Taylor holds town meeting

Published 5:26 pm Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Of all the concerns facing residents of the Picayune area, the main topic that fueled Congressman Gene Taylor’s town meeting involved the price of gas.

After some local farmers shared their concerns of the high price of feed, labor and living, they got to the topic on most everyone’s mind, $4-a-gallon gas.

Taylor said America is a free market society and oil companies will charge what they see fit as long as people keep buying it. It was not until the price reached $4 a gallon that the public began changing their driving habits to use less. Recently, consumption of fuel has dropped five percent, he said. As a result, the price is coming down a little bit.

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The population in the United States makes up only two percent of the world’s population, but Taylor said this country uses about 25 percent of the world’s oil. As other developing nations begin to use more oil, the United States will have increased competition for the commodity.

One of the things Taylor said he has done, which occured when oil was $70 a barrel, was to help reduce its use by passing a law that will put nuclear power in the next generation of Navy warships.

Lifting the ban on drilling seems to be a popular option now with the high cost of fuel, Taylor said. In years past there were a number of people at the Coast Coliseum who voiced their opposition to visible rigs out in the Gulf. Taylor said that public opinion seems to have changed.

Currently there are about 180 rigs under construction in the United States. About 82 percent of existing rigs are working, Taylor said.

Lifting the ban on drilling has been a hot topic as gas prices are at their highest. Taylor said the easiest way for Congress to lift the ban is to do nothing with it, since it will expire on Sept. 30. Taylor did say that even if more drilling does take place, there is no guarantee that the price of oil will go down since foreign oil is cheaper than domestic oil.

“I can’t ever promise you cheap gas again,” Taylor said.

One citizen said he expects the ban to stay in place through an appropriations bill, as it has every year since its implementation. Taylor believes the change in public opinion will keep that from happening.

Taylor also covered some of the things he has done as Congressman, such as providing soldiers overseas with safer vehicles, better body armor and moving about 500 Mississippi National Guard soldiers away from a possibly toxic power plant.

The biggest loss of life of American soldiers involves improvised explosive devices. Taylor said after the president asked for only 400 Humvees capable of sustaining such an attack, he put in for 15,000 of them.

Other questions posed by residents involved illegal immigration, the lack of Federal Emergency Management Agency cottages once promised to this county, Red Cross losing funds and possibility of pulling out of the county and the concern of soldiers overseas about having their vote counted in the upcoming election.

Taylor said there are high fines for those who hire illegal immigrants. As for the cottages, he has no control over that program or the funds that would be distributed to Red Cross. Soldiers overseas have access to absentee voting at the Circuit Clerk’s office, he said.