PICKENS, S.C. - Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson said Wednesday that tapping oil reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would help lower gas prices.
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"We've got this silly battle going on about ANWR," said Thompson, who voted in favor of drilling the refuge as a former Tennessee senator.
"We've got the reserves up there that can be tapped," he told a crowd of about 50 people packed into a small cafe in this early voting state. "They're not going to solve our problem, but it's one step we can take."
Thompson's remarks came a day after environmental and Native Alaskan groups asked a federal appeals court to block Royal Dutch Shell's plans for exploratory oil drilling near the refuge. The U.S. Mineral Management Service decided this year to allow the energy giant to drill up to 12 exploratory oil wells in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast of Alaska.
At a later stop in Anderson, Thompson said other energy options include more coal and nuclear power, as well as undeveloped technologies.
"All of these parts are all relatively small parts of the solution," he told about 200 people at a restaurant. "ANWR would be a relatively small part of the solution, but these are all going to be small parts of the solution. We've got to do them all."
Thompson said the country must reduce its dependence on fuel from unstable partners in the Middle East, Russia and Venezuela.
"So much of it is coming from problem areas in the world, and it's making us a hostage, in many respects," he said in response to a question from the cafe crowd in Pickens. "What we've got to do is not be so dependent on the wrong places in the world."
Thompson also said maintaining a strong military could help global stability, which would keep oil prices consistent.
"That does more to keep oil prices under control, probably, than anything else," he said.