CARSON CITY — Democratic congressional candidate Jill Derby on Wednesday unveiled a plan to expand the development of renewable energy and reduce American dependence on foreign oil.
Unlike some Democratic energy plans, Derby’s plan supports limited drilling for oil in coastal areas where it would not pose an environmental risk.
But she does not support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and her plan would require oil companies to show they are developing their existing federal leases on 68 million acres.
Derby, who is seeking to unseat Republican Rep. Dean Heller in the 2nd Congressional District, also wants the federal government to release 10 percent of the oil now held at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, saying that would immediately lower gasoline prices and help restore momentum to "our faltering economy."
Gasoline prices have dropped to a national average of about $3.80 a gallon since peaking at $4.11 on July 16.
Derby said the drop in gasoline prices has provided a "psychological boost" for people, but the era of cheap oil is over and America cannot depend on foreign oil.
"By putting out this plan, I want the people of Nevada and the district to know where I stand and know they can count on me," Derby said. "I will vote on what is good for the people of Nevada."
A former state Democratic Party chairwoman and a member of the university system Board of Regents, Derby is engaged in her second straight race against Heller.
Heller beat her by more than 5 percentage points in the 2006 election. But since then, far more Democrats have registered in the district than Republicans. Two years ago, Republicans held a 48,000-voter advantage. Now the Republican lead is a little more than 28,000.
In response to Derby’s energy plan announcement, Heller issued a statement in which he called for essentially the same energy goals as his opponent.
"A successful energy policy must encourage conservation, provide incentives to develop renewable energy and allow for the development of our domestic resources," Heller said. "Any energy policy that excludes or discourages one of these three measures will prevent our nation from fulfilling our energy needs."
Heller said he has asked Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work together on a path that would bring America energy security.
But Derby contended Heller often says one thing and votes the other way. She said he has opposed tax credits for companies that develop renewable energy and has blocked efforts to end tax breaks for oil companies.
"They are making record profits," Derby said.
Under Derby’s plan, multi-year tax breaks would be given to companies that develop renewable energy projects. Ten-year tax credits would be extended to large-scale projects such as geothermal plants and solar energy farms.
Derby said Nevada, the Silver State, can earn a new nickname: The Renewable Energy State.
"Homegrown energy means homegrown jobs for the people of Nevada," she said. "Our state has a strong potential for renewable energy development."