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Our Energy Wake Up Call

We know that no single energy source will power our nation and our economy in the decades to come.

First, the obvious - gas prices are higher than ever, with no end in sight.

Less obvious. What we experience at the pump is the result of decades of failure to harness American energy from all sources.  And if the high cost of gas is not enough to demonstrate the need for domestic energy development, the turmoil in the oil regions of the Middle East has underscored the urgency.

The need for energy independence is both an economic and national security issue and America must break its addiction to foreign oil and prioritize domestic energy development, now.  We have had our wake-up call.

Spiraling gas prices strain the family budget and devastate the economy. Every dollar increase at the pump diverts $2.6 billion from the rest of the economy, while a sustained $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil can shave two-tenths of a percent off our gross domestic product.

For five decades, American presidents have paid lip service to this problem. They stressed the importance of an energy policy that would move our nation away from dependence on foreign energy sources – on the other hand, the rhetoric of energy independence was never matched by concrete action in Washington. 

We know that no single energy source will power our nation and our economy in the decades to come. We also know oil has kept America’s economic engine running through our most prosperous eras and it will continue to play a vital role in our energy strategy, although, alone, oil is not enough.

The path to energy independence requires cooperation and contributions from all industries, as well as those technologies considered to be in the infancy stage. Wind, solar, hydrogen, nuclear, coal, oil and natural gas, including Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, are key steps on the road to energy independence.  They must all be developed in efficient and environmentally responsible manner, but outsized government subsidies continue to distort efficiencies and stifle innovation.  That is why I opposed and voted against President Bush’s Energy Policy Act in 2005.  The law attempted to pick winners and losers in the energy game through substantial tax breaks, including billions for the oil and gas industry, but it did nothing to reduce oil imports from the Middle East.

Subsidies for big oil were bad policy then, and they are bad policy now.

While President Bush’s energy policy picked winners in the energy game, President Obama is attempting to pick the losers.

Upon taking office, the President imposed a de facto moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, cancelled 77 onshore leases in Utah, and is pushing expansive new EPA regulations that do little to protect our environment while amounting to a massive job-crushing energy tax.  In his 2012 budget, the President went further and proposed more than $60 billion in new taxes and fees on American energy production. 

While encouragement may be necessary for new energy sources, developed and self-sufficient energy industries should not get favored treatment from the federal government, nor should they be excessively taxed and regulated.  Ultimately every source, producer and supplier must stand or fall on its own merit.

Over the past month, I have worked with colleagues from both parties in the House of Representatives to pass legislation that will increase accessibility to American energy resources and decrease dependence on Middle East oil. 

The Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act will expand production of oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Virginia coast by expediting lease sales that were either frozen or cancelled by President Obama.  These reserves are estimated to provide more than one-half billion barrels of oil and 2.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to ease America’s foreign energy dependence.

And the Reversing President Obama’s Offshore Moratorium Act is aimed at lifting the President’s ban on new offshore drilling and establishes a production goal of 3 million barrels of oil per day and 10 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day by 2027.

Finally, the Energy Tax Prevention Act stops the EPA from imposing excessive and costly regulatory burdens that would increase the cost of filling your tank and heating your home.

Just as no single source of energy will entirely eliminate dependence on the volatile Middle East, no single policy or piece of legislation will solve our energy problems overnight. We do know, however, the high cost of gas has heightened our sense of urgency.   

Clearly, our government, the energy producers, innovators and consumers need to become partners in the drive to develop a new energy economy.  We have an historic opportunity to match our actions to the rhetoric of two generations of American presidents by enacting policies that will lead to the energy independence we desire -- and deserve.

Steve McGill May 24, 2011 at 11:04 AM
According to the National Association of Manufacturers: "The impact of high energy prices can be felt throughout our economy. High fuel costs increase the price of commodities used by manufacturers and make it more expensive to operate and power facilities. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recognizes that affordable and reliable energy is essential to the long-term prosperity of the United States and American workers, and we support an energy strategy that embraces all forms of domestic energy production and expands existing conservation and efficiency efforts to meet rising demand and achieve energy independence."
Larry Chesterton May 24, 2011 at 04:51 PM
Politicians !! Stop lying about the high gas prices. Stop pushing the " drilling" solution to the problem. Domestic DEMAND is not the issue. DEMAND globally and financial speculation has driven the price upward. Opening up more US areas for production does not advantage US supply or pricing. The global oil companies will put any US production on the world market because that's the way it is done. The only real control we have on oil usage is to manage the permits to drill. Once we allow drilling for production it becomes like an international currency, and no longer any particular benefit to the US. The best resolutions to our energy needs will be found long-term in all forms of energy, using R&D to develop the most efficient for each application in a real market driven world. Lobbying politicians are not the real market driven world. They are the impediments to efficiency, since their goals are on the next election and the lobbyists who will put them there, shamelessly.
Ginnie May 25, 2011 at 03:59 AM
Touche' Larry! While industry leaders and politicians tout the need for energy independence to justify drilling expansion, but with little corporate accountability and no taxation, we can see the writing on the wall. Expansion of oil and gas drilling is about corporate profitability for Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil, Chesapeake, Range Resources, Encana... political positioning, and lobby-building, with little genuine regard for making energy cheaper for the average American. While Pennsylvanians, and residents of many other states sitting on Marcellus Shale, witness fish kills in local lakes & streams, whole swaths of state forest land clear-cut for well pads & impoundment ponds, and deal with short & long-range toxic health impacts, it is un-American that so much of this gas supply is already earmarked for export overseas, ultimately costing us more here at home. This is a slap in the face to those communities impacted by irresponsible, poorly-regulated drilling practices. Now, many companies from Japan, Norway, China, & other foreign nations are grabbing up gas leaseholds in America's "backyards," which could impact an available, affordable energy supply for our families. Finally, both on- and off-shore oil & gas drilling, with deficient environmental regulation, is destroying the environmental integrity of national wilderness protection areas, and other scenic vistas across this beautiful country, leaving a tarnished and expensive legacy for future generations.

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