Energy

Energy

When President Obama was sworn into office, the nation’s average price for a gallon of gasoline was under $2.  We all know that is not the case today.

In most parts of the country, gas remains well over $3 a gallon. In Arkansas, the price of gas ranges anywhere from just under $3 upwards to $3.50 a gallon. The only reason it is staying at a relatively steady price is because the poor economy has decreased demand.

Business owners will tell you that when the price hits $3.50 a gallon, it effects how decisions are made. When it hits the $4 a gallon mark, it impacts consumer habits because disposable income goes to the gas pump instead of local businesses. That is not what we need at a time when we are already fighting off a recession.

Steep gas prices are a constant reminder that our country lacks an energy policy, but we feel the pinch in more ways than one. Energy prices are breaking the personal budgets of Arkansans and killing jobs here at home. Furthermore, the prospect of radical energy policies the Obama Administration favors—such as the cap-and-trade proposal—would drive the cost of energy even higher and would be devastating for our farmers, small business owners and rural communities.

Excessive regulations that exasperate the problem are the wrong way to address our energy crisis. Congress has turned back attempts to tax energy through a cap-and-tax scheme. Those legislative defeats have led President Obama to try to impose these misguided regulations on his own.  To prevent bad policy from taking effect, I’ve joined with my colleagues to push a legislative solution. "The Energy Tax Prevention Act” would stop cap-and-trade regulations from taking effect and protect Americans from seeing their energy bills double as a result of this misguided policy.

Merely preventing destructive energy policies from taking hold won’t solve our problem. We still need a responsible, comprehensive approach to our energy crisis.  For the right direction, we should turn to T. Boone Pickens’s approach. I share his belief that if it is American, we need to be using it.  This goes for not only renewable forms of energy, but the vast amount of fossil fuels we have been blessed with in the U.S. and directly off our shores.

We desperately need to adopt a comprehensive energy policy to address our current and future needs.  It is undisputable that we must develop alternative energy sources for the long-run, but for the short term, we must rely on fossil-fuels as we have an oil-based economy. If we use what we have here in a responsible manner, we can be better positioned to choose more stable trading partners for our remaining petroleum needs.

There is much that can be done at home.  For starters, President Obama can lift his de-facto moratorium on drilling in the off-shore Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).  This decision limits oil and gas exploration and development.

We can also open up the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska for research and development. Because of my concern for this issue, I have visited ANWR, seen the area first-hand and spoken with local Alaskans.  Energy exploration and production in ANWR would take place on just 2,000 acres of its 1.5 million acre northern coastal plain, an area proportional to the space a single letter occupies on the front page of The New York Times.  ANWR is roughly the size of the state of South Carolina, but the footprint of oil and gas development would occupy a space equivalent only to the size of the Charleston, South Carolina airport. The primary areas of ANWR that function as a wildlife reserve are further south, in the central and southern regions of ANWR.  American ingenuity and advanced technology would allow us to safely produce 900,000 barrels of oil per day for the next 30 years from this one project.

Another easy way we can reduce our dependence on hostile regimes for our oil needs is right next door. The Keystone project, a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline would transport 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast, is ready to start but President Obama is standing in the way by denying a permit to begin construction.

Canada’s oil sands are among the largest oil reserves in the world.  As global demand for oil surges and Canada increases production, the addition of the Keystone pipeline will ensure that Americans benefit from reliable and secure oil from our largest trading partner and trusted ally. 

The $7 billion pipeline cost to be paid by the Keystone consortium will fund nearly half a billion dollars in salaries including several hundred in Arkansas. It will result in the purchase of $6.5 billion worth of materials, services, and other local economic activity, without any federal money.  It is a no brainer.

Importing oil from Canada will accelerate America’s independence from overseas oil by increasing petroleum trade with one of our most reliable friends instead of depending on the likes of Saudi Arabia and hostile regimes, like Venezuela, for much of our oil.  The amount of oil provided through this project is equal to half the amount we import from Middle East countries on a daily basis.

While we increase our domestic production of fossil fuels, we must also work toward a future without them.  As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues to promote renewable sources of energy.  We must incentivize new technologies to leave our children with a cleaner, more sustainable environment.

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