Gasoline and oil prices dominated an hour-long town hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (Rep., Pa. 15) on July 28 at Kempton Fire Co. in Albany Township.The Representative hosted the caucus after meeting with municipal officials there to provide a federal update to local government issues.

Dent said he fully supports drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a means of cutting off the supply of imported oil, which is relaying itself into a fiscal crisis for many residents in the area and nation.

However, Dent said, drilling in Alaska won't be the final answer to the nation's energy crisis.

"It's imperative the U.S. diversifies its energy portfolio," Dent said in front of about 30 residents who turned out for this mid-day meeting.

He added that drilling in Alaska, despite some reservations in the room and the need to lean on alternative energies, is imperative.

Dent told Albany residents that environmental concerns over drilling there are unfounded and won't disrupt the wildlife there.

"It's coastal plain, 2,000 acres," he said. "It's (the equivalent to) a large airport. If we cannot explore the coastal plain, then I don't know where to go. I think the greatest environmental threat from oil is from the large oil tankers."

Dent also suggests the U.S. begin drilling for oil off southern coasts, too, such as Florida. He said the operations would be far enough off the shore as not to disrupt the shoreline vista if someone were sitting on a chair on the beach.

Residents questioned Dent on the use of alternative fuels, rather than depending on oil, and though the Congressman said he supports alternative energy, he is hesitant to let go of oil.

"There is no good substitute for oil," he told the crowd of inquisitive voters.

Dent also called for support of drilling for natural gas reserves as well as an "aggressive" approach to develop nuclear energy.

"You can't drill your way out of the problem. You can't conserve your way out of the problem," Dent said.

Residents also said they supported his vote to not bail out federal mortgage lenders.

Dent also called on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (Dem., Calif.) to pass 2008-09 spending bills, such as the Defense budget.

He called her stall tactics, a "dereliction of duty."

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