Emerson visits Cape; urges use of domestic oil

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

In 2005, with Congress under Republican control, members passed an energy bill setting the first national mandates for biofuels and offering big tax incentives for petroleum companies to drill for more oil and natural gas.

In 2007, with Congress under Democratic control, members passed an energy bill requiring cars to be 40 percent more efficient by 2020, increasing the mandate for renewable energy by six times and phasing out the cheap but power-hungry incandescent light bulb.

Both bills were accompanied by statements that the new laws would moderate the rapid run-up in fuel and electricity costs.

Now in 2008, with crude oil and gasoline prices at $143 per barrel, up 46 percent since Jan. 1, the push is on again for an energy bill. On Monday, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson addressed a group of supporters, business leaders and civic leaders. She called for rapid exploitation of offshore resources, development of oil shale deposits in Western states, investment in coal-to-gas technology and construction of new nuclear power plants.

"Everywhere I go, people say: 'What are you doing about gas prices?'" Emerson said. "We are hamstrung right now -- both sides are being political."

Emerson said there are two roadblocks delaying debate over developing new energy sources: "radical environmentalists" blocking attempts to produce more domestic oil supplies, and Congressional leaders of both parties who are unwilling to compromise. Emerson, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, said she wants to be part of a bipartisan group working to pass a bill that expands supplies without being bogged down in controversy.

The recently passed 2008 Farm Bill may also provide relief by wringing speculation out of the market, Emerson said. The bill repealed the 'Enron Loophole' that eliminated regulation of a significant portion of the energy futures market. The rules are being written right now, Emerson said.

Energy costs are squeezing profits everywhere, the business leaders said. Jerry Pullen, owner of Pullen Brothers Trucking Co. in Sikeston, Mo., said that while he can pass on many fuel increases, "everything else is going up right along with it."

And Keith Gregston, president and general manager of Noranda Aluminum in New Madrid, Mo., said electricity accounts for one-third of his operating costs. Fuel is huge concern as well, he said, because his company ships 1,000 truckloads of finished products and receives 400 bargeloads of raw materials each month.

"We spend a lot of money for energy," he said.

The bottom line, Emerson said, is to produce more energy to bring prices down. "The reason is we have not had a national energy plan for this country."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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