Sen. Bennett speaks to county residents. Lou Sansevero and Commissioner Jeff Horrocks ask questions.
Sen. Bob Bennett came to Emery County on March 7 for a visit with county residents. Sen. Bennett offered some insider's observances to the climate in Washington DC at the present time. Sen. Bennett said everyone is interested in the future right now. He is interested in the future of Utah in particular. Problems in Utah are tied to Utah's rapid growth over the past years. Utah has changed dramatically as a result of this growth. There are problems in education and transportation.
In rural Utah public land use problems and wilderness are major issues. Federal lands make up 60 percent of Utah and federal and state lands combined cover two-thirds of the state. These problems will only become more pressing in the future said Sen. Bennett. "Utah has been discovered by others and there is a real in-migration to Utah. It used to be our greatest export was our children. Gov. Rampton introduced a program several years ago to ask former Utah residents to move back home. We don't have that problem any more," said Sen. Bennett. It used to be said the California State Legislature was the best economical stimulus for Utah business. They passed legislation making it difficult to do business in California and a lot of those businesses moved their business to Utah. Utah has a better business climate.
Sen. Bennett said he sits on the energy appropriations committee and the water appropriations. He gave up his agriculture seat. "Energy and water are essential, the whole world is concerned about oil and its future. Water is the new oil. We in Utah understand that. I am in a position to be helpful to Utah with those positions," said Sen. Bennett.
Businesses have a major problem in high health care costs. Sen. Bennett said Sen. Wyden asked him to look at his proposal for health care reform. He told Sen. Wyden he would be happy to look at his proposal as long as it wasn't a single payer government system. Sen. Bennett said his health care system, gives people individual choices. His proposal also has score, which in Washington language means the proposal has been looked at by the accountants and they have attached a figure to it on its cost to implement. "Every time anyone tried to score health care in the past the response has been it's too expensive and we can't afford it," said Sen. Bennett.
Sen. Bennett said both he and Sen. Wyden attended Pres. Barack Obama's summit on health care recently and he told the administration that his health care proposal has score and is scored at revenue neutral for the first two years and will save money in subsequent years. The Obama administration is leaning towards having the government run the health care system. Senators Wyden and Bennett can save the government money. "Utah business will be affected if we can bring down health care costs," said Bennett.
Bennett discussed the Washington County land use bill currently in the House right now. He said they have been working on ways to resolve the impasse over wilderness issues for the past 15 years. People said it couldn't be done. In Washington County there are scenic vistas that do qualify for wilderness, but there are thousands of acres that don't need that level of protection. The Washington County bill brought the environmentalists to the table along with all the other stakeholders in the area including the county commissioners. It is Sen. Bennett's hope the same can be done in other counties, but he doesn't think subsequent bills will take as long to work through. It is his hope to resolve the issues on the ground and disappoint the Sierra Club. Everyone has liked the approach with the Washington County bill. The county commissioners were on board, the Wilderness Society was on board. The Democrat majority in the Senate passed the bill and it is now in the House awaiting confirmation. "They said, Sen. Bennett we like what you've done. This has been very satisfying that the Democrats will work with you. I've built credibility. The American economy is still doing better than anywhere else in the world. For all the problems we are still the most resilient in the world. We will get through this and emerge even stronger," said Bennett.
Bennett fielded questions from the audience. One question centered around energy and the future of oil and gas exploration and coal in the county. Bennett said the government has been very short sighted on energy. The issue has been looked at in small increments and the whole energy picture hasn't been addressed. The demand for electricity is increasing. We use more electricity than in the past. One group says carbon emissions cause global warming. The oil and gas leases recently cancelled were the product of several years of public process and study. They were not midnight leases signed into effect by the Bush administration as it left office. The leases were auctioned off publicly after the election. They were seven years in the making. "They met all the tests. They were clean and proper and all they needed was for the Secretary of the Interior to sign final approval and he didn't do it. They say you shouldn't have fossil fuels because of carbon emissions. We need more and more energy all the time. If you say, no fossil fuels and you say no nuclear, then where are we going to get the energy. The answer is not solar and wind. The sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. To capture and produce solar energy you need large solar panels. I ask them, do you want your wilderness areas covered with large solar panels. It also takes large amounts of water to produce solar energy. Electricity from coal actually uses the least amount of water. We can work hard on renewables, but we need to look at the whole picture. I want to explore tidal energy and hydro-power. I am not a fan of ethanol. I believe fields should grow food not fuel when we have other fuel sources available. The promised land where all energy comes from renewables is 30 years away. All the technology to do this hasn't been invented yet. Fossils fuels will build the bridge to this promised land. We can't do it without them. If that's the way it's going to be then we need to get about the way of creating and developing fossil fuels here and not buying fuel from people who don't like us," said Sen. Bennett.
Sen. Bennett was informed of a coal gasification plant likely to go in near Green River and asked him for his support of this project.
Sen. Bennett told of how they handle energy in France. In France 80 percent of their energy needs come from nuclear power. They also use tidal energy. The gas plants are turned off when the tidal energy kicks in and it saves energy. They also reprocess spent nuclear fuel rods. The rods are still full of energy. They cut them up and put them in a ball with broken glass and mix and heat and they turn into a globule. Waste is stored in a building. They reprocess it.
A question was asked about the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Sen. Bennett said the Clinton administration couldn't get it designated wilderness, but it is managed pretty close to wilderness. Bruce Babbit, secretary of the interior in the Clinton administration told Kane and Garfield counties they would make a lot of money on tourists. Sen. Bennett said the tourists come and ask, 'where is it'?
Someone asked about the illegal immigrant problem. Sen. Bennett said we must be in control of our borders and we must have a high fence, but the fence must also have a wide gate which will allow laborers to enter the country with a work permit and then return home when the seasonal work is done. Sen. Bennett believes most of those workers just want jobs and the border patrol can deal with the terrorists and drug dealers trying to cross the border.
Sen. Bennett said he voted against the stimulus package not because he is hoping Pres. Obama will fail, but because he doesn't think it will work.
The stock market doesn't like the direction things are taking; the market is telling you it won't work. Confidence has been eroded. People with any capital are at risk with the current proposals. Logical solutions must be looked at for current problems.
Sen. Bennett said too much is being spent on the wrong things. The country can swallow a certain amount of deficit while things turn around, but the earmarks that have been tacked onto the bill will not stimulate the economy. "We need to focus spending on things that will build the economy. We need roads and bridges. We need to stimulate the economy with tax cuts, the right kind of tax cuts; forget about cap and trade; I'm not for nationalized health care," said Sen. Bennett.
Sen. Bennett was asked how he feels about Pres. Obama. He said, Pres. Obama is a real human being and not a phony. "He is real genuine and very smart, but he is a complete rookie and I think he is in over his head. My advice to him, is to stop campaigning and start governing. Everybody on that White House staff will tell you what you want to hear. That White House is a trap and you don't really hear what's going on. He only goes to controlled events with controlled questions," said Sen. Bennett.
Sen. Bennett encourages Pres. Obama to get out and figure out what's really going on and not just rely on staff members for his information.