U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a ranking member of the Senate’s Environmental and Public Work Committee, said candidates’ positions on energy policy will influence who wins the November elections.


U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, a ranking member of the Senate’s Environmental and Public Work Committee, said candidates’ positions on energy policy will influence who wins the November elections.


“The environmentalists don’t want us to do any drilling,” he said Monday during an interview at Ardmore Downtown Executive Airport. “The vast majority of Americans want us to be energy independent.”


Inhofe blamed Democratic members of the Senate and “far left” environmentalists for Congress’s failure to make progress on President Bush’s plan to increase the country’s oil and gas production by drilling offshore, opening the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve and developing Rocky Mountain shale. He said most Americans support expanding domestic production.


Democratic candidate Andrew Rice is opposing Inhofe in the November senatorial race. Inhofe admitted he is one of the most conservative senators in the nation, but said he was a “big spender” when it comes to rebuilding our national defense system, increasing funding for infrastructure improvements and finding money for unfunded federal mandates.


“Everyone assumes the Democrats will take over in big numbers in the Senate,” he said. “I don’t agree.”


Inhofe, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee with presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, said he supports his fellow Republican for president.


“McCain wasn’t my first choice,” he said. “He is now. I really believe McCain will win.”
The senator predicted McCain would select Mitt Romney as a running mate.


Earlier in the day, Inhofe attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Elgin for a new 10,000-square-foot facility that will be used to build initial components for a new artillery system. The new cannon is a fully automated, 155-millimeter, self-propelled howitzer with a firing range in excess of 18 miles. Eighteen of the cannons will be produced at the facility from 2010 to 2012.


Inhofe said Elgin’s proximity to Fort Sill makes it a perfect location to produce elements of the Army’s Future Combat System.


“Its proximity to Fort Sill enables combat systems to roll off the assembly line and onto the testing range,” Inhofe said.


“While air power, precision-guided bombs and missiles often receive all the glamour on the modern battlefield, cannon artillery still plays a critical role in today’s fight by serving as the only 24-hour, all-weather reinforcement for the infantry soldier — a fact proven in recent conflicts.”


Inhofe was scheduled to attend a political event sponsored by the Carter County Republican Party Monday evening in Ardmore.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.