|Congressman backs fuel cell technology for U.S.|
By:Bill Doak, Editor February 21, 2002
First District Congressman John B. Larson, back in the district to address a rally of veterans in Newington and speak with South End seniors about Social Security and prescription drug costs, sat down to an interview with the Gazette Wednesday.
As he detailed some of the intricate political gamesmanship on the floor of the House of Representatives, the congressman took the opportunity to explain his recent vote in favor of campaign finance reform, said he favors giving government relief to insurance companies - even though unlikely to be approved - and wants to hold off reforming accounting practices in the wake of Enron's bankruptcy.
With the country at war in Afghanistan, and dealing with both international and domestic issues, the two-term East Hartford Democrat not only seems more at ease in discussing the ins and outs of life in the Beltway he appears invigorated by the quickened pace of politics and policy in Washington D.C.
"Everyone is four-square behind Powell, Cheney and President Bush," said Larson. "That being said, domestically everyone still has a conflicting agenda."
For example, gone are the campaign promises of prescription drug reforms prior to September 11, Larson had to tell seniors. And gone as well is deficit reduction and any talk of having a "lock box" to protect Social Security.
Issues such as homeland security and dealing with the international community during a time of crisis and war have replaced the usual rhetoric, he said.
But the technology of the war has also brought a boost to the local defense industry, and made America's allies sit up and take notice. As U.S. Rep. Larson is a member of the Science Committee, he has an inside view of technology which has again made this country the envy of other nations. Technology, he believes, can get us out of future conflicts - or even prevent them before they start.
Larson notes the prevalence of Saudi nationals among the four terrorist teams September 11.
"Oil. This has been an addiction," said Larson. "American troops are camped out on Saudi Arabian soil next to Mecca to make sure there is control over their natural resource. The king collects the wealth from the oil while you have this unbelievable poverty and large groups left out of the mainstream. That was the heart of Senator Joe Lieberman's speech," calling for a more compassionate approach to resolving tensions in the Middle East, Larson related.
"The US has to figure out a way to make us energy independent."
The Congressman wants to use the military action to underscore his point on the need to wean American dependence from foreign oil. He is pushing a "hydrogen" economy based on fuel cells, power generating devices which chemically break down natural gas into water, extracting hydrogen for fuel.
"This technology is not 20 years away, it is two years away," Larson stated. Such fuel cells ought to be used on local buses, such as those using the planned New Britain-Hartford busway. "There should also be trolley-like buses powered by fuel cells."
Government should also create a market by holding a competition amongst the top three auto makers, the congressman added, and cap future oil reserves for "future generations" to use in case of an emergency.
Larson said the fuel cell development could help create a "critical mass" centered in the Connecticut River valley.
"This is the way to go. And it will foster the use of fuel cells in other countries as well."
Noting the new configuration of the First Congressional District, which Larson describes as a "backwards C or a crab," the congressman now counts among his constituencies Bradley International Airport, part of the city of Torrington, part of Middletown and the north half of Glastonbury.
"I consider the whole city as being in my district," said Larson.
The congressman said he "feels very lucky" that the district remains overwhelmingly Democratic. Asked if he would entertain a run for Senate, the former East Hartford teacher said he is "very content" in his current role in Washington D.C.
The congressman, who also co-owned an East Hartford insurance agency, also said he hopes to revisit a reform package to help the insurance industry obtain some government relief from major catastrophes it now faces during a time of possible terrorism and war.
"The defense department says it is 100 percent certain September 11 will happen again. Now, actuaries have to consider that when they underwrite property. How do you do that in New York City, where the cost of September 11 is already $40 billion?"