America needs a balanced energy plan
America's economic prosperity is tied to its ability to access abundant and affordable energy. Congress has the responsibility to pass a new national policy to ensure our nation has the energy resources it needs to meet consumer and industrial demand while reducing dependence upon foreign energy. A well-balanced energy bill passed the U.S. House last month and now awaits a final vote in the U.S. Senate.
For those of us old enough to remember, just 30 years ago America suffered the painful effects of the Middle East oil embargo, which, in addition to mile-long lines at many gas stations, generated high fuel prices and the loss of jobs. The energy crisis of late 1973 shook hard the American economy. President Richard Nixon even announced that the national Christmas tree would be not be lit to illustrate the need to conserve energy.
Have things improved since 1973? We are no longer standing in line for gas and no one is advocating pulling the plug on the national Christmas tree. Yet, the relative calm of the present is deceiving. Three decades ago, the United States was dependent upon foreign oil for 30 percent of its petroleum consumption. Today, America gets 60 percent of its oil from foreign sources -- a 100 percent rise. And, oil imports are expected to climb to 75 percent by 2010.
Fluctuations in oil and natural gas prices over the last few years have shown just how quickly our economy can be affected by manipulation from foreign oil suppliers.
America must take steps now to reduce our foreign oil dependency, promote the exploration of domestic oil, gas and alternative fuels, and encourage greater conservation.
On November 18, the U.S. House passed the Energy Policy Act of 2003. This major legislation balances energy conservation and efficiency, domestic production, research, tax credits and incentives to reduce foreign oil dependence.
The energy bill targets foreign energy dependence head-on by allowing more natural gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the lower 48 states. Furthermore, the new energy bill would increase the corn-based additive ethanol in gasoline from 3.7 billion gallons in 2005 to five billion by 2012.
To better manage the electricity supply, the energy bill would give authority to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to oversee competitive wholesale power markets.
Meanwhile, the new legislation encourages more nuclear power production, and streamlines government regulation on hydroelectric power plants to shorten the time it takes for re-licensing.
To encourage conservation, the new bill offers tax incentives for energy efficient appliances and new homes, wind energy, electricity from agriculture byproducts, residential solar energy equipment, electric and hybrid vehicles, and the development of alternative fuels.
Cleaner air is also targeted by the new energy bill. It authorizes $2.5 billion for development of clean-coal technology. A total $23.7 billion would be spent over five years for energy-related research and development, including the President's request for $2.1 billion for a hydrogen-powered car.
The energy bill not only will help decrease America's reliance upon foreign energy, but the increased investment in new technologies, and gas pipeline and gas exploration, is expected to generate over 600,000 new jobs. It is a balanced energy strategy for America's future and deserves passage in the Senate.