Rolla Daily News: McCaskill Hopes To Make US Energy Independent
by Jaime Baranyai
Rolla Daily News
United States Senate candidate Claire McCaskill unveiled her plan to use renewable energy to make America energy independent to a crowd of people during her visit to the Havener Center Thursday evening.
McCaskill's stop in Rolla was one among many on her three-day tour throughout Missouri. At each place she visits, McCaskill listens to consumers who are unable to afford the high gas prices to take family vacations, commute to work or fill up their tractors, and she reveals her plan to bring down the price of gas at the pump and put an end to America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
"My plan is simple," McCaskill explained. "If we're going to be rid of our reliance on Middle Eastern oil and if we're going to kick our addiction to oil, we need to invest in renewable energy sources like ethanol, biomass, wind and solar energy for our national security and economic interests."
McCaskill began her discussion Thursday evening talking about the record-breaking high profits oil companies and their CEOs are making. As Missourians pay $3 a gallon for gas, oil company CEOs are walking away with $400 million in profits. And Congress does not seem concerned, according to McCaskill.
"The response of Congress has been to talk around the issue," she said. "They start talking, but they don't say anything."
McCaskill believes Congress needs to hold hearings to look into whether oil companies are illegally profiting at the expense of Missouri consumers. With more than 2,500 oil company mergers in the past 15 years, she also advocates making sure big oil companies are not violating anti-trust laws. Currently, the top five oil companies control over half the retail market in the U.S. and half of domestic refinery production.
"We must do things differently," she said. "With the consolidation of oil companies comes the elimination of competition, but competition is the lifeblood of free a economy. We need an reinvigoration of anti-trust laws, and we also need price transparency."
She believes price transparency is needed so consumers and investigatory groups can clearly see who is making the largest profits from the refineries to the distributors.
"We need transparency so we can see where the money is being made," she said. "And we also need to crack down on price gauging."
McCaskill said there needs to be price transparency to ensure that the rise in gas prices is not due to the refineries gouging people at the pump under the guise of Middle Eastern violence and unrest.
"I believe it is our obligation to protect American consumers from market manipulation," she said. "I will not stand for the big oil companies, who are already making record profits, gouging our families at the pump."
But McCaskill is not one to talk about problems without offering solutions. She strongly supports reducing America's demand for oil and developing alternative fuel sources to improve national security and support Missouri's farmers. America's dependence on foreign oil has put the country's national security at risk and America's addiction to oil could potentially put the U.S. economy in danger. McCaskill believes that an investment in ethanol alternative fuels and developing new technologies is critical to making America energy independent.
She said an investment in ethanol is the first important step in developing renewable fuel and she will fight to make sure ethanol production does not end up being controlled by a few big out-of-state corporations and will promote incentives that favor smaller-scale, farmer-owned processing facilities.
"Last year's energy bill was an unfortunate reflection of the priorities of Congress and the Bush administration," McCaskill said. "In the past year, they gave big oil $14 billion. The energy bill gave the steak dinner to big oil companies and the saltine crackers to the renewables, when it should have been the other way around. I opposed the energy bill because it gave too much money to the big oil companies, but I was for ethanol before ethanol was even cool."
McCaskill believes the energy bill did not go far enough to provide tax incentives to develop other renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and biomass. In addition, she said it did not go far enough to increase energy efficient technologies or encourage better fuel economy standards. McCaskill supports creating a Renewable Energy Standard that calls for 10 percent of the nation's electricity to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.
But she also realizes all the renewable fuels in the world will not help ease the nation's oil crisis if gas stations are not encouraged to carry renewable fuels and a viable market for "flex fuel" vehicles that can run on all types of fuel is not developed.
"We need to make sure these renewable fuel sources are available to consumers at the pump and that our cars are equipped to run on those fuels," she said.
McCaskill said she would support working with the automotive industry to increase the production of efficient cars and trucks through incentives. She also supports offering consumers tax credits to encourage the purchase of these vehicles and helping to create new markets by using the government's purchasing power to convert government fleets to efficient vehicles.
She said research into renewable energy sources at institutions like the University of Missouri-Rolla is important.
"Educational facilities like UMR train people to think big and solve problems," she said. "I know there's already some research about solar energy going on at UMR right now and that's exciting."
McCaskill said converting coal into liquid fuel would also be a big step in making America energy independent.
"One of the best ways we could reduce our dependency on foreign oil is by making coal into liquid fuel," she said. "The right technology could convert America's abundant coal reserves into synthetic fuels."
McCaskill is also thinking about the possibility of fusion for producing power.
"Nuclear power has gotten very safe and fusion is an even better way to efficiently produce power," she said. "A lot of people think fusion is a long way off, but it might not be. We never thought we could go to the moon, but we did it. We just have to look at all the options and keep the possibilities open."
McCaskill believes the path to energy independence will be achieved by putting the full support of the country behind the development of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies, and further investing in research into coal liquefication.
Following her presentation, McCaskill took time to answer questions from audience members and visit with individuals.
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