Bech blasts Olver over call for federal heating aid boost: Says more oil drilling will help all

Bech blasts Olver over call for federal heating aid boost: Says more oil drilling will help all

22nd July 2008

By Richie Davis

Recorder Staff

Republican Congressional candidate Nathan Bech has criticized incumbent Rep. John Olver’s call for an increase in federal heating assistance, and instead argued that allowing drilling for more oil will “provide relief for all.”

The West Springfield GOP candidate comments came in response to last week’s call by the Amherst Democrat and fellow members of the New England Congressional delegation for more funding for the Low Income Heating Assistance Program.

Bech also criticized Olver for opposing the drilling for oil offshore or in Alaskan Wildfire Refuge.

“Olver knows seniors and poor people will freeze this winter if we do nothing. He knows his plan won’t work and still he pursues the same failing policies,” said Bech.

Olver, in a Congressional speech Wednesday, said, ” A whole new crisis looms as families face a price approaching $5 per gallon for heating oil for their homes – that is twice last winter’s price. Last winter, in Massachusetts and New England alone, 350,000 low-income families used the LIHEAP program to get by, yet only one in four families eligible by income used the program.”

In a press statement released Monday, Bech interpreted this to prove that three quarters of those eligible “refuse government handouts for heating oil.”[Sic]

“The people of central and western Massachusetts do not want to be dependent on welfare to heat their home,” Bech said. “We are self-sufficient and don’t want to take handouts. We simply want government to get out of the way and let increased supply lower costs. If we allow new refineries to be built and if we allow off-shore drilling, energy prices will go down.”

But an Olver aide said there may be several reasons why only one-quarter of those eligible have taken advantage of the program, including being unaware of the program or how to enroll, and the application process may also prove too overwhelming for some people.

Olver told Congress, “Many of those already eligible families will be in desperate need of help this winter, and many more middle-income families’ budgets will be severely stressed by the doubled price of home heating oil.”

He said, “Congress must end rampant speculation in crude oil futures, yet our Republican colleagues in both branches have consistently opposed such legislation.”

Bech responded, “It is Economics 101, when action to increase supply is taken, the price of futures goes down and speculators leave the market place.”

He noted that when President Bush moved the last week to lift an offshore drilling ban, “the price of crude went down $9 dollars a barrel within hours.”

But Olver has called the current push for opening the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling “a thinly veined effort by Big Oil to lock up leases to as much public land as possible while the oil man from Dallas and the oil man from Houston are still in the White House.” And he pointed out that 68 million acres of the 91 million “on and off-shore acres currently under lease by oil companies” are not currently producing oil.

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