St. Louis (CNSNews.com) - Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Dick Cheney has ripped into Al Gore's plan to dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
The former defense secretary and former top executive of the Halliburton oil services conglomerate told local radio reporters, "The Clinton administration has talked repeatedly about reducing our dependence on foreign sources of oil, but if you look at the facts, they haven't done anything. Now seven weeks before the election, Al Gore is flapping his arms and blaming everyone else. The fact is, we already have Al Gore's energy policy. We're living with it right now."
Cheney made his remarks in a roundtable discussion with local radio reporters during a fund-raising swing through St. Louis.
The vice president has proposed drawing down the 570-million barrel reserve in five million barrel increments as a way to head off higher gasoline and home heating oil prices.
But Cheney blamed much of the current run-up in energy prices on the Clinton administration's refusal to approve more domestic oil exploration. "For example, the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve was originally set aside with the idea that we one day might go in there and explore," Cheney said.
"We know there are significant reserves there. The administration has opposed it every step of the way. So when you've got a clear-cut way to increase our domestic production, they've done exactly the opposite."
Cheney was met at a suburban airport by a dozen protestors, including one dressed in a rat suit. They were from the Services Workers International Union and objected to the Bush-Cheney proposal to allow states to opt out of the federally-mandated minimum wage.
When asked about the proposal, Cheney said "Why not? We've got a lot of other things that are established on a state-by-state basis. There are enormous differences as you travel the country as to what constitutes a living wage, even differences within states. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't have that kind of flexibility within the system."
Cheney was surprisingly conciliatory on abortion, especially given that the core of the Republican Party in too-close-to-call Missouri is adamantly anti-abortion. "We understand there are good people on both sides of the issue," Cheney said.
"We want there to be an opportunity for people on all sides of the issue to support us in the campaign. We're not trying to impose any kind of litmus test."