Carbon County Chamber of Commerce executive director Ann Evans presents the Spirit of Enterprise Award to Congressman Jim Matheson during ceremonies at the Cowboy Club in Wellington.
David Zaccaria, owner of Tram Electric, stands with Jim Matheson during a tour of Zaccaria's business and he also participated in a question and answer session with some of Tram's employees.
Congressman Jim Matheson came to Carbon County last week to accept an award from the United States Chamber of Commerce, and in his remarks concerning the status of the country's economic and energy woes he said that speculators in the oil markets should be handling foreign markets as they do in domestic ones.
"I am for controlling foreign speculation in the commodities markets," he stated as he spoke to about 60 local business people and others gathered in Wellington to see him get the award. "There is nothing wrong with speculation as long as the speculators don't manipulate the market. With the lack of present laws that's what they can do when they deal with foreign markets instead of the domestic one."
The comments capped a 30 minute question and answer period the congressmen granted locals who were there to see him get the Spirit of Enterprise Award. The award is granted based on the voting record of members of Congress as compared to what they say when they are at home speaking to groups of people, much like Thursday's gathering. Another parameter of the the award is that those receiving it must vote in favor of business 70 percent of the time on laws and bills that come across the floor of the legislative body. In many cases voting for some of those issues can be controversial and not always popular. According to documents from the national chamber Matheson voted 16 out of 20 times for business related bills for an 80 percent record of voting with American business.
The award was presented in Carbon County because the national chamber felt that this award would be better presented in a local setting where the people who are represented by the member of Congress live.
Most of the questions Matheson received from the audience concerned energy and the economy. There was also one question about the Nine Mile Canyon Road.
"I am not sure what the answer to that situation is, but I will say that the federal government doesn't generally get involved in the details of how to use federal money for roads within a state, so it is hard to appropriate money that is aimed directly at one particular road or area," he said. "The money that Congress appropriates goes to UDOT and they along with state officials must decide where to use it."
Matheson also talked about gas prices and what is causing the oil prices to get so high.
"There are three major things that are causing these problems," he told the crowd. "First is supply and demand. We are now part of a much bigger market than used to exist. The world is just using more oil."
The second thing he pointed out was that the weak dollar is affecting the price of gas in this country in a number of ways.
"Our fiscal policies have not been conducive to keeping the price of oil down," he stated. "We as a country have a debt of four trillion dollars, which makes us vulnerable to foreign suppliers."
His third point was that oil speculation was driving up prices, but that the specter of those that want to make money on futures is not all bad.
"The speculation system has served our country well over the years, but some people have abused that system by going overseas to do their speculation," he said. "There they are not subject to the rules that they are in within the country. That needs to be fixed."
Matheson says fixing that situation along with encouraging more domestic oil production and looking at new sources of energy are the answers to the problems the country is facing.
"New energy sources such as oil shale and using alternative energy such as wind and solar, will be vital but until we can get those on-line we need a bridge strategy to get us to that point," he said. "That's why we need to open up off-shore drilling to help with that gap."
When asked about failing parts of the U.S. economy, particularly the domestic automobile companies, he said taking a lesson from the 1970's would not be a good thing to do.
"Thirty years ago the federal government bailed out Chrysler with a billion dollar loan guarantee program and it worked out; Chrysler survived and paid back the money," he said. "But I think in todays economy and world to do that now would be a mistake. I would say no to bailing out the big three."
Matheson is considered to be part of the "Blue Dog" movement in Congress, a group of congressmen who are more conservative than many other Democratic representatives. That stance of being pro-business and pro-personal responsibility has sometimes gotten him into some hot water. He said he also believes in working during what others term a vacation.
"A lot of the media make a big deal about Congress being off for the month of August, but I have never seen this break as a vacation," he said. "This is a time when we should be doing just what I am doing today; meeting with and listening to constituents. It really does give us the time to do that."