By Justin Cox

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON – As the nation prepares to elect a new president in November, congressional lawmakers in Washington, D.C., are looking to address the future needs of the country.

Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, addressed the many facets of rising energy costs facing the nation's consumers – including gas prices, oil dependency, offshore drilling, automotive fuel and other energy alternatives – during a monthly Lunch and Learn session Wednesday.

Hosted by the Belton Chamber of Commerce, the session was held at the Lord Conference Center on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Carter also talked about transportation and immigration, which are sure to be hot issues during this fall's state House District 55 race. Both candidates vying for that seat, Democratic nominee Sam Murphey and Republican nominee Ralph Sheffield, attended the session.

Carter came prepared to talk about rising gas prices and joked about the topic in his opening remarks. But it wasn't until toward the end of his hour-plus at the podium before someone asked him if he believes rising gas prices will eventually level off.

"I think if we do nothing, we can expect it to keep climbing," he said, noting that people won't be too excited to hear that view. "I think (the federal government) is responsible for what's going on. In 1982, people were telling us that we should start looking at different ways to do these things."

We should have listened, he said. Now, rising economies of the world, such as those of Russia and China, are helping to drive up gas prices in the U.S. even more as speculators are setting the price of oil in the present by forecasting U.S. needs in the future. He said it will take a concerted effort to move to alternative energy sources before seeing any noticeable decline in gas prices.

"Speculators are driving up costs (more than anyone else)," he said. "I believe that if we show the flag, that if we show all the alternatives, they'll notice only if we show a commitment to alternative fuels."

With domestic resources, Carter said wind power, solar and hydrothermal alternatives only represent a portion of all the steps the nation needs to take.

He urged the country to OK offshore drilling in areas avoided in past decades for environmental reasons.

"With offshore drilling, we haven't had a major spill in more than 25 years," he said. "We just don't make mistakes any more. We can do this and protect the environment. I think the best short-term solution is 'we're going to do it all, folks'."

In addressing transportation needs, Carter was very pessimistic when looking at the current status.

"It's a crisis that we don't have a solution for," he said.

The transportation dilemma is a complicated series of mess-ups by a lot of people, he said.

"Transportation is on the drawing board now. ? We've got a lot of planning, and we've got to get the money from somewhere, and that will probably mean some taxes," Carter said.

The congressman also looked at the issue of immigration. He suggested that people who employ illegal aliens should be prosecuted, and also suggested a radical alteration to the system of distributing Social Security cards, which has long been outdated for verification of identification.

Carter suggested biometric solutions, such as a picture, or ideally, he said, a fingerprint or DNA sample.

Contact Justin Cox at or (254) 501-7568.

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