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Blunt repeatedly hits energy button in RCGA address

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 19, 2010 -  Hours before the results of Tuesday's congressional upsets around the country, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt -- Missouri's best-known Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate -- was sounding some of the same GOP themes in his downtown address to the Regional Chamber and Growth Association. 

Overall, said Blunt, what his audience needed to know was that he and the likely Democratic nominee -- Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan -- "don't agree on anything" as they battle over who will succeed retiring Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

Blunt, R-Springfield, contended that the issues driving the contest, and most persuasive to voters, are "60-40 my way" -- especially in a political climate that he called "a hot stove moment" for the country.

In particular, Blunt emphasized his opposition to:

  • The Democratic health-care package recently signed into law. He predicted that voters around the country will take action during the next two congressional elections -- this fall and in 2012 -- to overturn some of the mandates before they go into effect in 2014. He said the measure is "the first step to government-run health care," unless repealed.
  • The "cap and trade" energy package that narrowly got through the House last summer and has been stuck since then in the U.S. Senate. Blunt reinterated his longstanding view that the measure, which caps energy firms' polluting emissions and imposes penalties, will cause Missourians' utility bills to skyrocket because the state relies heavily on the use of coal -- considered a pollutant.
  • The call by some to curb off-shore drilling of oil, in the wake of the continuing -- and so far, futile -- efforts to cap BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Blunt said that the spill is the first in the Gulf in almost 50 years, and the first deep-water drilling accident since 1969.

Blunt warned against knee-jerk reactions against off-shore drilling in the wake of the accident, and emphasized that deep-water drilling takes place off the shores of many countries. "Nobody is helped by $4 or $5 a gallon gas," he said.
While acknowledging the environmental damage, Blunt said talk of higher penalties imposed against BP wouldn't overcome the fact that the nation currently has a penalty limit of $75 million per spill. Even if increased, a higher penalty wouldn't apply to this latest accident, he said (although Blunt did leave open the possibility that BP might voluntarily pay more).

What the nation needed to do was develop a reasonable policy for the future, he said.

All issues tied to jobs

Blunt linked all three issues to what he expects to be the top issue this fall: Jobs.

The health-care measure already is costing jobs, and so will the cap and trade bill, Blunt said. The same would be true of any restrictions on off-shore drilling, he continued.

Blunt emphasized that he supports all energy sources, including wind, solar, coal, natural gas and nuclear. But taking governmental actions that will increase utility costs is not the answer, he said.

"We actually make it worse by driving jobs to where they don't care about the environment," Blunt said, singling out India and China.

His biggest beef with the cap and trade bill, Blunt said, was that the penalties were imposed "way too quick" while the consequences are "way too dire."

What the government should be doing, he said, is encouraging ways to make use of coal cleaner and more efficient.

"We're the Saudi Arabia of coal," the congressman said, adding that most nations view their energy resources as beneficial. The United States has too long viewed some of its energy assets as liabilities, Blunt said.

By the way, when it comes to the Middle East, Blunt said he was particularly upset by disparaging TV ads, run by Votevets.org, that asserted that he was, in his words, "a friend of terrorists," because of his energy views. The ad asserts that Blunt supports continued oil imports from hostile nations, that the ad says are using its oil payments from the United States to pay for new weapons to use against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blunt said he was offended by the ad, and noted that his son -- former Gov. Matt Blunt -- is a Navy veteran.

As for the nation's economy, Blunt asserted that the United States was in danger of being in the same financial situation as Greece unless Congress and the White House curb spending.

In response to an audience question, Blunt said he did support some changes in oversight of the nation's financial institutions. "You need to have more transparency, more regulation," he said. "You have to be big in enforcement, big in transparency."

The audience included many Blunt allies, such as state Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country; former state Rep. Emmy McClelland, R-Webster Groves; former state GOP chief Ann Wagner, who just completed a stint as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, and her husband, Enterprise Rent-A-Car executive Ray Wagner.

Afterward, RCGA chief Richard C.D. Fleming praised Blunt for his "well-articulated" views, especially when it comes to energy -- a top issue for many local companies, Fleming added.

Carnahan will have a chance to present her views when she appears before the RCGA on June 4.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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