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A Real Energy Independence Plan

Op-Ed

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A Real Energy Independence Plan

By: Congressman Lamar Smith

Our nation's energy plan should strengthen our economy, lower consumer prices, reduce our dependency on foreign oil and protect the environment. Renewable energy is a very important component to achieving these goals.

The "Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008" contains some beneficial provisions, such as creating incentives to make energy efficiency improvements to new and existing homes and extending tax credits to encourage the production of alternative forms of energy.

But while it is appropriate to encourage alternative energy development, Congress should not do so by damaging our domestic oil and gas industry. More than one-fourth of the United States natural gas production occurs in Texas, making it the Nation's leading natural gas producer.

According to the Department of Energy, in 2006 all renewable energy sources provided only 6 percent of the United States domestic energy supply. In contrast oil and natural gas provided 58 percent of our domestic energy supply.

There have been significant advancements in utilizing alternative energy sources and achieving energy efficiency. There are over 2,000 wind turbines in West Texas alone. Texas leads the Nation in wind-powered generation capacity. But our economy still depends on oil and natural gas for significant amounts of its energy. Our economy and way of life demand an energy plan that not only meets today's needs but prepares us for future needs.

Furthermore, almost two million Americans are directly employed in the oil and natural gas industry.

Punishing one of our Nation's most important industries does not constitute a national energy policy.

The answer to lowering gas prices and reducing our dependence on foreign oil is not to remove $17.6 billion in tax incentives from the oil and gas industry. The answer is to utilize our domestic resources, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Environmentally safe oil and gas development in areas such as the ANWR will ensure America's energy freedom.

The answer is also to build new refineries. But no new major refinery has been built in the United States in the past 15 years. Texas's 25 refineries can process more than 4.6 million barrels of crude oil per day. This accounts for more than one-fourth of the United States total refining capacity.

Another answer is to develop more nuclear energy, as most European and Asian countries have done. But no new nuclear facility has received a construction license in the United States for 30 years, even though safe technology is available.

Instead of penalizing the oil and gas industry, Congress should pass real energy reform, expand domestic exploration of oil and gas, build more refineries and construct more nuclear facilities.


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