Domestic Energy Policy:
* Increased use of Nuclear Energy
* ATW for spent nuclear fuel
* Petroleum for transportation use only
* Proceed with drilling at ANWR
For close to twenty years we have not had a viable domestic energy policy in this country and it is literally costing us billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year.
What if I told you that the reason you'll be paying $3.00 for a gallon of gas within the next year is not because we're being held hostage by foreign oil, but by a simple lack of a plan. The President tried to start a plan to wean us from foreign oil, but Democrats and a few weak Republicans, influenced by rabid environmentalists, derailed that plan.
Obtaining energy is possible without damaging the environment. I'm all for protecting the environment, as an avid hunter and recreational fisherman I'm the last guy that wants to destroy natural habitats or pollute the water. Unfortunately there are some that take protecting the environment too far, even at the expense of our economy and national security.
Technology has come so far from the 70's when the environmental movement started. Many new techniques have been devised to reduce the impact oil and gas exploration would have on the environment. Everything from horizontal boring to steam injection to "winter only" methods reduces the impact on the environment, in some cases, to almost no impact at all.
Winter only exploration and extraction of oil is the method that would be used in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Winter only means that drilling would only be conducted when there is a sufficient layer of ice and snow covering and protecting the tundra grasses and plants. Even the largest trucks can drive on the frozen tundra with ZERO effect on the habitat. Even an accidental oil spill can be cleaned up with ZERO impact on the environment, because the oil can simple be scraped from the top of the ice, then run through a separator (to separate the water from the oil). The oil can actually be used after this process and the water run through some filters and returned to the tundra.
Oil companies would also be required to place an environmental impact "deposit" into an escrow account just in case there is an accidental spilling or impact on the environment. This is already in effect for mining companies in the northeast. Upon completion of mining operations, they must return the environment to the way they found it. When they do, they get their deposit back. If they don't the government seizes the deposit to conduct restoration of the environment.
We have enough oil and natural gas, as well as other potential energy sources in this country to totally eliminate our dependency on foreign oil in as short as 15 years. What if someone told you that a gallon of gas could once again cost less than $1.50 a gallon, would you be interested in at least listening? One of the residual benefits of eliminating our dependence on foreign oil, is the marginalization of OPEC.
The price of oil, like any commodity, is subject to the rule of "supply and demand." Much like the price of orange juice doubles overnight when freezing temperatures in Florida destroys the crop, when the supply of oil is interrupted; the price of gas goes up.
War, idiotic dictators, greedy Middle East oil cartels, and a delicate, easy to manipulate, refining and distribution system in the United States all contribute to higher oil prices. Eliminating these market influences that inflates the price, will drive down prices.
So how do we fix it?
Well it isn't going to be easy, but it must be done. To do it, you have to fight "Big Oil," Wall Street, OPEC and the environmental movement to make it happen, but it is doable.
So here is how I see developing a sound energy policy and reducing, if not eliminating, our dependence on foreign oil.
They are: Increase refining capacity by building more refineries, hopefully far from "Hurricane Alley;" build more nuclear power plants; eliminate non transportation based oil consumption; institute incentives to conserve energy and petroleum; reopen "capped" domestic oil wells, increase domestic oil exploration and drilling, including in ANWR; and develop alternative sources of energy.
Let's take them one at a time.
Refining capacity: Last year we all saw what happens when you put your eggs in one basket. The 2005 hurricane season showed us how vulnerable we are to interruptions in our oil refining. This also let terrorists know how vulnerable we are as well. We need to rapidly correct this or we can expect many more episodes of what we saw in 2005.
A company had been trying to build a new refinery in Arizona for over nine years; it finally received its permit in April of 2005, making it the first refinery built in 30 years, that's right, 30 years. Environmentalists, not "Big Oil" has prevented building "new technology" refineries in the U.S. for three decades. It's a start but we have a long way to go. We need another dozen of these modern refineries, not only to meet our refining capacity needs, but also to replace old, vulnerable, potentially dangerous refineries. The new refineries are more efficient, safer and cleaner. I will do all I can to help advance legislation that will streamline the permit process for the construction of these much needed newer, safer, cleaner refineries.
