Craig Lauren Vikse, a 22-year-old, lifelong Moffat County resident, was one registered Democrat at Mark Udall's appearance Tuesday at the Center of Craig.
Vikse almost is done with his bachelor's degree in government from Regis University. Udall, a U.S. representative for Colorado since 1998, is kick-starting a statewide tour for his 2008 U.S. Senate campaign against Republican Bob Schaffer for Sen. Wayne Allard's seat.
Although Vikse said he is unsure what he will do with his degree, he said he was glad he heard Udall speak, especially concerning his views on Social Security.
"Social Security will probably run out before I have a chance to get that," Vikse said. "It was nice to hear him talk about what we can do to save that."
Similar to his stance on other issues, Udall recommended a balanced approach.
As with health care and the energy industry, the government shouldn't look at one possibility as the only solution, he said.
Budgeting for needs such as energy independence and public well-being means doing several things together, Udall said. He included cutting down pork barrel projects in federal spending bills and scaling back on war expenditures as two possible options that can work together to save funding.
"The country faces some very difficult financial decisions, and I'm not here to tell you it's going to be easy," he said.
Udall also said the national economy would benefit if the government can use incentives to help expand the renewable resource industry. It would create jobs in rural places and help the country be more independent from foreign energy sources.
That does not mean he wants to stop American use of fossil-based fuels, such as the coal and natural gas that are relatively abundant on the Western Slope and account for much of the region's economic growth.
"I'm not talking about a zero-sum game," he said. "We're going to need oil and gas. Renewables are the future. We ought to pursue all of them."
Energy independence can't come from drilling for more fossil fuels alone, Udall added.
"I think estimates show that America holds about 4 percent of the world's oil," he said. "We can't drill our way to energy independence."
But, if the country utilizes all its energy sources, maybe it can achieve some energy self-reliance, Udall said.
Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said the Senate hopeful's message is similar to that shared by many energy industry officials during the "Fueling Thought" Energy Summit earlier this month in Craig.
"Maybe that's the bipartisan thing they all talk about," Mathers said. "I would love for that to be so. If they'd put a policy here that lets us drill responsibly, without cutting the industry's throat, we'd be in pretty good shape for a long time."
But, Mathers said he was unsure how far Udall would like to go with renewable resources. Would he, for instance, support hydroelectric dams despite environmental concerns?
That answer, too, may come down to balance.
Udall said he believes the country must develop its own energy resources, but not at the total expense of its wilderness resources.
"There are places we use to hunt and fish, we use them to camp and take our families there, some of them are too important, too special for us to drill," he said. "We've got to do it all. Balance energy with our other natural resources."