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ANWR angst

As candidates and party officials spoke Saturday morning at the Minnesota Republican Party’s convention in Rochester, the issue of drilling for oil in the U.S. roused the delegates to their feet.

Ed Matthews, who is challenging DFL U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum in Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District, drew a standing ovation at the convention when he called for drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska among other places.

"We will drill in ANWR and the Gulf of Mexico," Matthews said.

Clinton Gerner of St. Paul was one of the delegates who rose to his feet during Matthews speech. After the speech, Gerner said he wants the country to reduce its use of foreign oil.

"Energy prices and the amount of money going out of the country on foreign oil are astronomical," Gerner said.

With gasoline prices rising above $3.80 per gallon at the pump, delegates were enthusiastic as pols talked tough on oil.

But taking oil from the Alaskan wilderness was a thorny issue for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman. Coleman, whose reelection bid was endorsed by the convention delegates on Friday, pledged during his first Senate campaign in 2002 not to support drilling in ANWR. Environmental groups have closely followed Coleman’s committment to his pledge on ANWR.

Despite the popularity of drilling in ANWR among Republican convention delegates, Coleman said he didn’t plan to waiver from his pledge.

"I stand by that," said Coleman of his pledge.

Gerner said he hopes Coleman changes his mind in light of the current price of oil.

"When situations change, you have to realize that you have to change with it," Gerner said.

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