expensive to tap, but it produces huge volumes of polluted wastewater and environmentalists say it can taint groundwater. Energy companies deny it.
The EPA is conducting a national study of the potential environmental and public health impacts of hydraulic fracturing.
Thompson also spoke out against what he called “government market manipulation” to support alternative energy sources. Thompson said they have long-term potential, but must be developed and commercialized within the free market system.
Thompson said he also supported removing ethanol subsidies eventually, but not immediately.
The biggest name challengers to Thompson for the GOP nomination by state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann. They did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin is the only Democrat in the race. She also did not immediately return a request for comment.
Thompson said his energy plan was one of several policy initiatives he would be releasing in the coming weeks.