LVRamblings: The big one is your energy policy. I know your policy is spelled out pretty well in your op-ed, your web page and that mailer. But this young lady wrote a question. You talk about researching new technologies that will spur the development of renewable and alternative energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal. How to expect to implement your own plan when you voted against ending oil company subsidies to invest in renewable energy incentives . . .
Congressman Dent: "What Siobhan Bennett refers to is this - she doesn't want to treat oil and gas companies as manufacturers. They are treated as manufacturers under the law and they are manufacturers. They get the same deduction that every other manufacturer gets.
"I think it would be unwise to raise taxes on American energy production. What I think we should do is take the federal royalty revenues that we will collect off of Alaska and the Outer Coastal Shelf, and invest those into eighteen different alternative renewable areas.
"So I absolutely do support alternative renewable research."
LVRamblings: I think your view is the Paris Hilton view . . . She's running for President, you know?
Congressman Dent: "Just yesterday, you know, I was at a demonstration of some of this renewable research - hydrogen infrastructure for shuttle buses . . . plug-in hybrids.
"I support extending these credits in a number of areas for appliances, for hybrids. I also want to put money into the plug-in hybrid technology."
LVRamblings: How about the CAFE standards?
Congressman Dent: "I voted to increase the CAFE standards. You have to deal with this on the demand side and the supply side and I've always said that I like wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, clean coal. I like it all but not one of those sources, by themselves, will be the solution. We need diversification."
LVRamblings: You know that's exactly what Lehigh Valley Beyond Oil has been saying? There is no silver bullet.
Congressman Dent: "There is none. There is none. Siobhan Bennett keeps saying, falsely, that I oppose alternative renewables, which couldn't be further from the truth. But as I said before, if Siobhan Bennett and the truth ever came into contact, it would be a mighty collision. This is another area where she has collided with the truth.
"One subtitle of the Energy Act that I supported contains all kinds of tax incentives, tax credits - I cosponsored this Bill - tax credits for new, plug-in hybrid vehicles, extends the credit for alternative fuel vehicles, tax credits for costs associated with installing alternative fueling through the end of 2014. It provides a $500 million prize for U.S. automobile manufacturers to produce and sell 50,000 economically feasible, super fuel efficient vehicles that reach 100 mpg. So, we're trying to create prizes, too.
"Plug-in hybrids, we're leading that here in the Lehigh Valley. We have a lithium ion battery sitting over here at International battery - I've been in there. They've designed a battery that can take a charge for 250 miles."
LVRamblings: I didn't know that.
Congressman Dent: "Yeah. It's over at Snowdrift Road in the Industrial Park. They have sixty people, they'll be up to a few hundred soon. They're out of New Jersey, they're manufacturing here, and I've been through the plant. I'm trying to get them engaged with the Department of Energy about some issues that I think they should hear.
"There's also incentives for businesses and homeowners to improve their efficiency, credits for energy-efficient appliances. I voted for these in the past.
"They always refer to the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Barack Obama and I voted for it, John McCain voted against it.
"I remember I had a guy who called me and said, 'Vote against that bill! Vote against that bill! It's bad. It's bad' Right after the bill passed, he was the first guy to call and say, 'Now how do I take advantage of that tax credit?'
"We disagree with Siobhan Bennett on how we fund alternative renewables."
LVRamblings: She doesn't believe in drilling, correct?
Congressman Dent: "Siobhan Bennett has limited our options on energy. She does not believe in exploration in areas where there are actually resources, whether it's on the outer coastal shelf or 2,000 acres of the Arctic coastal plain. 2,000 acres! Then they go out horizontally - a term called fracking. Not fragging, fracking. She's opposed to that. She's opposed to oil and gas exploration, even though her grandfather was in the oil business. And she is opposed to coal technologies. I never hear her talk about coal. She opposes nuclear energy. Well, she is limiting our options. What she will do is make us more dependent on unstable parts of the world for our energy needs. In the process, we will be exporting environmental challenges. She is opposed to American energy companies and she is opposed to American energy jobs. These are jobs.
