Whether it's drilling off shore for oil and natural gas, developing wind farms off the coast or a combination of the two, energy policy proposals from candidates of both parties seeking federal office could be a boon for Hampton Roads.
At first glance the Democratic and Republican parties seem miles apart when it comes to federal energy policy.
President Barack Obama has blocked drilling for natural gas and oil off Virginia's coast with a moratorium in place until 2017. As part of his re-election campaign he is pushing Congress to extend the wind production tax credit due to expire at the end of the year.
GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he will allow drilling in Virginia's coastal waters in an effort to make the nation energy independent by 2020. He has called for letting the wind production tax credit expire and allowing the free market to make alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power profitable.
Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, said that while the parties come at energy policy from different starting points in the end they both support the expansion of domestic fossil fuels and the growth of alternative, renewable energy sources.
Democrats champion aggressive moves to expand reliance on alternative energy sources such as wind and solar, while using subsidies for the oil industry as a "whipping boy," Kidd said. But he said the Democrats don't say we need to cut the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas "cold turkey."
Republicans, he said, trumpet the expansion of harnessing the country's coal, oil and natural gas reserves to bring down energy costs and make the nation less reliant on foreign energy sources that are often hostile to the United States. But they also see the need in the long run for the development of alternative energy sources.
"Both sides realize we have to expand or energy resources beyond coal and oil, just one comes at it through the front door and one comes at it through the back door," Kidd said. "If we could scenario out Republican energy policy and Democratic energy policy, we might get to the same place 15 to 20 years out."
Kidd said Virginia and Hampton Roads are in a good position to profit from off-shore drilling for natural gas and oil as well as the development of off-shore wind farms.
Jeff Caldwell, spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, said the governor supports both off-shore drilling and wind farms and has led initiatives in both areas.
Benefits of drilling
Caldwell said latest figures received by the governor's office show that drilling for natural gas and oil off the coast will bring in 1,900 new jobs and provide $19.5 billion in revenue to federal, state and local governments.
While Obama has expanded oil and natural gas production domestically, in the wake of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico he has been reluctant to expand off-shore drilling.
That has Virginia Democrats bucking the president on the moratorium against off-shore drilling in Virginia.
Democratic Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner have introduced legislation that would allow drilling in Virginia's coastal waters and includes provisions for revenue sharing between the federal and state governments.
Senate candidate and former Gov. Tim Kaine, a close political ally of Obama, and the Democratic challenger in the state's 2nd Congressional District, Paul Hirschbiel, both support the Webb-Warner plan.
Local Republican U.S. Reps. Randy Forbes, Chesapeake, Rob Wittman, Westmoreland, and Scott Rigell, Virginia Beach, are all on board, as is Newport News businessman Dean Longo, the GOP challenger in the 3rd District.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Gov. George Allen says if elected he will sponsor legislation that allows for off-shore drilling with Virginia's share of the revenue being dedicated to funding the state's transportation infrastructure.