Budget issues, energy policy and more were on the agenda for the morning meeting with local leaders

Representative Darlene Hooley, who represents Oregon City along with Salem and a swath of land that extends to the Oregon coast, attended a breakfast meeting with local business and community leaders this past week at the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce. Representative Earl Blumenauer was also on hand for the event.

In her narrowly focused remarks, Hooley addressed principally issues surrounding energy policy and global warming, with a specific focus on the role that Oregon can play in shaping the alternative energy future.

'One thing is clear: it is only through innovation that we will be able to achieve energy independence,' she said. 'Oregon is ahead of the curve in taking advantage of three new sources of renewable energy - wave energy, bio-mass and biofuels.

'Each part of the state has something to offer. Eastern Oregon can take the lead in bio-mass, the coast is ideal for wave energy, and the Willamette Valley can provide biofuels. This can bring us together.'

Hooley stated that she had two intertwined goals: to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions - which are thought to contribute to global warming.

'People in the industry tell me that wave energy is where wind energy was 10 to 15 years ago,' she said. 'Wave energy is going to happen, and Oregon can choose to be the leader, or we can sit back and let California or Washington take the lead.'

According to Hooley, the Oregon coast is ideal for generating electric current from ocean waves, and Oregon State University has already begun to research the problem.

'We have an unbelievable team of scientists working on this,' she said.

She expressed her belief that biofuels and bio-mass would replace the gasoline and coal used in cars and power plants.

'For every barrel of crude oil discovered, the world consumes two barrels,' said Hooley. 'We cannot simply drill our way out of this situation.

'I'm very optimistic about our future, both here in Oregon and as a nation. I think the sense of entrepreneurship runs deep, and will be key to addressing these issues.'

Blumenauer speaks

The Democratic congressman began his wide-ranging remarks by blasting the administration of President George W. Bush for its fiscal policies.

'With our side in charge, we've had the opportunity to sketch a vision of what a budget should look like,' he said. 'The current administration inherited a $5.6 trillion dollar surplus.

'One of the concerns of certified smart people at the time was that we would pay off the entire federal deficit - which would mean that federal bonds would be unavailable in the financial markets, to be used as investments by pension funds and the like.

He added wryly: 'It looks like we dodged that bullet.'

Continuing, he said that the Bush administration had transformed the largest surplus in the nation's history into a $2.3 trillion deficit that will continue into the future.

'We are dealing with lunacy - absolute lunacy,' said Blumenauer. 'Republicans cut federal child support enforcement to make it look like the federal deficits aren't quite as bad, even though each $1 of enforcement provides $4 for poor families with children, primarily headed by single mothers.'

Shifting topics, Blumenauer identified energy policy as the primary environmental and economic policy facing the nation.

'I would argue that it is also the number one national security issue,' he said. 'We are totally addicted to foreign oil, and we have done nothing about it.

'We're financing both sides of the war on terror. Does anybody think that we would be in Iraq if they were the world's number two supplier of bananas?

'And this isn't just a question of government policies - this also deals with what we do as individuals. We need to get this right, like we did during the 70s or during World War II, when our parents and grandparents were able to make massive changes to keep the economy going and win a two-front war.'

On the subject of tax policy, Blumenauer highlighted the alternative minimum tax, which he said increasingly imperils the middle class.

'It's a tax tsunami that is about to crash down on you,' he said. 'It used to be a millionaire's tax, but today it has morphed into a doctor's tax, a lawyer's tax and an accountant's tax. It will hit 27 million American families next year. Soon, it's going to be a tax on virtually every two-income family with children.'

Introduced during the Nixon administration, the alternative minimum tax originally targeted high-income individuals who would otherwise pay no income tax, owing to the use of tax shelters. However, when the law was written, it was not indexed for inflation - so more taxpayers have been affected by it over time.

'This is something we've got to pay attention to,' said Blumenauer. 'We've got to fix this.'

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