Johnson Sees Utica Region as Energy Innovation Hub
Aug 7, 2012 -
Youngstown Business Journal
By George Nelson
Published August 7, 2012
Eastern and southeastern Ohio could be the hub of an era of technological innovation surrounding energy independence similar to the era that followed President John F. Kennedy’s declaration that America would reach the moon in a decade, U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson said Monday.
America landed the first astronauts on the moon within seven years, sooner than the 10 years Kennedy promised, “because he engaged every fabric of our society,” Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said as he spoke to the audience of assembled seniors at the Austintown Senior Center.
“Everybody was captivated by this idea of going to the moon,” he said. “We saw millions of jobs created.” That led to an era of “unbelievable” technological innovation that produced cellular phones, flat-panel televisions, computers and advances in medical and aviation technology -- “so much technology that makes our life easier today came out of that space era,” he said.
“We can do that again here in America. We have an opportunity right here in eastern Ohio to be at the hub, the epicenter of another resurgence of American exceptionalism and it’s around energy independence and security,” he continued.
That would mean declaring that America would go after “the 3 billion barrels of oil that we already own” over the next decade, as well as the “vast amount of natural gas and oil” in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays “that we’re sitting right on top of, whichmany experts believe is “the world’s largest deposit of oil and natural gas,” Johnson said. At the same time, the country would continue to mine and use coal, expand “our nuclear footprint” and fit wind and coal into the energy profile where applicable. Regulatory agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior would become “partners in progress with America’s businesses and industries, not just the Department of No,” he said.
“It’s not that we don’t believe that concept that America can do anything but we’re certainly not living it these days and we certainly don’t hear our national leaders talking about it these days,” Johnson lamented.
Johnson told the seniors that he fights “day in and day out to strengthen and preserve Medicare,” which he said President Obama’s own actuaries have confirmed will be bankrupt by 2024 if nothing is done to address to address the problem. That is primarily due to two reasons: the 10,000 new enrollees every day as baby boomers become eligible and longer life expectancies due to medical technology.
“We’ve got to do something if we’re going to save the system,” he said. He also repeated a frequent Republican taking point – widely questioned or discredited by fact-checker organizations – that the Obama Administration took $500 billion from Medicare for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He further criticized the health-care law as “not good medicine” during a question-and-answer session and said that while the Supreme Court upheld it, the justices did not declare it either good law or good policy, and he would continue to work to repeal it.
Questions submitted prior to Johnson’s arrival were read from index cards.
":ots and lots of taxes” will increase as of Jan. 1 if the administration isn’t prevented from permitting tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 from expiring. The expiration of those cuts will hurt “job creators” making more than $250,000 per year and result in the loss of 700,000 jobs, he predicted.
Johnson, in response to another question, described sequestration --a set of automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion to defense and other programs to take effect following last year’s debt-limit battle -- as “not a good thing.” The defense cuts would result in the smallest Navy since World War II and the smallest Air Force since its establishment as a service, and impair the nation’s ability to fight on two fronts, he said.
The largely silent group offered applause when Johnson discussed legislation that he proposed requiring both houses of Congress to pass a budget by April 15, and to dock the pay of members of whichever house doesn’t do so until one is passed.
The Republican criticized federal regulators telling state regulators how to do their job with regard to oil and gas exploration, and said there is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing, a method being used to extract the oil and gas deposits from shale, has contaminated the water table.
As the congressman began his speech, he apologized for the interruption to the bingo game under way at the senior center. He noted that there are two times when his mother doesn’t want to talk to him: when she is playing cards or playing bingo.
“Any other time she’ll call me and she’ll want to stay on the phone for hours,” he said.
Following the program, James McCormick of Austintown, a retired worker at the General Motors Lordstown plant wearing an Obama T-shirt, questioned why only the first $110,000 of income is subject to Social Security taxes, an issue not raised during the forum. “That would take care of Social Security,” he said. “That’s what my main question would be. Nobody ever brings that up.”
In an interview, Johnson said he didn’t put that law into place and couldn’t explain it. “But I can tell you that Social Security is in a very similar situation to what Medicare is. It’s going to go bankrupt in the future, in the not-too-distant future, if we don’t do something to strengthen and preserve it for future generations,” he said. He pointed to a bill he cosponsored that would prevent the federal government from dipping into the trust fund for “pet projects” as “just one of the many things that we need to do.”