Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-Onondaga Hill) wants the federal government to take a more hands-off approach when it comes to energy costs.
The congresswoman hosted about two-dozen central New York business leaders Tuesday morning at Kitty Hoynes Irish Pub in Syracuse.
Buerkle's main contention: The federal government should stop playing venture capitalist for startup energy companies. Deregulation is the best way to help small companies innovate and grow, Buerkle said.
"That's very different than saying, 'Here's money from the government. We're going to prop you up,' " said Buerkle. "That never works ... You've got to let the free market work."
Buerkle says she supports natural gas exploration just as much as solar and wind power.
But the main concern for local business leaders was rising gasoline prices and the impact of higher energy bills.
While some in the crowd said it's good to know they're not alone in their problems, optimism about relief from high energy costs remained thin.
"It doesn't seem that there's any quick fix," said Jeff Steigerwald, of Liehs & Steigerwald meat market in Syracuse. "I can't say I'm completely optimistic. But we'll see."