Congressman Bill Cassidy criticizes Obama administration during tour of Valero St. Charles Refinery

06 14, 2012 by The Times-Picayune

After touring a major expansion project at the Valero St. Charles Refinery in Norco, Congressman Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said Wednesday that the company's investment in the plant demonstrates the superiority of market-driven economic policy over what he described as top-down economic decisions by the Obama administration. "I personally think the president's continued emphasis on propping up renewables, not in terms of saying let's do more research on them to make them better, or to make them profitable, to throw subsidies at solar and wind, and at the same time actively discourage the use of fossil fuels is obviously an industrial policy," he said. "It's obviously a decision not to let market forces dominate."

Cassidy, whose Baton Rouge-based congressional district was redrawn last year into a sprawling area that stretches from Pointe Coupee Parish to coastal Terrebonne Parish, as well as the east banks of St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes, comes up for re-election in November.

He criticized the Obama administration's decision to guarantee loans to failed solar panel company Solyndra, saying the administration is picking winners and losers in the economy.

He said the decision is different than the technology transfer from the 1960 space program that led to technological leaps through the U.S. economy.

"There's a difference between a heavy hand, trying to decide who wins or loses, and a program where we can see 30 years down the road, and set the groundwork so when we get there, we're prepared," he said.

Valero has invested some $3 billion into the Norco plant since it bought the refinery from Orion in 2003, company officials said.

"I asked the plant manager what was the one event that would cause your company to prosper or if it went the other way, to decline, and he said 'We need the whole country do well ...' It showed me the importance of national economic issues even with something that seems bound to be prosperous like the Valero refinery in St. Charles Parish," he said.