Oil, energy fuel Md. 6th District congressional race

October 13, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Editor's note: The Herald-Mail is running stories this month about the candidates and issues in Maryland's 6th District race for Congress. Next week's topic will be the economy and the financial bailout plan. To see previous stories, go here.

Oil prices and dependence - and a new wave of energy - are on the minds of the three candidates for Maryland's 6th District seat in Congress.

Republican Roscoe Bartlett, the eight-term incumbent, has long spoken of "peak oil," the treatment of oil as a finite resource.

In 2005, he and U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, formed the Congressional Peak Oil Caucus.

Bartlett's Web site says he once introduced a resolution calling for the U.S. to "establish an energy project with the magnitude, creativity, and sense of urgency that was incorporated in the 'Man on the Moon' project to address the inevitable challenges of 'Peak Oil.'"

Jennifer Dougherty, Bartlett's Democratic opponent, isn't impressed. She said Bartlett has spoken a lot about the issue, but hasn't offered practical solutions.


Dougherty is pitching a "Get Off the Grid" plan.

Using federal block grants, localities with 5,000 or fewer residents would dedicate land for alternative energy projects, such as solar power. One community at a time would stop relying on coal-fired power plants, she said.

Dougherty said it's been done in Norway, where one place reduced its net carbon emissions to zero.

The third candidate, Libertarian Gary W. Hoover Sr., said he sees potential in the wind-farm project billionaire T. Boone Pickens is promoting in Texas.

"The 6th District is prime for wind and solar," Hoover said. "We could bring industry in. Western Maryland is perfect ... but we need to have a focus."

Hoover and Dougherty each said they would support expanding the use of nuclear power in the U.S.

Dougherty said a biofuels refinery should be built in Western Maryland.

Officials from a company called Chesapeake Biodiesel said early this year that they want to open a biodiesel plant in Washington County by the fall of 2009. They predicted crushing 21 million bushels of soybeans a year to produce 30 million gallons of clean fuel.

Chesapeake Biodiesel's president said in an e-mail last month that the company is considering three sites in the Washington County area and still is seeking financing because a previous plan fell through.

Bartlett downplayed the interest in soybean diesel as "irrational exuberance."

Soybean fuel could only replace about 2.9 percent of the current diesel fuel supply, he said.

The most meaningful change in oil dependence and gas prices will come from Americans cutting energy consumption, said Bartlett, who has owned a Toyota Prius hybrid-electric car for several years.

Bartlett said he's "off the grid" where he lives and it's something others can do without waiting for their government to act.

Bartlett was criticized in May after saying he would co-sponsor a bill for offshore drilling at the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, an apparent change in his long-standing opposition.

But, Bartlett said his position never changed. He said he only favored ANWR drilling if all revenue went toward alternative fuel sources.

Hoover supports drilling for oil at ANWR.

"It won't solve the energy crisis, but it's a start," he said.

Dougherty, in campaign material, says drilling "can be part of America's energy plan," but warned that "there is no guarantee that oil and gas from those fields will come to American consumers."

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