With Minnesotans squeezed at every turn by high fuel prices, DFL U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken pumped his own energy proposals on Monday while taking another swipe at rival U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.
Franken said the United States should sell 50 million barrels of crude oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve between now and Election Day -- a move that he said would lower gas prices, generate revenue and deflate the speculator bubble that has helped send oil prices skyward.
Coleman, he said, refused last week to back legislation that would have lowered speculation and instead supports offshore oil drilling that Franken said would take 20 years to affect gas prices.
"People are hurting now," Franken said Monday at a news conference outside a St. Paul gas station, accusing Coleman of setting a Minnesota senatorial record for the most donations from oil companies.
Coleman spokesman Mark Drake said that the reserves are for emergencies and that little would be gained from such a sell-off. The United States consumes oil at the rate of 20 million barrels daily. Tapping the reserves, Drake said, would make an "incremental difference" in gas prices.
Drake said that Coleman supports increases in offshore oil drilling and nuclear, wind and "clean coal" power, and voted against last week's speculator proposal because it lacked an offshore provision.
Franken said that he supports renewable energy but that oil prices have risen to a crisis level, warranting a release from the reserve. Previous sell-offs under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton lowered prices by as much as a third, he said.
Franken said that part of the estimated $5 billion in revenues generated by such a sale could be used to fund development of alternative fuels and infuse $500 million into weatherization assistance to tamp down winter heating bills.
Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288