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HOLLYWOOD, Md. (Sept. 11, 2008) -- On his visit to St. Mary’s County last week Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md) said that America must seek out alternative energy sources, including nuclear power, but drilling for oil in the nations Arctic reserve, a move supported by many Congressional Republicans, was not the answer to the country’s energy woes.
“It’s not the solution to our problem,” Cardin said to a group of students at St. Mary’s College on the second stop of his county visit Sept. 5.
Cardin said that the country’s current fuel cost crisis, with gasoline costing nearly $4 per gallon, could’ve been helped if Congress had enacted stricter fuel efficiency standards nearly a decade ago.
The subsequent fuel savings would have been a significant boon to the nation in these difficult times, he said.
“The amount of oil we saved would be three times the amount of oil production from the Arctic [National Wildlife Refuge] reserve,” Cardin said.
Congress took a recess at the beginning of August without passing a major energy reform package. Cardin said that a vote on a Democratic-sponsored package went to a vote eight times but did not pass because of Republican resistance.
At the same time, Republicans chastised Democrats for not passing their package, which advocated investing in “all of the above” forms of alternative energy as well as drilling in the Arctic for more oil.
Cardin threw his support behind the planned third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Calvert County as a viable example of alternative energy.
“We should have safe nuclear power… and we’re going to include that in the equation,” Cardin told the St. Mary’s College of Maryland students.
Cardin also said that the next presidential administration must tackle rising health care costs — Cardin and other Democrats support a push for mandatory health care insurance coverage — and the spiraling national debt.
Cardin said that one of the biggest obstacles in dealing with the debt was to eventually remove troops from service in the Iraq War.
“We have an incredible commitment in Iraq with no end in sight,” Cardin told. “This [Bush] administration has it all wrong.
“The new president will have to engage the international community instead of challenging the international community,” Cardin said.
While Cardin’s remarks were well received by many at his St. Mary’s College speech, some found fault.
Gary Rumsey, a supporter of Charles County school board member Collins Bailey in his bid for U.S. Congress, said many of Cardin’s ideas required further government expenditures and would not help reduce the national debt at all.
“His ideas don’t square with the national debt,” Rumsey said, who added that he agreed with some of what Cardin said. “They’re wonderful ideas, but we just can’t afford it.”
Later, after a meeting with the St. Mary’s County Board of County Commissioners, Cardin said that in his meetings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission there appeared to be no problems with the third reactor coming on line, but safety for the community was a top priority.
“I feel confident it will move forward,” Cardin told The County Times. “We want them to move this as quickly as they can consistent with community safety issues.”
On the local front Cardin said he would push for more support for projects like building a new span for the Thomas Johnson Bridge as well as more funding for a planned expansion of the runway at St. Mary’s regional airport.
Cardin also said he would help the county get higher reimbursement rates for Section 8 housing since housing costs here were higher than for most rural areas.
“We’ll try to make that [the bridge to Solomons Island] a higher priority in the state,” Cardin said. “These are projects we need to get moving.”