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Hastert: Conservation still best for short-term energy solution
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff

Dennis Hastert


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Published: 1/30/2009 12:02 AM

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As gas prices continue to fuel talk that the nation must invest in alternative energy sources, former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert says the best short-term solution might be conserving the resources we have.

"New technologies are great," the retired congressman said during a Thursday lecture at Wheaton College. "But they are going to take time, and they are very expensive - and they just don't happen right away.

"So one of the things you can do right away is probably conservation," Hastert said. "That's what we are going to have to look at probably in the next five years."

Hastert, who graduated from Wheaton College, has talked to students there on several occasions since his retirement in November 2007. Thursday's lecture drew more than 100 people.

Hastert opened the roughly 35-minute talk by outlining some of the challenges that must be overcome to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

For example, while there are efforts to someday mass produce battery-powered cars and trucks, motorists would need more electricity to power their vehicles.

At the same time, the coal being used at many of the nation's power plants has a huge carbon footprint. Meanwhile, Hastert said, no one is building new nuclear power plants, in part, because of the high construction costs and the problems of dealing with nuclear waste.

Even natural gas, which is cleaner than coal, has a downside because transporting it requires building pipelines that residents don't want near their homes.

"So, you can't do nuclear, you can't do coal and you can't do gas," Hastert said. "How are we going to plug these cars in - or whatever else we do with clean electricity - and have juice in the wires?"

For the time being, Hastert said the answer may be as basic as energy conservation.

"We will discover ways to get more mileage out of our cars," he said. "Maybe we'll develop hydrogen (technology) in 10 years so you can actually have a car that's driven by hydrogen. But in the meantime ... you have to take advantage of what you can do now."