Raising the energy bar

Story by Chris Graham
freepress2@ntelos.net

Gotta agree with Chris Saxman on the energy issue.

“There isn’t an answer,” Saxman told me yesterday, emphasizing the word “an.”

That’s right on point with where I am on the energy issue. There isn’t an answer; it’s a lot more complicated than that.

“These are critical energy decisions that we’re going to be making. You can’t just take bits and pieces off the polls and determine that that’s how you’re going to develop your policy,” said Del. Saxman, R-Staunton, who joined Rockingham County Republican Del. Matt Lohr at a news conference in Harrisonburg Thursday morning where the two lawmakers talked up presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain’s energy strategy, which if you read his campaign website does actually include talk about making investments in clean, alternative sources of energy and even a cap-and-trade system that would set limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, though if you listen to McCain on the campaign trail, it’s drilling, drilling, some more drilling, and poking silly fun at presumptive Democratic Party nominee Barack Obama’s call for Americans to do more regular tuneups and make sure they have their tires properly inflated.

“You have to have a broad approach to this,” Saxman said. “Let the free market be free. You have to access private capital to do the exploration and the drilling, whether it’s on land or out at sea. Because that’s going to have an impact at what it’s going to cost at the pump and what it’s going to cost to operate our power lines. That’s the bottom line.”

Saxman and I also talked more specifically about the drilling issue, which I am exploring for a story for our next Top Story Monday next week. I also talked drilling with Sixth District Democratic Party congressional nominee Sam Rasoul, who was in Waynesboro on Tuesday for a news conference at the offices of The Augusta Free Press to talk up his energy ideas. Rasoul’s focus this week was on message with what Saxman was trying to sell us as being the McCain approach to energy in terms of its breadth of scope.

“What Congress needs to be doing is doing a lot more to find an energy portfolio that moves us forward – because energy is the most vital component of every sector of our economy,” said Rasoul, who proposed reappropriating the tax incentives currently given to Big Oil to go toward the development of new alternative energies and the green-collar jobs that would come with them, investments in our rail system to reduce our national fuel consumption and facilitate the delivery of goods from shipper to retailer and the creation of incentives to make the domestic auto industry more competitive in the fields of hybrid technology development and production.

Analysts have been suggesting that the burgeoning of the green-collar sector could add 3 million jobs to the U.S. economy, and Rasoul envisions the Sixth District being a key player in the developing market.

“The backdrop here of Waynesboro shows us that we have infrastructure that we can utilize, shows us that we have skilled labor that can be used by these firms,” said Rasoul, pointing to the backdrop of Downtown Waynesboro and the industrial skyline created by Invista behind him.

“On top of that, we are in the energy corridor, a pocket of innovation. We have UVa. on one side, Virginia Tech just to our south, we knoe the wonderful work that is being done at James Madison University. We’ve got the innovation, we’ve got the infrastructure, we’ve got the skilled labor – now it’s time for Congress and our local legislators to show us their leadership when it comes to investment in alternative energies,” Rasoul said.

“We need to understand that the problems of today are not going to be solved with the knowledge of yesterday. We have to look at new ideas, fresh concepts and alternative energies that can move us forward,” Rasoul said.


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