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Akron Beacon Journal Reports: Sen. Sherrod Brown touts benefits of waste heat

Jan 18, 2012

At a meetings with the Akron Press Club, Senator Sherrod Brown emphasized his support for waste heat recovery and the need to increase investments in this innovative technology, naming Ohio the “Saudi Arabia of Waste Heat”! The Akron Beacon Journal reports (1/7/12):

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown described himself Friday as neither pro- nor anti-fracking, though he said he does have concerns about the controversial procedure for removing oil and natural gas.

Brown told the Akron Press Club that he wants to make sure groundwater is protected, that Ohioans — rather than out-of-state workers — are hired to do the work, and that the disposal of the waste from the drilling process is handled properly. He said he agrees with Gov. John Kasich’s decision to halt the waste disposal in the Youngstown area that has been linked to several recent earthquakes.

“I think it’s going to happen,” he told an audience of about 200 at a luncheon at the University of Akron’s Martin Center. “It’s a lot of jobs. It’s a lot of prosperity. But it’s also our drinking water and it’s also the issue of waste disposal.”

Brown’s middle-of-the-road comments on the fracking issue are a contrast to the viewpoints of other prominent Ohio Democrats, including state Rep. Robert Hagan, D-Youngstown, who will hold a community forum on the issue next week and has called for a statewide moratorium on injection drilling until 2014. The Youngstown City Council voted Wednesday to support his proposal.

Brown’s appearance was co-sponsored by UA’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics and the League of Women Voters of the Akron Area.

Brown, elected to the Senate in 2006, is unopposed in the March 6 primary, but faces opposition in the November general election, including from Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, the GOP front-runner.

Brown, whose wife, former Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Connie Schultz, attended the event, talked about the shift of the nation’s economy in the past 30 years from manufacturing to financial services. He said manufacturing used to make up 27 percent of the gross domestic product, while financial services were 10 to 11 percent. But he said, these percentages have now flipped.

“This has accelerated the decline of the middle class,” he said. “Regardless of where you stand, it is clear trade is critical to the strength of the economy.”

Brown said he and his wife gave their children electric toothbrushes for Christmas that came in a box that said they were “developed in the U.S.; Made in China.”

“If we outsource production, all the new innovation, which happens on the shop floor, will take place in the countries where the product is produced,” he said.

Brown said he visited Echogen Power Systems, an Akron company that is expanding and has developed a process to convert waste heat into energy. He said the CEO told him that “Ohio is the Saudi Arabia of waste heat.”

“Whatever we can do with companies like that, we should,” he said. “They will help to change this country.”

Brown responded to questions from the audience, with the first being his thoughts on a recent Gallup poll that showed only 11 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, a record low.

“It’s troubling,” he said. “It should be to all of us.”

“I don’t agree with 11 percent, frankly,” he continued, getting laughs from the audience.

Brown said he’s seen his colleagues work together, such as on the ethics committee on which he’s a member.

“I’m hopeful, after this election, both parties will realize we can’t continue to operate this way,” he said. “Clearly, we’ve got to do better.”

When asked how he differs from Mandel, Brown quipped, “I would know the major differences if he would come to the Akron Press Club to speak.”

This was a reference to Mandel’s unwillingness so far to commit to a date to speak to the press club, an issue that the Ohio Democratic Party and newspaper editorial boards have criticized.

Joe Aquilino, Mandel’s campaign spokesman, said in an email Friday that he assumes Mandel will “speak to the Akron Press Club some time this year.”

Press club leaders say Mandel will be given until April to speak. All of the major party candidates in the 2010 Senate race spoke at the press club.

Before his remarks, Brown responded to criticism made by Republicans for not appearing with Obama when the president was in Ohio on Wednesday. He said he had previous appearances planned, but will participate — as he did four years ago — in future campaign stops by Obama.

“If the best the state Republican Party can find is that I didn’t appear with Obama, they need to find real issues,” he said.

Brown called the influx of money being spent by independent expenditure groups against him “outrageous.” The Huffington Post recently reported that $2.9 million has already been expended against him, more than any Senate candidate. A United States Supreme Court decision permitted the unfettered spending by corporations and unions, with no requirement that contributors be disclosed.

“It’s outrageous that special interest money can have that much influence,” he said.

Besides Mandel, five other Republican candidates and three minor party candidates filed to run for the Senate. Eric LaMont Gregory, one of the GOP candidates, attended the press club event Friday, with Brown giving him a nod during his remarks.

Gregory, who lives in Beavercreek, said he thought Brown was “open and frank.”

“He spoke to the thing that most people in the state think we need: cooperation in Washington,” Gregory said. “I’m not one of the people who won’t reach across the aisle.”