Former Virginia Gov. George Allen told a group of 50 students and community members in Jepson Hall Tuesday night that the United States could be the Saudi Arabia of coal and that Virginia could be a leader in breaking America's dependency on foreign oil.

"You'll hear from these pompous elites, that Americans are addicted to oil," Allen said. "Americans are not addicted to oil. Americans are addicted to freedom - the freedom and independence to move where and when we want - and I believe that Americans can keep that independence."

Allen, who has been out of public office since losing his U.S. Senate seat to Jim Webb in 2006, was at the University of Richmond to promote a conservative solution to America's energy crisis.

"We don't care what our cars run on," Allen said. "They could run on Alaska oil, Louisiana oil, vegetable oil or Coal-syn fuels, water or natural gas as long as it's available, affordable and reliable.

"The fact is that America has these resources under our land and our waters ... what has been missing is the political will to unleash those resources."

Environmentalists who seek to inhibit Americans from tapping their natural resources are practicing questionable science, Allen said. But Americans should practice what he called "common-sense conservation" to protect the environment.

Allen heavily promoted the use of coal and liquefied synthetic coal fuel as a means to break America's oil dependency, and he said such fuels were cleaner than oil that the United States imports. But using one form of alternative energy will not be sufficient, he said.

"We don't need a silver bullet for our energy problem," he said. "We need a silver buck-shot."

Allen took questions from the crowd for half an hour after his talk, and addressed topics from cap and trade to tidal energy. Allen has been opposed to cap and trade, a bill which would limit the amount of emissions which industrial plants can release, because it would limit American competitiveness, he said.

If America adopts cap and trade China will probably not, and that will increase the rate of manufacturing jobs going to China, Allen said.

Allen did not weigh in heavily on the gubernatorial race beyond commending Republican Bob McDonnell as a friend and saying that McDonnell had an excellent energy plan. Virginia would benefit from a strong governor telling the Federal government to use off-shore oil resources, he said.

The event was organized by the University of Richmond College Republicans. Kayleigh Hall, a member of the organization, introduced Allen.

Contact reporter David Larter at david.larter@richmond.edu