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14th District candidates offer views on energy issues
By John Patterson | Daily Herald Staff

Jim Oberweis


Bill Foster


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Published: 10/22/2008 12:10 AM

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SPRINGFIELD - Both Republican Jim Oberweis and Democrat Bill Foster like the idea of higher mileage vehicles.

But Foster, a Geneva scientist who drives a 2003 Ford Taurus, is concerned about high-mileage technology making cars too expensive. "If one considers only fuel-saving techniques which are cost effective over the life of the car, mileage can be increased by a factor of about 1.5," Foster said.

And Oberweis, a Sugar Grove businessman who drives a 2008 Cadillac STS, fears if the government requires higher mileage, the smaller, lighter and more efficient cars could put motorists at risk.

"I think it is wrong for government to take a deliberate action knowing that it will increase the risks associated with traffic accidents," Oberweis said.

The two candidates for the 14th Congressional District offered their views on several energy related questions put to them by the Daily Herald. Foster defeated Oberweis in a special election earlier this year to serve out the final months of former Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Hastert's term. Hastert announced his retirement last year. Now, Oberweis and Foster square off again for a full, two-year term.

The district stretches across northern Illinois, taking in parts of Elgin, Carpentersville, Aurora and West Chicago on its eastern boundary and westward nearly to the Mississippi River.

Asked what the government could do to lower gas prices, Foster recommended tapping the government's oil reserve.

"In the past, releases from the SPR (Strategic Petroleum Reserve) have been associated with substantial price drops in oil. However, this took place when the U.S. was a more dominant factor in worldwide oil supply and consumption than it is now, so the effect will be smaller," Foster said.

Oberweis has advocated reducing the dozens of differing fuel blends required across the country in effort to combat air quality problems.

"This discourages competition and has played a part in the increased fuel costs. According to the GAO (General Accounting Office), if we reduced the fuel blends, we could save as much as $.40 a gallon. Not in years, but in weeks," Oberweis said.

Both candidates support increased drilling off the country's coastlines and opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Reserve for drilling. In fact, Oberweis and Foster agreed on several energy questions.

Both also support extending or increasing federal incentives to buy hybrid or high efficiency vehicles

When asked what they'd personally done to be more efficient, both candidates said they'd begun replacing traditional light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs in their homes or offices.

Foster, a former Fermilab scientist, also said he takes public transportation in Washington, and cited a family history of working on more energy efficient technology.