Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Roadmap for America's Energy Future

Originally printed in the Washington Examiner.

As tension and uncertainty in the Middle East rises and revolutions spread in the Middle East and North Africa, Americans are once again confronting the financial and national security consequences of our dependence on foreign oil.

Over the years, the American people have been promised “energy independence” by Democrats and Republicans from different Administrations and Congresses. Whether the mantra is “drill baby drill” or a green energy revolution, we have all been consistently disappointed by the outcome.

Nothing done by our government in the past several decades has actually helped to achieve the goal of energy independence, or for that matter, kept energy prices affordable for American families. Quite the reverse is true. We are more dependent today than ever before and far more economically vulnerable than at any point in our nation’s history. Today, I and others will introduce legislation that will finally deliver on the energy security promises made by leaders past and present – promises that began during the 1973 oil embargo, our nation’s first call to action.

The plan, known as A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future, recognizes the importance of oil, gas, coal, and oil shale to the American consumer, as well as our nation’s economy. It opens up for exploration and development the vast resources known to exist throughout U.S. territories on land and sea. This unlocked energy will fuel job growth and it will assure Americans access to stable and affordable energy.

At the same time, the plan recognizes that dependence on any one fuel source is dangerous, particularly a finite resource. As such, the Energy Roadmap will make the necessary investments to transition our economy to renewable and advanced energy alternatives over time. This is achieved at no expense to the taxpayer. Furthermore, unlike current subsidies and tax credits, new forms of energy will be available to Americans on a cost competitive basis.

The Energy Roadmap accomplishes these goals by depositing lease and royalty revenue associated with fossil fuel development into a renewable energy trust fund. Those dollars are then made available to energy producers through a reverse auction – ending the government’s current process of selecting winners and losers.

This market-based way of providing federal assistance will ensure the cheapest and most efficient technology thrives. It will also open up the alternative energy market to greater innovation and competition, a sharp contrast to the existing system of subsidies and support which are subject to the influence of lobbyists and activists through political cronyism.

Another component of the Energy Roadmap establishes a mandate to site 200 nuclear reactors by 2040. New streamlined regulations and a system to manage waste will help drive private sector investments in these facilities, which today are mired in red tape, lawsuits and the liability associated with the storage of used fuel. Nuclear power is essential to achieving an abundant and affordable supply of electricity to fuel America’s economic growth and will provide the base load power needed to allow significant growth in next generation electric vehicles.

While having the desire to become a renewable society is reasonable, that should not prevent us from using traditional fuels to keep the economic engine running in the interim. Congress should pass A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future so that our government can finally live up to the commitments it has made to the American people to deliver affordable energy now and for the future.