Nuclear Power: Probably the only thing the French are doing better than we Americans is the efficient use of nuclear power. Almost all of their non-transportation domestic energy needs are met by using nuclear power. Why we still have oil and coal burning electric power plants in this country once again comes down to one thing, rabid environmentalists.
What is really surprising is that nuclear power is one of the cleanest ways to produce energy next to hydroelectric power generation, but hands down, nuclear is more efficient.
The basic energy fact is that the fission of an atom of uranium produces 10 million times the energy produced by the combustion of an atom of carbon from coal. Unlike coal that throws hydrocarbons and sulfur dioxide into the air, nuclear power doesn't. I find this quite funny that environmentalists would rather see us pollute the air with coal and oil than improve our nuclear power production.
I'd be lying if I told you Nuclear power is perfectly safe, nothing is perfectly safe, but they are safe enough to be relied upon as a sound source of energy. We've all recently seen the recent death of 16 coal miners in West Virginia. More miners die in the US every year (20-30 men) trying to get coal to generate electricity for America's needs. Not a single person has died in the US from Nuclear Power.
Nuclear power is far safer than it was twenty years ago when it was maligned in the movie "The China Syndrome." Today's engineering advances and safeguards make nuclear based energy production one of the safest, cleanest and economical ways to satisfy our country's growing energy needs.
At present, 109 nuclear reactors generate 1/5 (20%) of all American electricity. Simple math would say you need 400 more to generate all of it, but that's not necessarily the case. First, it would not mean we need to build 400 separate nuclear power plants. That many new plants definitely wouldn't be wanted and it would be hard to find enough suitable locations to build them. Second, today's new reactors are far more efficient and larger. There might not be a need for many new plants, and just a few more additional reactors at present plants. We already have several plants with multiple reactors, and ones that could easily have two or three reactors added. We would only have to build new plants in areas not presently served by nuclear power. Simply building one more plant in each state, around 50, each with 3-4 new reactors, would satisfy current power needs and then some.
Eliminate non-transportation based oil consumption: Once we have more electrical power generation, we could then look at converting the approximately 8.1 million homes using heating oil as their main heating fuel. I've always wondered why we have things that are not moving, burning oil. Home heating and power generation currently account for burning 6 million barrels a day. Refined oil products should only be used for transportation purposes. Tax credit and Federal grants will be used to help homeowners defray the cost of conversion to electric or natural gas heat.
The staggering thing of this is the beneficial effect is almost unimaginable. If everyone in the U.S. traded in all of their SUVs and bought hybrids, the most favorable estimate for reduction in oil consumption would amount to about 1 million barrels a day. We all know most Americans will never buy a hybrid, but converting all homes to electricity is doable and we'd get five times the results.
If you consider we burn about 20 million barrels a day, reducing consumption by 6 million barrels would have a huge impact on oil and gas prices in the U.S. Why haven't we done this? Surely the environmentalists would love to reduce the #1 cause of Global warming by 25%.
Another benefit to eliminating home heating oil is on the supply side. Every year, oil companies shut down refineries to convert them from gasoline production to home heating oil production. Even this short period of time creates a reduction in supply, increasing prices. It happens every year. If we didn't have to disrupt the flow of gas refining, the price of gas would go down, as well as production costs.
Institute incentives to conserve energy and petroleum: We do need to do something about conserving energy as well. The way to do this is through incentive not by limiting FREEDOM and restricting the rights of Americans to drive the car they want to drive. Many incentives are already in place; like the Federal Income Tax credit for purchasing a hybrid and HOV lanes for hybrids. I mentioned tax credits and grants to convert homes to electric heat, but how about a special gas pump that only has half the federal gasoline tax applied? That would be almost 10 cents a gallon cheaper than at the regular pump. The catch is you'd have to drive a car that gets over 40 miles to the gallon.
