By Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson
In our travels throughout the state, we have heard loudly and clearly from Georgians about the negative impact the high price of gasoline is having on their family budgets. Some have had to cancel vacations, others have had to cut back to just necessities and some are forced to choose between buying fuel to get to work and buying food to feed their families.
Georgians have told us they want us to lower gas prices right now, plain and simple. They want us to find domestic sources of energy so that we are no longer forced to purchase energy from nations and cartels that, in many cases, seek to do harm to the United States. This is a problem we cannot leave for future generations to solve. It was with these goals in mind, and on behalf of the people of Georgia, that we began to develop and participate in a bipartisan coalition of 10 senators to draft an energy proposal. And it was the strong voice of Georgians demanding action that kept our group of five Republicans and five Democrats together through many discussions over the course of several weeks.
Why did we put this group together? Because we cannot continue to import 68 percent of our oil. America has within its reach every resource necessary to be self-sufficient when it comes to energy. All we have to do is have the political will and the common sense to make it happen. Without utilizing our untapped resources, the United States is sitting on a ham sandwich while starving to death.
We know Georgians want us to focus on increasing our domestic production of energy by drilling here at home as well as increasing our commitment to alternative-fuels development and conservation measures. They also want us to expand the use of safe, reliable, clean nuclear power for electricity generation. These efforts have failed in Washington because the political parties have been talking past one another in hopes of scoring political points, instead of scoring wins for the people of Georgia and America. At the end of the day, it is the people of Georgia --- not Republicans or Democrats --- who lose when Washington fails to solve problems.
On Aug. 1, our bipartisan coalition unveiled the New Energy Reform Act of 2008 (New ERA). Our proposal contains three main components.
First, it addresses the urgent need for increased domestic production. This includes drilling in the outer continental shelf and development of nuclear power through additional staff at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, work force training, accelerating depreciation for nuclear plants, and research and development on spent-fuel recycling to reduce nuclear waste.
Second, it includes an Apollo-like project to get 85 percent of our cars and trucks off petroleum-based fuels in the next 20 years. Finally, the proposal contains a robust federal commitment to conservation. The New ERA proposal addresses the fundamentals of supply and demand by increasing production here at home and making a serious investment in conservation and alternative energy sources.
Our bipartisan coalition came together because we decided it was more important to respond to people than to politics. The high cost of energy is the biggest issue in our country today, and it is not going away. We believe the New ERA proposal is the start of a new conversation on energy in the United States Senate. Georgians sent us to Washington to solve the difficult problems, and that is what we are trying to do.