With gas prices approaching $4 per gallon and continuing to rise with no relief in sight, it is unacceptable that Congress has failed to address the energy crisis America is facing. Folks across the nation are struggling as a result of ever increasing energy and food costs and they deserve a solution to this problem. This week, Toyota announced plans to release their entire part-time workforce from their San Antonio auto manufacturing facility in an effort to decrease production of the Tundra, which as a result of outrageous gas prices is experiencing a substantial drop in sales. The increase in gas prices is causing real families in our community to lose real jobs. People across the 23rd district deserve a Representative who will deal with the reality of the energy crisis and provide a genuine response. Having worked to promote alternative energy solutions at the local level, as your Congressman, I would bring substantial experience in dealing with energy issues to Washington, as well as a multi-pronged strategy to solve this problem.
While serving on the San Antonio City Council, we took steps to increase our utilization of alternative energy by supporting the South Texas nuclear project and beginning wind power generation. During my tenure on the Bexar County Commissioners Court, we have implemented several sound energy initiatives, while promoting the goal of greatly reducing our carbon footprint. In 2005, the Court opened the first ever Ethanol 85 Fuel Station for private and public use, in addition to ongoing replacement of county vehicles to electric hybrid vehicles. In 2006, we approved the VIA Bus Pass Program which provides free bus rides for all County employees to encourage them to use public transportation. In 2001, the Court installed the state's largest solar thermal water heating system at the Adult Detention Center Annex which provides 21,000 gallons of hot water to the facility for laundry, kitchen activities, and showers.
Our strategy is a comprehensive approach that will effectively address the energy crisis using resources we already have and that do not endanger our national food supply. Not only are Americans suffering from increased costs, our dependence on foreign oil is a national security risk. While we must increase the development of renewable energy sources, we must also increase our domestic production and output of oil while increasing our refining capacity to match our country's demand for fossil fuels.
In order to encourage America's oil independence, Congress must lift the ban on offshore drilling. It is necessary that we pursue exploration of resources off the coast of Florida, California, the gulf coast, and in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). While we remain idle, other countries are benefiting from their own offshore exploration. The Congress is naive to think that the reserves on our coast will remain unexplored while China and other countries are currently drilling a mere 200 miles off our coast exploring and producing oil that should be in American hands. Not only are we missing out on much needed energy, but by refusing to drill, Congress is also relinquishing trillions of dollars that could be used for future research and development of new forms of energy and to deal with the impending fiscal crisis with Medicare and Social Security. While, in the past, there have been concerns with the environmental implications of drilling in sensitive areas such as ANWR, there are now environmentally sound production methods. Environmentally safe drilling in ANWR can be achieved using directional drilling technology to limit the impact on the footprint significantly more than was possible 5 years ago. In conjunction with increased drilling, we need to expand our refining capacity as well.
While we import most of our oil supply from neighboring countries of Mexico and Canada, we must take steps to aid in their continued production and development of their abundant resources. In order for the U.S. to greatly decrease our reliance on oil that is derived from unfriendly nations, we must make the effort to assist Mexico in its production. PEMEX, Mexico's state-owned petroleum company, is producing one million barrels less per day than they were 10 years ago. Areas along either side of the Texas/Mexico border share similar geological formations, however, while there are 1,100 active oil wells in Maverick County alone, the oil production in Northern Mexico is non-existent. It is in our long term national interest to share our technology with Mexico thereby helping them to maximize their domestic production.
Our strategy will also include moving toward renewable energy utilization, in addition to the use of conventional fossil fuels. In the 23rd District alone there is a myriad of natural sources that have the capability to be converted into energy, which will not jeopardize food crops. It is not in our nation's best interest to limit our use of biofuel to food crops, which has the effect of unnecessarily driving food prices up. We must find alternative biomass that is as equally viable in a thermo catalytic process as corn, such as algae or non-grain yielding sorghum. We must also cultivate solar, wind and other renewable sources.
We would also provide tax incentives for individuals who choose lead more energy efficient lifestyles. In lieu of a stimulus package, we need to offer tax credits for tax payers who purchase American-made vehicles that are fuel efficient, getting over 25 highway miles per gallon.
Constituents of the 23rd District should be able to look to their member of Congress for a solution to the energy crisis, as opposed to being forced to pay needlessly high gas prices. We can implement this strategy that provides for environmentally responsible energy production, research and development of renewable energy, as well as tax incentives for energy efficiency. Congress needs real leadership to achieve meaningful energy policy reform.