U.S. Rep. Greg Walden announces his sponsorship of a bill that would expand veterans' benefits

by: KEVIN GABOURY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Congressman Greg Walden addresses members of the Crook County Rotary Club on Tuesday to announce his support of extended G.I. Bill benefits.

Oregon Republican Congressman Greg Walden addressed members of the Crook County Rotary Club at Barney Prine's Steakhouse in Prineville Tuesday to announce his sponsorship of an effort to expand G.I. Bill benefits, which could help give veterans better access to educational opportunities.
   "Our Oregon Guardsmen and women in the service have never been used more than they have in the last five years," Walden said. "They need to be better taken care of. If we expect people to don our nation's uniform and protect our freedom, then this country should be measured by how we take care of those who serve."
   Aside from his support of G.I. Bill reform, Walden spoke extensively on his strong support of renewable energy in the state, a topic that is presently "on everyone's mind." He stated that Crook County needs to be looking into creating a "magnet" for renewable energy, as other counties in the district have done.
   "There are counties in this district who have been able to take advantage of wind power and it doubled the valuation of their tax base," he said.
   Walden supported the first increase in 20 years of mileage standards on vehicles; a move he said could save billions of gallons of gasoline over time. He mentioned that since the United States imports 69 percent of what it produces in crude oil and gasoline, the nation has to become more energy independent, and he feels that cellulosic ethanol, rather than corn-based ethanol, is the answer.
   "I don't think corn-based ethanol is the answer. It has its own set of issues," the congressman said. "But what comes on after that could be very substantial - and that is the development of cellulosic fuels."
   Touted as the "fuel of the future," cellulosic ethanol could substantially reduce greenhouse emissions from gasoline by 85 percent.
   He stressed the importance of woody biomass energy, a renewable energy source that Crook County may tap into in the near future. He said there are presently some technological challenges that exist with woody biomass, but "we are getting very close."
   Walden also spoke of the importance of re-authorization of county timber payment program, saying, "It means a lot to this county and every other county in this district."
   On the same topic, he emphasized the need to change forest policies in the state.
   "If you're concerned about global climate change and temperature increases, then we have to properly manage our forests," he said.
   "Healthy green forests are carbon sinks. Old dead, decaying and burning forests emit carbon. For those in the area who are concerned about carbon emissions and want to do something about it, help us change forest policies," Walden said.
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