U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, center, addressed the Gardendale Rotary Club and chamber of commerce Thursday. Bachus was a guest of Gardendale Mayor Kenny Clemons, left. At right is Rotary Club President Mark Argo.

By Adam Smith

The North Jefferson News

Members from the Gardendale Rotary Club and chamber of commerce received a brief lesson on the nation’s energy crisis at a Thursday luncheon.

U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, spoke to the clubs about the energy concerns, conservation and what needs to be done to keep fuel and energy prices low while conserving the environment.

“I’ve never in 16 years of Congress had more people concerned about one issue than they are right now, and that issue is gas prices,” he told the club. “People are beginning to realize that we as a country have got to solve our energy problems.”

Bachus said he was concerned about citizens who have chosen to go without food, clothing or air conditioner in lieu of filling up their vehicles.

However, he laid out several plans, including the use of solar, wind and nuclear energy to help ease energy concerns.

“We’ve got to increase our domestic production of energy, conservation and new technology,” he said. “We put a man on the moon in 10 years. Why can’t we do this?”.

He said California’s Mojave Desert is an ideal location for producing solar energy because of the intense amount of year-round sunshine. He said the energy produced through solar power would equal out to twice what California consumes annually.

Not only that, Bachus said the cost of solar energy, once more expensive than coal, nuclear, oil and natural gas, is half as expensive as it was 18 months ago.

In terms of wind energy, he said the nation could possibly produce 10 to 15 percent of the nation’s energy needs within 30 years through what he called a “natural wind tunnel” that exists in the plains of the Midwest.

Bachus also touched on drilling oil along the nation’s coast and in the hotly debated Anwar region of Alaska. He said critics of Alaskan drilling have focused on the danger to the environment and the wildlife. However, Bachus said the drilling has had no effect on either and claimed that caribou are more plentiful now than ever.

“We want to go to Alaska because there are more reserves in Alaska than in the bottom 48 states, except off shore,” he said. “We can do it [drill] in a friendly manner in Alaska. We are pulling oil out of Alaska right now and we’re using less than 2,000 acres.”

As a size comparison, Bachus said the Anwar region is like a “matchbook on a football field” or the size of the airport in Columbia, S.C.

He said those who are concerned about off-shore drilling are concerned about oil spillage. However, he gave the example of the North Sea, which he said was the most fruitful locations in terms of oil production, but one that is also rough and unpredictable. “We’ve never had an accident,” he said.

Bachus also touched on the Mideast and the amount of money flowing out of the U.S. to the oil-rich nations of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Contrasting images of a dirty Dubai street in 1976 with a picture of how it looks today with some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers, he called ExxonMobil a monopoly protected by U.S. troops.

“They built that with our money,” he said.

His last plan, nuclear energy, is one he said people are afraid of because of nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986. However, there were no deaths or injuries as a result of the nuclear release at Three Mile Island and he said the Chernobyl accident, which killed at least 30 in a nuclear explosion, could be attributed to outdated technology.

Bachus said only 19.4 percent of the nation’s power is nuclear, compared with 80 percent in France.

He said a nuclear power facility in Alabama could create $300 million in tax revenue annually for the state, in addition to creating 6,000 high-wage construction jobs and 900 permanent jobs.

“We can’t solve the crisis without nuclear energy,” he said. “Nuclear energy is how we have to win the argument to become more oil independent.”

Bachus, who has served eight years in Congress, will appear on the November ballot unopposed.

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