WASHINGTON — Rep. Kenny Hulshof on Thursday used the simmering fight in Congress over offshore oil drilling to unveil the energy plan he's promoting in his bid for governor.
More than 100 of Hulshof's Republican colleagues have addressed the empty House chamber during the August recess to demand a vote on expanding oil drilling in offshore waters and allowing exploration in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve.
But Hulshof's speech Thursday also called for more exploration of oil and gas in Missouri, saying he wants to unlock the considerable oil deposits believed to lie within the state.
"I don't think that Jed Clampett is going to be moving to Beverly Hills because of the riches he found in Missouri oil, but there is an estimated 1.4 billion to 1.9 billion barrels of oil in western Missouri," Hulshof said in remarks on the House floor.
Energy policy has become an issue in the governor's race, where Hulshof's Democratic rival, Attorney General Jay Nixon, is airing a television ad criticizing Hulshof for supporting billions in tax breaks to big oil companies.
Hulshof promised to work with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to find out how much oil the state has so that more investors will consider drilling operations there. He also pledged to work to bring a refinery to Missouri and work with the Department of Economic Development to encourage more investment in energy exploration in the state.
Part of Hulshof's energy proposal mirrors a plan unveiled last month by State Treasurer Sarah Steelman during the GOP gubernatorial primary campaign. Steelman said she would urge the economic development office to lure an oil refinery to the state.
Hulshof's gubernatorial campaign released details of his energy plan following his floor speech.
Nixon spokesman Oren Shur said the Democrat agrees with Hulshof about the need for more drilling both offshore and in protected areas of Alaska.
"But unlike Congressman Hulshof, Jay Nixon knows we don't need to give billions away to big oil companies when they're making record profits and Missourians are paying record prices at the pump," Shur said.
Shur said Nixon also would focus on finding potential oil reserves in western Missouri and boost investments in renewable forms of energy like solar, wind, ethanol and cellulosic biofuels.
Other Missouri Democrats quickly pounced on Hulshof's speech, pointing out that Hulshof has missed 42 percent of the votes in the House since starting his bid for governor but found time to fly to Washington to announce his energy plan.
"Of course he skips out on the job when there's important things to vote on in Congress, but he goes back to Washington for a political stunt on behalf of big oil," said Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Zac Wright.
Hulshof campaign spokesman Scott Baker said the speech was necessary "because of (Democratic House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi's failure to take action on our nation's energy crisis."
"If Democrats hadn't chosen to sell out to environmental extremist groups for the past 20 years, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in," Baker said. "As it is, it's like pulling teeth to bring sensible energy legislation to the floor of the House in 2008. That is unacceptable for the working people of Missouri."