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Energy Independence Now

Op-Ed

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

I came across an interesting Time Magazine article posted online that discussed the "goal of making the U.S. self-sufficient in energy" and the "furious national debate" that planning for this ambitious objective was going to set off.

The article mentioned meetings that were bringing together many of the prominent energy minds of our nation. The article discussed some of our options - alternate sources of fuel, new conservation plans, increased supply, reduced demand, eased restraints on offshore drilling, and more federal spending for research and development. And there was a full paragraph on discussions concerning the feasibility of reducing our nation's dependence on foreign oil

The date of the article was September 2, 1974. The initial timeline to meet our national goal of making the U.S. self-sufficient in energy was 1980.

The participants at the meetings, most of them at least, thought that the United States would still be importing 25 percent of our oil by 1985, down from 33 percent in early 1974. Today, the United States depends on imports for over 60 percent of its oil needs.

And because petroleum fuels 40 percent of the energy consumed in our nation - including an almost complete reliance on petroleum for transportation - our national security and our economy remain heavily dependent on speculators and the major oil-producing countries of OPEC, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Algeria, Ecuador and Venezuela. The political make-up of some of these nations, increased oil demand from China and India, our economy's need for energy, and the volatile oil prices on the worldwide market demand that we act.

As the 1974 Time article illustrates, and four decades of energy independence procrastination confirms, our nation needs a real national commitment - from the people to the policymakers - to a comprehensive energy program. The goal must be to make the United States energy independent on a net basis, meaning that we produce at least as much energy as we consume.

A comprehensive energy program must bring together the many pieces of our national energy policy. The only way for the United States to be energy independent is for us to invest in a mixture of traditional energy exploration and renewable energy development. This must include greater investment in clean, renewable energy, of course. We have potential options - ranging from geothermal, hydropower, solar power, photovoltaic energy systems, and wind energy systems, and all of us want these options to lead to a supply of clean energy in the future.

Because our energy needs are great, we must also address the nation's energy deficiencies with contemporary energy resources in the most environmentally-friendly way available. We will need to look for greater development of our coal reserves and increased natural gas exploration. The U.S. is to coal what Saudi Arabia is to oil, and a greater focus on clean coal technology must be part of any comprehensive energy plan. I also wholeheartedly believe that nuclear power must be considered as a safe and clean source of energy.

We need a "furious national debate" about these energy challenges. These problems cannot be solved solely by drilling in Alaska or wind turbines and solar panels alone. It is going to require a comprehensive plan. In an effort to fuel that debate, I am hosting an "energy independence"
telephone town hall meeting on March 18th to discuss these important issues. We will start at 7:30 PM and you can join in by calling 1-888-989-6513 and giving the "Linder Town Hall" passcode. I hope you will be there.

The engine of our economy is powered by energy, and energy costs are a large contributor to the current downturn in economic growth. This is an economic security emergency that requires strategic decisions, and throwing rebate checks at this problem will not provide any long-term solutions.

Ben Franklin said, "When the well's dry, we know the worth of water." We are painfully aware of this saying here in Georgia. I fear that as a nation, in terms of oil, when gas costs $6.00 a gallon, we will know the worth of energy independence. Only when the United States has diversified the supply of its energy and can provide for its own energy needs will it be safer, more economically prosperous, and more secure in knowing that the well will never be dry.


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