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.