Politics & Policy

Where’s the Energy?

Locked up, thanks to Speaker Pelosi.

We are the nation of Velcro, the light-bulb, the microwave, the Ford Model-T, and the Wright Brothers. We fought and defeated tyranny and fascism. We’ve walked on the moon. Where others see impossibility, our nation sees a challenge. Pessimism and hopelessness are not American characteristics. As the price of gas climbs higher and higher, doomsday scenarios are playing out in the media. Americans aren’t buying it, they’re demanding a solution. But our can-do nation is suffering at the hands of “can’t-do” congressional leadership. After months of prohibiting a vote on increased domestic oil production, House Democrats have gone on summer vacation — a luxury many Americans can no longer afford.

#ad#Energy solutions to provide relief at the pump cannot wait until September. Congress must repeal restrictions enacted, over the last two decades, placing our known domestic supplies off-limits. Energy producers can then increase supply and lower prices immediately while we take the necessary steps to make renewables and other alternatives commercially viable.

Recently, billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens unveiled his plan for American energy independence. Relying heavily upon wind and natural gas, his idea is interesting, but can’t work — not now, at least. Congress has locked up approximately 76.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to which we would require access. Additionally, wind and solar tax credits, critical in developing these technologies, have been stalled by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrat leaders’ insistence upon paying for them with controversial tax hikes that can’t pass. I, along with 87 colleagues, wrote Speaker Pelosi asking that she bring a clean bill extending these credits to the floor. She hasn’t honored our request.

With complete disregard to the rights of the minority party, the Democrat leadership in Congress will not allow a vote on drilling for America’s vast domestic resources. Producers have made great strides in minimizing ecological damage. Over the past 25 years, 7 billion gallons of oil have been pumped to shore, without a single significant spill. In fact, the last oil spill of any impact from a drilling rig off our shores occurred 37 years ago. Yet, congressional Democrats refuse to acknowledge these facts, choosing instead to remain beholden to the fringe environmental extremists who oppose advancement.

Washington Democrat’s devotion to environmental elitism has resulted in the failed energy policies, or more accurately anti-energy policies, at the root of our current crisis. For 30 years, Democrats have voted consistently to lock up America’s supply of oil and natural gas. It’s estimated that ANWR holds 10.6 billion barrels of oil. In 13 years, Congress has voted 17 times on access to this oil, every attempt failing. But the record is clear, on average, 91% of Republicans voted for development of oil from ANWR, 86 percent of Democrats against it.

In federally designated lands in the Intermountain West, there is a massive supply of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, but they’re locked off from development by laws Congress enacted when gas was $1 per gallon. The Western United States also holds vast quantities of oil shale, equal to 1.8 trillion barrels, compared to only 267 billion barrels in proven reserves in Saudi Arabia. But, just last year, thanks to Democrat Congressman Mark Udall from Colorado, a moratorium on the development of these resources was enacted.

The outer continental shelf (OCS) contains 115.43 billion gallons of oil and 633.62 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Since 2005, 80 percent of Republicans have voted consistently for its production, while 83 percent of congressional Democrats have voted consistently against it, depriving American consumers of yet another energy source.

President Bush has lifted the executive ban on offshore oil drilling, but drilling cannot occur until Congress lifts its own legislative ban. With Speaker Pelosi at the helm, this is unlikely. At the beginning of July she reportedly told her colleagues that if they allowed for more drilling, Washington Democrats “might as well pack up and go home.” Well, they’ve packed up and gone home, but America’s energy is still locked up. The majority’s inaction on energy is financially ruinous and endangers our national security.

Over 70 percent of Americans favor increased domestic drilling. Republicans believe that a viewpoint held by a majority of the public deserves, at the very least, a vote on the floor of the people’s house. We have an “all of the above” strategy to find more sources and use less energy. Let’s encourage development of alternatives like solar, hydropower, and nuclear power and design more fuel-efficient cars and buildings. We understand however, that it will be several years until these energy sources are developed enough to adequately power our economy. Sound energy policy and sound national security policy recognize that, for now, America must depend on fossil fuels and must access our vast domestic supply.

Policies restricting access to known reserves, put in place when gasoline was $1 or even $2.00 per gallon, simply make no sense when $4 per gallon prices are hurting American families and crippling our economy. Over the next month, Republicans will continue our protest, insisting that Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues return to Washington to allow a vote. The Democrat majority must recognize its obligation to the American people and bring down skyrocketing costs by lifting irrational restrictions on American energy production.

John Shadegg is a Republican congressman from Arizona.

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