July 1, 2008

Hastings Hopping Mad About Rising Gas Prices

By Chris Bristol, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.

Jul. 1--U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings is going nuclear on the subject of gas prices. So is rival George Fearing.

Hastings, R-Pasco, made several campaign-like stops Monday in sweltering Yakima, and every time he accused congressional Democrats of not doing enough about skyrocketing gas prices.

In a brief news confer-ence outside the offices of Western Materials, a cog in the hard-hit construction industry, Hastings complained that a variety of energy bills sponsored by Republicans can't get traction in the Democrat-controlled House.

"Frankly," he said, "we're being denied that opportunity."

Hastings said he supports the "full utilization of the nation's energy assets," including nuclear, wind and solar, as a long-term way of gaining some insulation from international oil markets.

In addition, he argued, allowing drilling on new sites, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, would put immediate pressure on oil-producing countries and drive down prices in the short-term.

Democrats, he said, are dead set against new drilling despite the fact the U.S. consumes far more energy than it produces and imports more than half the oil it needs.

"There are some people out there who don't like cars," he said, "but I'm not in that camp, and I don't think most Americans are either."

Gas prices promise to figure as a key issue in the fall elections, and Hastings' most visible opponent in the fall elections, Democrat George Fearing, had some thoughts on the subject.

Fearing, a Kennewick attorney, said oil companies are more interested in profits than production and have plenty of untapped oil reserves on land already under lease from the federal government.

As for short-term reductions in gas prices, Fearing said ending the Iraq occupation would do wonders.

"Once we return the troops," he countered, "I promise you the prices will come down."

On one subject --nuclear power -- Fearing and Hastings are in near complete agreement.

They both agree that nuclear power, shunned for years as unsafe, should be part of the discussion. Fearing pointed out that several liberal European countries, particularly France, rely on it.

But their agreement was not complete, in the sense that Fearing believes Hastings, best known for his work on the House Ethics Committee, isn't up to the task of shifting congressional opinions.

"This area (Hanford) should be a leader in nuclear energy," he said, "but first we need a leader from this area in Congress to help us get going on that."

Hastings, first elected in 1994, is seeking his eighth term in the House. To date he has no opponent in the primary, which for the first time will take the top two vote-getters regardless of party.

Fearing is one of three Democrats vying for Hastings' seat. The others are Don Moody, a Wenatchee radio newsman, and John Gott, an Internet entrepreneur from White Salmon.


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