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Why is Tom Udall Afraid of an Energy Debate?

I don’t get it. Congressman Steve Pearce challenges Congressman Tom Udall to an energy debate, and Tom Udall runs away from the challenge? (subscription):

With gas at $4 and the energy crunch a topic of daily conversation, Steve Pearce says it’s high time for him and Tom Udall to debate energy issues in their U.S. Senate race.

Udall says it’s too early, but his supporters already are hounding Pearce on the same subject.

An environmental group backing Udall has a rolling billboard of sorts — a Toyota hybrid — portraying Pearce as a poster boy for big oil.

This debate should be a no brainer for Congressman Udall. Prices at the pump are at $4 and rising. Tom Udall and his backers believe that oil companies are to blame, and that alternative sources of energy are the solution to the economic pinch everyday Americans are feeling at pump.

This should be a topic on which Tom Udall should feel confident about debating Steve Pearce any and every day of the week. After all, Mr. Udall comes from a long family tradition of environmental conservationists and has been able to capitalize on his father’s name to achieve political success. Sometimes people forget that, like others, he is from one of those dynastic political families – think Lujan, Block, and yes, Bush.

By contrast, Steve Pearce worked his way up from very humble beginnings in the oil fields of Southeastern New Mexico to achieve the American Dream. A self-made man for whom public service has always been a way to give back to a country that has given him so many opportunities.

Steve is not known as a great orator or debater. He is just a regular guy who has worked hard, served in the military, built a business and speaks frankly from the heart. In any debate Steve is going to be at a distinct disadvantage against Mr. Udall’s polished debate skills – honed over decades as a lawyer.

I’m sure in any energy debate, Tom Udall would be successful in portraying Steve Pearce as the poster child for the New Mexico oil and gas industry. Udall would probably point out that if it were not for the opportunities presented by the oil and gas industry, Steve Pearce would have never pulled himself out of poverty. Instead, he would have remained struggling and poor in Southern New Mexico and politics would be properly left to the political families – handed down from father to son in true monarch fashion.

Undoubtedly, Tom Udall would point out all that the oil and gas industry has taken from the state of New Mexico and its residents:

The industry provides New Mexico schools, roads and public facilities with more than $1.3 billion in funding each year. It is the state’s largest civilian employer. Each night, 23,000 New Mexicans come home to their families from jobs related to the oil and gas industry.

It is the state’s leading educational supporter and provides over 90% of all school capital investment through the Permanent Fund, saving New Mexico’s taxpayers an excess of $800 annually. The oil and gas industry also makes up 15-20% of New Mexico’s General Fund revenues. These are distributed to public schools and state colleges, fund the construction of public roads, buildings and state parks, and help keep New Mexico’s government operational.

Yes, I’m sure that Steve Pearce would be left mouth agape and without response as Tom Udall heaped attack after attack on Steve’s connections with such a destructive industry operating within our borders.

Then, Tom Udall would undoubtedly go in for the kill. Tom would point out that if New Mexicans were to elect Steve Pearce to U.S. Senate, Steve would most assuredly continue in the tradition of Senator Pete Domenici in an unabashed effort to allow more domestic oil and gas exploration.

Sensing imminent victory, Tom Udall would then put the final nail in the coffin of Steve Pearce’s candidacy for U.S. Senate by unveiling two damning photos that show the success achieved by Tom Udall and the environmental groups which support him in preventing more domestic drilling.

The first would be a picture of Dubai in 1990, when we believed drilling for oil and gas in America was still a good thing:

The second would be a photo of the same street in Dubai taken in 2003 after Tom Udall and his friends have successfully fought the continued exploration for domestic oil and gas:

Based on this scenario and its inevitable outcome, I don’t understand why Tom Udall is afraid of participating in an energy debate.