Steamboat Springs The sound of air escaping Olympian Hall after U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard forecasted summer gas prices in the $2.50 to $3.00 range Monday was louder than the "woosh" of an empty gas tank being opened.
Allard, in Steamboat for one of the 64 annual town meetings he holds in each county in Colorado, spoke to a crowd of about 60 people in Olympian Hall about issues ranging from immigration to rural air service.
Allard's message, however, continually returned to the need for energy conservation and new sources of fuel, be they electric cars or oil reserves in Alaska.
He is sponsoring a bill that would give manufacturers of energy-efficient appliances tax credits for products they produce that surpass Department of Energy standards. The more energy-efficient appliances will help save consumers money on their utility bills, he added.
"We need to do all we can to encourage energy conservation," Allard said.
Allard is the chairman of the Senate Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus.
In the long run, Allard said he believes alternative sources of fuel, such as nuclear energy, and innovations like electric-powered cars, can help solve the problem. In the short run, however, Colorado and other states in the west will need to concentrate their efforts on making the most out of existing energy sources, he said. In Colorado that means coal a particularly economical source of energy.
Allard also supports the idea of drilling for oil in Alaska, with which one audience member took offense.
Chad Phillips said going into Alaska to drill for oil would barely make a dent in the problem while drilling a dent into a pristine landscape.
Allard said he supports the proposal because it could allow the country to reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
"I think the President had it right that we need to look to other areas rather than the Arabian countries," Allard said. "That's an unstable part of the world."
Phillips said he supports a push to find alternative sources of clean energy.
"We're going to run out of fossil fuels one of these days," Phillips said. "We might as well switch to alternatives before we get there."
Making sure we have enough energy, however, has as much to do with preserving what we have as finding new sources, Allard said. Allard, who said he is very impressed with the Steamboat transit system, helped get more federal money this year for mass transit in the state.
City Transit Director George Krawzoff praised Allard for the $1.6 million piece of that pie that went to the city of Steamboat Springs. Some of that money will also be going to regional buses that operate throughout Routt and Moffat Counties.
The city will be using some of that money to pay for new vans and buses, all of which will be compliant with the standards set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act.