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Beating the Energy Crunch

May 23, 2008
Weekly Columns

As each day goes by, Americans feel the growing pressure caused by steadily increasing energy prices.  Oil is nearing $130 a barrel and gasoline is hovering around $4 per gallon nationally.  In Oklahoma City, gas is forty cents a gallon higher than it was a year ago - the highest price on record for the city.  And as these numbers continue to rise, Congress continues to do nothing to address the crisis.  More than two years ago Nancy Pelosi promised a "commonsense plan to help bring down skyrocketing gas prices."  But since that time, prices have risen 60 percent and Americans have yet to even see a plan from Pelosi and her colleagues in Congress.

Sitting around and waiting for OPEC to lower their prices is a foolhardy policy, yet it appears to be precisely what Pelosi intends to do.  In contrast, the Republican leaders in Congress recently unveiled a four point plan to tap into American ingenuity and resources to help drive down high energy prices and protect American jobs.  The Republican plan for energy independence includes increased domestic production, clean and reliable sources of energy, construction of new refineries and tax incentives for conservation and energy efficiency.  This is a commonsense plan that will create American jobs, drive down gas prices and help bring about stability to our economy.

With the innovations we have in place today we can develop our domestic resources in a way that is environmentally-safe.  America has abundant supplies of oil, natural gas and clean coal.  In addition, we are poised to make significant breakthroughs in the development of cellulosic fuels made from non-food plants like switchgrass.  These are the first steps to getting America on the road to becoming energy independent and it is monumentally irresponsible for Congress to prevent consumers from having access to these existing resources.

We desperately need to promote new, clean and reliable sources of energy such as advanced nuclear, coal-to-liquid, wind, solar and hydroelectric power.  Nuclear power is an emissions-free energy alternative which currently provides 20 percent of our nation's power, which makes it the second largest source of power in our country.  But compared to other western nations, we are woefully behind in our use of nuclear power.  France, for example, relies on it for 80 percent of its electricity needs.  Modern nuclear plants are safer, more reliable and create more output than ever before.  The United States needs to encourage greater use of this clean and safe energy source.

After we begin to develop our domestic resources, we still lack adequate capacity to convert crude oil into gasoline.  There has not been a new oil refinery built in the United States for over 30 years. This is dangerously short-sighted and we need to streamline the approval process and immediately begin expanding our ability to refine crude oil into useable fuels.

Finally, we as consumers need to become smarter about our energy usage. Conservation and energy efficiency also must play a role in our national energy policy.  Americans who make their home, car or business reasonably more energy efficient should receive conservation tax credits.  By doing so, we will benefit from lower energy bills and lower taxes as well.

Two years after promising an energy policy, it has become abundantly clear that Speaker Pelosi doesn't have one.  The Republicans have put forth proposals that deserve consideration and debate.  America has the resources, technology and ingenuity to solve our energy challenges.  As usual, the only thing standing between the American people and solutions is a do-nothing Congress that America can afford about as much as $4 a gallon gas.