PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — In their first debate, the top three candidates for Maine's open U.S. Senate seat differed sharply on global warming, with Angus King even whipping out a smartphone to show a chart and make a point.
Democrat Cynthia Dill, Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers and King, an independent, squared off Thursday at the University of Southern Maine in Portland in a debate sponsored by the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine.
When asked about global warming and its effects, Summers said he does not believe climate change is a result of human activities and claimed other natural forces are also at work.
King, a former two-term governor, responded by referring to a graph on his smartphone showing carbon dioxide levels have risen since the Industrial Revolution.
Dill, a state senator from Cape Elizabeth, called global warming "the biggest threat to civilized society."
On a topic that ties energy and the environment together — nuclear waste — Dill and King agreed that disposal remains an unanswered question, while Summers said the potential for nuclear energy should be kept in mind.
"The problem is, right now there's no solution to nuclear waste (disposal), and until there's a solution, in my mind, it's off the table," said Dill.
King said the industry has been saying for decades it has a way to dispose of nuclear waste. "Here we are, 50 years later and sitting down there in Wiscasset are these giant concrete tree stumps full of hot stuff that's going to be toxic for 10,000 years," he said, referring to the site of the dismantled Maine Yankee atomic plant, where concrete casks still hold spent nuclear waste.
Summers said the question that needs to be asked is how much energy nuclear power can produce.
"In terms of a storage system, I think a central repository for that does make sense," said Summers.
The three were divided on a proposed pipeline, called Keystone XL, that would bring oil from Canada's tar sands across the middle of the United States.
Dill opposes it and Summers says the country needs to be looking for new energy sources. King questioned whether tar sands oil should move through Maine pipelines, but is not opposed to Keystone XL.
The debate was held before about 100 spectators as a new TV ad, sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, began airing in Maine. It sharply attacks Dill as a big spender and King as a "millionaire" whose business took advantage of energy tax credits.
The three candidates' next debate is Monday at Lewiston's Franco-American Center.