"Many of these jobs in the production sector for gas, oil and coal, are high paying jobs. Many are in organized labor. Others are not. These are good jobs that people want.
"I am not going to outsource our energy industry to state run companies like ARAMCO, the Iranian company, the Venezuelan company. I don't know why she wants to incent them to do work and punish American workers and American businesses."
LVRamblings: One person wants to know if you would visit ANWR.
Congressman Dent: "I tried once, but I couldn't get there because it conflicted with an Iraq visit. I tried."
LVRamblings: Every government agency of relevance states that drilling offshore will not produce significant drops in gas prices. They also say it will take several years to produce anything usable anyway. In light of this, do you support any of the Democratic ideas as well as drilling? I think you've said you do.
Congressman Dent: "You know, I voted for the Conservation Bill, the Energy Bill that passed at the end of 2007. It imposed the CAFE standards and also some alternative fuels. It also incented the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs and all kinds of efficiencies."
LVRamblings: It's the F.D.R. approach - whatever works.
Congressman Dent: "Look, Republicans are accused of being completely focused on supply and production. Democrats are accused of being solely focused on demand and conservation. The truth is, we have to do both. And I voted to do both. All these things we are talking about are part of the solution. There is not a single solution. There is none. Diversifying our portfolio is critical. America's energy portfolio is critical.
"You talk about the Outer Coastal Shelf. Look, if we increase production in this country, in all likelihood it will put a downward pressure on price because you're increasing supply. Now, that said, I completely understand that if we increase our output here, and OPEC reduces theirs, there may not be a price change because oil is a globally traded commodity."
Congressman Dent: "But that is not a reason for us not to do anything or not to drill. That's wrong. We are trying to make ourselves more self-sufficient, not more dependent on OPEC. My opponent, Siobhan Bennett, wants us to be more dependent on OPEC for our oil. We have to live in the here and now, so we have to deal with oil and natural gas.
"Now I believe that if you drill and get natural gas, we can affect the price of natural gas. The price of natural gas is set on a regional basis, not a global basis.
"We pay, in the United States, some of the highest prices for natural gas in the world, among the developed nations. A lot of other countries go off shore for natural gas. The Scandanavian countries, the British, they do this. They drill off shore. They don't have these prohibitions like we do. Canadians don't. We pay more than they do. That price is set regionally.
"You see Boone Pickens out there talking about compressed natural gas for cars, but you have to go get the gas - the natural gas. We can affect prices of natural gas, which is a big issue not just for American consumers, but for American manufacturers. I agree with Boone Pickens on this point, I think we use too much natural gas to generate electricity. He thinks we can replace it with wind."
LVRamblings: Do you like nuclear?
Congressman Dent: "I like wind and nuclear, and I like clean coal. They're all part of the solution."
LVRamblings: Would you support building a nuclear power plant in the 15th Congressional District?
Congressman Dent: "The truth is that we have a nuclear power plant at the gates of the 15th Congressional District, and that is the Limerick plant. It's literally across the street from Lower Pottsgrove Township, which is the extreme southwestern portion of this congressional district. That does service some of my constituents and is owned by Exelon and PECO.
"The only nuclear application I'm aware of that would service this area would be one that PPL was considering . . ."
Congressman Dent: "Yeah, and if you were to site another reactor, it would be sited there. That's where it would be. Not in downtown Allentown, not at 6th & Hamilton. You have to site these where - you need transmission lines, too. There probably aren't a whole lot of sites that would be available.
"If John McCain has his way, he's talking about 45 nuclear plants. That would be less than one per state if you think about it that way. It's still twenty-four less than the French. The point is, you would in all likelihood expand nuclear energy capacity where you currently have other nuclear plants. In this case, around Berwick, we have a lot of land and transmission capacity. That's where you would end up expanding a nuclear facility. It makes sense. i suspect a lot of people out there would want it too, because it's worthwhile up there. That would service the needs of the 15th District. We don't need to site a nuclear plant in Lehigh or Northampton County.