Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton put the spotlight on a key Western issue Friday night, saying the region can help lead the nation in the development of renewable energy.
In remarks to about 1,200 people in a heavily Republican town about 30 miles east of Reno, Clinton said alternative energy would cut down on greenhouse gases, create American jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
"We are now more dependent on foreign oil than we were on 9-11," Clinton said. "We are basically at the mercy of all these oil-producing regimes ... that all too often use that money against us.
"We have all this empty federal land in Nevada. It should be packed with wind turbines and solar panels."
Her remarks at the town hall meeting came a day after she and other Democratic presidential candidates largely ignored Western issues like water, grazing and mining at a debate in Las Vegas.
Nevada, a state rich in geothermal, solar and wind power, has been allowed to move its Democratic presidential caucus to Jan. 19, following Iowa on Jan. 3 and most likely the New Hampshire primary
several days later.
Unlike the debate, Clinton did not mention her Democratic challengers in Fernley. She outlined her platform to help the middle class, including her health insurance, education and energy proposals.
She also pledged efforts to restore fiscal responsibility to Washington and criticized President Bush for inattention to the issue.
"Anybody who tells you that the Republicans know how to manage the budget and balance the books, you tell them you don't know where they've been living the last 6½ years because that is not the facts," Clinton said.
"It gets me a little agitated to think that 6½ years ago we had a balanced budget and surplus in America and it's all been squandered. We now have a $9 trillion deficit."
Asked by an audience member how she would pay for her plans, Clinton referred him to her Web site for specifics. "I'm taking tax breaks away from people making more than $250,000 a year," she added.
Clinton expressed disappointment over Senate Democrats' inability to pass legislation ordering troops home from Iraq.
Their latest defeat came Friday when Senate Republicans blocked a $50 billion bill that would have paid for several months of combat but also would have ordered troop withdrawals from Iraq to begin within 30 days. The measure, narrowly passed this week by the House, also would have set a goal of ending combat in December 2008.
"We don't have enough Republicans who will vote with us yet. We need more," she said. "But the facts are pretty clear. Our young men and women in uniform have done everything they were asked to do. I do not want them remaining as referees of an Iraqi civil war any longer."
Afterward, Clinton met with about 80 volunteers during a surprise visit to her Reno campaign headquarters. She then flew to Las Vegas, where she's scheduled to campaign Saturday.
Ron Dayney, 49, an electrical engineer from nearby Silver Springs, said he attended the town hall meeting to learn more specifics about Clinton's energy plan. Dayney, who's registered as a non-partisan, voted for Bush in 2004.
"This country desperately needs renewable energy, and I'm here on a fact-finding mission," Dayney said. "Barack Obama has been specific about his energy plans, but Hillary has been vague. I don't like that."
Colleen Nestroyl, an elementary school teacher in Gardnerville, said she's still undecided after hearing Clinton. The non-partisan voter went with Bush in 2004.
"(Clinton's) talk was good but I still want to find out what other candidates have to say about education," Nestroyl said. "I want to find out who's really going to stand behind our children."
By 51 percent to 23 percent, Clinton was favored over her nearest competitor, Obama, in Nevada, according to a CNN poll conducted Nov. 9-13.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)