Issue Position: Gas Prices and Energy Policy
Around the world, gas prices have escalated due to increased worldwide consumption, unstable regimes, burdensome regulations and natural disasters. All of these factors have pushed the oil market to the limit. High energy prices reflect short supplies and the strong demand of a growing economy. Massive government interference in the market is not the answer to this problem, but government can help reduce the problem by 1) encouraging an increase in energy supplies, 2) promoting new technology and innovation, and 3) encouraging conservation and fuel efficiency. All Arkansans, especially low and middle-income families, are counting on government to do what it can to reduce the burden of high energy costs.
I am a strong supporter of renewable fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel. In fact, I am currently cosponsoring legislation (H.R. 2498) that would provide tax incentives for the production and use of biodiesel. This fuel is a cleaner burning alternative to traditional diesel, and increased biodiesel production use would strengthen our economy and improve our environment. Also, production of biodiesel helps our farmers who are struggling with the high cost of energy. In 2005, I voted for H.R. 6, comprehensive energy legislation which, among other things, requires that increasing amounts of renewable fuels be included in all gasoline sold in the United States.
America is making good progress in increasing the amount of ethanol we produce and use. As of early 2006, ethanol production is underway or planned in 20 states, primarily in or near corn-producing regions. As of April 27, 2006, U.S. ethanol production capacity in existence or under construction amounts to 6.7 billion gallons per year. Ethanol alone can not fulfill all our energy needs. It takes a tremendous amount of land to produce ethanol, which is also more expensive than traditional gasoline and requires significant energy to produce; however, ethanol is one part of the solution. For this reason, on October 7, 2004, I voted for H.R. 4520, the "American Jobs Creation Act," which President Bush signed into law on October 22, 2004. This law extends the 51¢ per gallon ethanol production tax credit, which goes a long way towards making ethanol production economically viable. I will continue to review additional steps we can take to encourage the production and use of renewable fuels like ethanol.
INCREASING AMERICA'S DOMESTIC SOURCES OF ENERGY
America must increase our production of home-made energy if we are going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring down the cost of gas. On May 25, 2006, I joined a solid majority of Republicans and 27 Democrats in voting to pass H.R. 5429, the "American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act." This legislation would allow Americans to use the domestic energy reserves from a very small portion of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). I have supported environmentally-friendly energy production in ANWR every time I have had the opportunity to vote on the issue. I believe it is important that we meet America's energy needs without undermining environmental safeguards or ruining pristine wilderness areas.
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. Responsible use of ANWR's oil and gas resources would expand the world's oil supply and reduce its price, save $14 billion per year in oil imports, create thousands of American jobs, and enhance federal revenues by billions of dollars. Finally, it would allow us to obtain this resource here at home, rather than importing it from less stable regions, such as the Middle East or Venezuela.
On June 29, 2006, I voted for the "Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act," a bipartisan bill that would make it easier for the American people to use energy resources located in the deep ocean (100 miles or more off our coast). The bill would give states the flexibility and authority to allow safe production of energy resources, such as natural gas, within 100 miles of their coasts. Even as hurricanes roared through the Gulf of Mexico last year, we saw that modern technology allows offshore energy production to be carried out safely and effectively. If we don't utilize this energy resource, we will only increase our reliance on foreign oil that will be imported on tankers through our coastal waters.
A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH
In 2005, I voted for H.R. 6, which passed the House of Representatives with a bipartisan vote of 275 to 156. This bill passed the Senate by a vote of 74 to 26 and was signed into law by President Bush on August 8, 2005 (Public Law 109-58). This law that seeks to ensure that America's energy needs will be met in the long-term through a comprehensive approach. It promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy, and it will decrease our dependence on foreign oil. For example, to scale back demand for oil, the law encourages vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells and increases funding efforts to improve fuel efficiency. Also, the law provides incentives for clean coal technology and the production of super-efficient appliances. The legislation extends daylight savings time for one month to reduce energy consumption by the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil each day. Finally, the law promotes renewable energies such as biomass, wind, solar and hydroelectricity and boosts production of clean natural gas to help alleviate soaring prices for this environmentally friendly fuel.