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Public Statements - Pryor Talks Oil, Other Issues at Local Town Hall Meeting

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Location: Mountain Home, AR - Pryor Talks Oil, Other Issues at Local Town Hall Meeting

ARMANDO RIOS • Bulletin Staff Writer

A standing-room-only crowd greeted U.S. Senator Mark Pryor Thursday morning at a town hall meeting at Arkansas State University Mountain Home.

The town hall meeting was broadcast live on The Baxter Bulletin's Web site.

Pryor spoke about several issues, including alternative fuels, increased oil-well drilling, the Arkansas congressional delegation's recent trip to Iraq, and a recently passed bill increasing the Consumer Public Safety Commission budget.

"The number one issue that people have been talking to me about for the last few months here in Arkansas is high gas prices," Pryor said.

Pryor said he is part of a bipartisan coalition formed to work on a new energy policy. The group has grown to eight senators from each party.

The group drew fire from leaders of both parties because it takes the energy policy agenda away from the leaders and tries to find common ground, the senator said.

The group is planning an energy summit and all the other senators will be invited to attend and hear from panels and experts, he said.

Pryor said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has told Pryor a vote will be allowed on the New Energy Reform Act.

The act calls for automobiles to transition off petroleum to nonpetroleum sources, offering incentives both to the auto makers and purchasers. The goal is to have 85 percent of all vehicles running on nonpetroleum sources within 20 years.

The bill also calls for energy conservation and efficiency and for increased oil well drilling — particularly in the Gulf of Mexico where an infrastructure already exists, both in the water and on land — as well as weatherization of homes to become more energy efficient, he said.

Pryor says the bipartisan bill includes items that members of one party or the other might not like.

Some Democrats might not like to see the call for additional drilling, while some Republicans might not like some of the conservation items in the bill, Pryor said.

A vote will be held on the bill later this month.

Pryor compared gasoline prices U.S. citizens pay to prices in other countries.

In the United Kingdom, it costs $152 to fill a 17-gallon gasoline tank, compared to $68 in the U.S., $7.99 in Saudi Arabia, and $2 in Venezuela.

"What you see here is these oil-producing countries really subsidize the price at the pump," Pryor said.

The U.S. has approximately 3 percent of the world's oil reserves and consumes 25 percent of the oil, he said.

Pryor recently visited Arkansas National Guard 39th Infantry Brigade in Iraq, together with representatives Marion Berry, D-Ark., John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mike Ross, D-Ark. Approximately 3,200 troops belong to the brigade, including a number of servicemen and women from Mountain Home.

Pryor said approximately 5,000 Arkansans currently serve in Iraq.

"They are making us very, very, proud," Pryor said.

According to the Government Accountability Office, Iraq now boasts a budget surplus due to oil flowing again, he said. Pryor wants to make Iraq start paying for its restoration.

Pryor also discussed the Consumer Product Safety Bill which he sponsored and which President Bush signed into law last month.

Last year, 46 million unsafe products — including many toys — were recalled, and there will be more than that this year, Pryor said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is being overwhelmed by the increasing number of new products entering the market while its budget continues to decrease.

The law increases funding for the CPSC and requires third-party testing of new products. Recalling products is not an efficient way to regulate safety, he said.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he said.

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