Casper Star-Tribune, Enzi Touts Experience, Rothfuss Expertise
By JOAN BARRON
If the United States could save the half a trillion dollars a year it now spends on foreign oil, it could do wonders for the nation's ailing economy, said Chris Rothfuss, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate.
That statement seems a given, but getting to sustainable energy independence is complicated, said Sen. Mike Enzi, and will require the expertise he has acquired in nearly 12 years in the U.S. Senate.
Enzi, 64, is a Republican seeking his third six-year term.
A former mayor of Gillette and state senator, he is the only accountant in the Senate.
Rothfuss, 36, is a chemical engineer and an instructor at the University of Wyoming making his first try for elected political office.
Rothfuss describes himself as a consensus builder who can bring a scientist's perspective to the nation's energy problems.
He believes those problems are closely tied to the nation's economic troubles.
Both candidates agree on the need to tap all types of energy resources as part of a national energy policy.
Rothfuss is critical of the approach taken so far by Congress.
They "put together these one- or two-year energy policies that include a broad range of pet projects and temporary patchwork solutions," Rothfuss said.
"It's all baby steps that hopefully are in the right direction," he continued. "Since they don't really know what they're doing, we end up with things like corn ethanol. That's a horrible policy that helps a few states but doesn't help the national goal toward energy independence."
"Then you have losers like clean coal," Rothfuss added.
Enzi pointed out that all the energy policy bills presented since the energy crisis in 1973 have been a comprehensive approach and they haven't worked.
What happens, he said, is the members of the Senate, for example, oppose different parts of the bill. The upshot is there are too few supporters to give the bill the majority vote need.
Enzi has introduced an eight-step plan for energy.
"I prefer to do one, two or five steps at a time, as much as I can get a majority for," he said.
He believes this approach demonstrates he has comprehensive knowledge of what needs to be done.
"I'm willing to take baby steps if the baby steps will get me there," Enzi said.
Enzi and Rothfuss disagree on a cap-and-trade system on carbon dioxide emissions.
Rothfuss said if the U.S. becomes the best in controlling CO2 emissions, the nation can profit by selling credits to other countries.
The system can't go into effect, he said, unless the playing field is level, meaning the nation can't be giving handouts for wind technology and taxing CO2 emissions at the same time.
He also said it must be coupled with legislation to remove other barriers, which levels the playing field for next-generation coal power, coal liquefaction and other hydrocarbon technologies.
Enzi said the cap-and-trade bill as proposed would amount to an increased tax on all Americans "at a time when the economy already has enough problems."
He said it would hurt the U.S. economy while helping China.
"If you charge a power plant in the U.S. for the CO2 it's putting out, that money gets passed on to the customers of that power company, and that's a tax," Enzi said.
Enzi voted against the $700 billion bailout bill. Rothfuss said he probably would have as well because of the size of the bill -- more than 400 pages -- and the "pork" it contained, such as help for a toy arrow manufacturer.
Congress, he said, must rebuild a sound regulatory structure.
He claimed Enzi has worked to deregulate the financial sector during his years on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
He claimed Enzi supported a bill in 1999 that reversed the separation between banks, security firms and insurance companies.
Enzi countered by pointing out he was the "expediter" of the Sarbane-Oxley Act of 2002, which regulated all corporations, including banking corporations and investment banks that weren't covered.
The bill was prompted by the Enron scandal.
Enzi said he put in the bill regulations that covered accountants and corporations and also legal counsel, so they have an obligation to report something bad to a company chief executive officer, or board, and if no action is taken, to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"To say that I'm against regulation would be entirely wrong," Enzi said.
Even before 2005, he said he was trying to get regulation on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
"But the Democrats wouldn't let us bring it to the floor without putting in social programs on business," he said. "That's what collapsed them."
"It's easy if you don't have a record to concentrate on the other person's record," Enzi added. "And I really get upset when mine is denigrated."
What needs to be done now, he said, is basic reform of the mortgage market.
Contact capital bureau reporter Joan Barron at (307) 632-1244 or firstname.lastname@example.org