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US Sen. Scott Brown, challenger ElizabethWarren differ on energy policies

It’s among the ways the two candidates differ on energy policy as their tight race nears its finish. But it’s not the only way.

The Republican Brown is bullish on “fracking,” the controversial technique for unlocking vast stores of natural gas, while Warren, a Democrat, has what she calls deep concerns.

Warren favors the Cape Wind offshore wind project, which Brown opposes.

Brown is a nuclear power proponent, but Warren worries it’s unsafe and doesn’t want any new nuclear power plants built in the U.S.

And Warren says the Keystone XL pipeline project would be a bad investment in a dirty fuel. Brown sees it as a job creator.

To the Warren campaign, Brown’s positions show he isn’t at all serious about the climate threats posed by burning fossil fuels.

They knock him for votes to continue tax subsidies to oil companies, and point to the money Brown’s campaign has received from people connected the oil and gas industry (about $334,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics).

“Scott Brown continues to vote for huge taxpayer subsidies to the big oil companies, even as they rake in billions in profits,” Warren said. “That’s the wrong direction for our country to go.”

Warren, too, benefits from money from groups interested in energy policy. The League of Conservation Voters has spent about $1 million in Massachusetts to defeat Brown, including a $200,000 mail campaign announced last week to highlight Brown’s “ties to Big Oil.”

Brown’s press secretary Alleigh Marre defends his votes by saying eliminating the subsidies would be like a tax increase on the oil companies, which she said will simply pass on those added costs to motorists.

The Brown campaign also says Warren’s policies, which it mocks as a narrow “none of the above” approach that marginalizes certain energy sources, will ultimately hurt the economy by raising costs.

“Elizabeth Warren’s policies will cause energy and gasoline prices to rise, hurting families and businesses while destroying middle-class jobs,” Marre said.

Many of the differences between Warren and Brown start with their responses to an issue they find some agreement on, climate change. Both say the earth is warming and human activities are contributing to it.

Brown says the country should create incentives to develop cleaner renewables such as solar, wind and hydropower, but he says nuclear energy and domestic fossil fuels must remain an important part of the mix. Meanwhile, the nation should work to decrease overall energy use through better efficiency, he says.

Warren wants to focus more on developing renewable energy in preparation for a shift from the fossil fuels she sees at the root of the problem.

“I believe we need to get serious about climate change, and we can start by ending the subsidies to big oil companies and investing in clean energy,” she said. “Right now, we’re losing out on these investments to other countries.”

Warren sees the Cape Wind offshore wind project as a step toward that shift to renewable power. She says the 130-turbine project planned for Nantucket Sound, which aims to be the nation’s first offshore wind farm, will provide both clean energy and good jobs.

Brown says he supports wind power, but Cape Wind is planned for the wrong location. He says Nantucket Sound is a national treasure and compared the Cape Wind project to building windmills in the Grand Canyon.

Warren’s focus on developing renewable power drives opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport heavy tar-sands crude oil from Canada to Texas’ Gulf Coast refineries.

“We should be making investments to grow the clean energy economy, not continuing to support dirty fuel,” she said, dismissing claims the project would be a major job creator or drive down gas prices.

Brown counters that the pipeline will, in fact, create thousands of jobs and help suppress gas prices.

He’s also enthusiastic about fracking, a technique that’s recovered large reserves of natural gas by pumping volumes of water, plus sand and chemicals, deep underground to break shale apart and free the gas. Brown says it can be done safely and help achieve energy independence.

Warren, though, believes fracking poses possible health and environmental risks, particularly to the water supply. Fracking, she says, should be subjected to federal safe drinking water laws.

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