Right now, the cost of buying a hybrid car exceeds the savings in fuel economy. Many people just don't buy them because it takes years to recoup the up front investment and they tend to have higher maintenance costs. A way to encourage hybrid and high fuel economy vehicles is to have a special category of fuel. The system would closely mirror the program we have for farm diesel, where farmers don't pay fuel taxes for vehicles they use on their farms. If we carried that over to people with hybrids and fuel efficient cars, the average person would save two dollars every time they filled their tank, in addition to the savings from the fuel economy.
As I stated earlier, I love freedom and think every American deserves the right to drive the car that they'd like. If you want to drive a Hummer and want to pay a lot of money for gas, you should be able to. If you drive a Hybrid or other fuel efficient car, you should be rewarded financially for doing so.
Reopen "capped" domestic oil wells: Right now, there are thousands of dormant oil wells throughout the United States. Many still have large quantities of oil in them, but because of excessive government regulation and expensive red tape, they've become unprofitable and have been capped. Millions of barrels, literally under our feet, are not being utilized. Again, using the same environmental escrow account program, we can once again make these wells profitable. This in turn will influence the oil companies to focus more effort on domestic oil production and less effort on the current policy of purchasing raw crude from foreign sources.
Increase domestic oil exploration and drilling: The amount of oil within the territorial waters of the United States is mind boggling. Geologists believe that immense oil deposits are still undiscovered off the coast of New Jersey, California and in the Gulf of Mexico that may contain far more oil than any deposit found in the Middle East. Unfortunately, we'll never know for sure because the Congress refuses to allow for offshore oil exploration in fear of the environmentalist backlash if they do.
Major advances in technology have provided an ability to safely drill for oil with minimal impact on the environment. British Petroleum has become very skilled at minimal impact oil exploration and extraction. They also return the sea floor to the way the found it and immediately clean up any spills that might occur before they create an environmental issue. We need to strike a sensible balance between our need for oil and concerns for the environment.
Develop alternative energy sources: We are on the brink of many scientific discoveries that will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Fuel cell technology, Biodiesel, Ethanol, Methanol, and battery technology for electric vehicles all have come a long way in the past few years. We still have more to do and other alternatives that have yet to be explored. Incentives, in the form of tax breaks for both researchers and consumers are needed to stimulate development and consumption in the alternative fuel sector. I will support any legislation that will accomplish this.
Clean and environmental friendly energy production: With Accelerator-driven Transmutation of Waste (ATW), spent nuclear fuel can be recycled, dramatically reducing waste. Simply put, ATW transforms long-lived radioactive waste (1,000,000+ years) into less hazardous, short lived (300+ years) material. And guess what else? It generates electricity as a byproduct. It is estimated that ATW recycling can produce 5 trillion kilowatt energy hours of emission free energy over the next 40 years> Are you ready for the added bonus? When the energy is sold, it will completely pay for the process, and even turn a small profit.
The Department of Energy estimates that at the rate we are currently producing spent nuclear fuel, that the Yucca Mountain, High Level Nuclear Waste Storage Facility will be filled the day it opens. Another benefit of ATW is if we took the 40,000 tons of the current spent nuclear fuel that would be stored for a million years in Yucca Mountain and recycled it using ATW, only about 2,000 tons would be left, plus the waste could be stored more densely because ATW waste can't start a nuclear reaction. It also prevents the production of weapons grade plutonium, which is currently extracted from spent reactor fuel.
Finally, the best news about ATW is that the recycling facilities can be built near current reactors eliminating the dangerous process of transporting waste through 43 states to get to the Nevada site.
A strong alternative energy policy that includes hydroelectric and nuclear power is essential to reduce our dependence on foreign oi