America's Energy Future
America's energy policy can either be reactive and arcane, or it can be proactive and visionary. I support the latter, and am an unabashed advocate for policies that will end our dependence on foreign oil, enhance our national security, protect our environment and create new economies.
I have heard the arguments of my Republican colleagues and the recent flip-flop made by Senator McCain demanding more off-shore drilling. This position is shared by a Daniel Island constituent who recently chided me, "to get out my box of crayons and draw a picture of an oil derrick. There are a lot of people who want this country to start drilling for the oil we own. Draw oil coming out of the top of the derrick." I believe this gentleman would be run off of that island if his neighbors were aware that he is advocating marring their beautiful ocean views with oil rigs and making South Carolina beaches and coastline susceptible to massive oil spills.
Democrats want to take immediate steps to increase American oil production. That's why we are pushing oil companies to start drilling on the more than 80 million acres of American land that is available to them right now, 68 million in the lower 48 states and another 15 to 23 million acres in Alaska. The oil companies have the potential to produce from those acres an additional 7.8 million barrels of oil and over 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day. I can think of only one reason the oil companies aren't drilling on that land -- they want demand and prices to remain high.
But increased domestic drilling provides a temporary band-aid. We must look at long term solutions. I am an ardent supporter of expanding our country's nuclear capacity. Here in South Carolina, more than 50 percent of our electricity is produced by nuclear power. New technology makes nuclear a very safe, and viable energy alternative.
If you don't believe me, just ask Dr. Patrick Moore, founding member and former director of Greenpeace. This once staunch opponent of nuclear energy is now one of its biggest supporters. "I find it logically inconsistent for people in the environmental movement who say that climate change threatens the very existence of our civilization, and then they are opposed to one of the most important technologies that could bring about a resolution to that problem - replacing fossil fuels with nuclear energy."
Nuclear energy is also cost effective. According to Dr. Moore, nuclear energy is on par with the cost of coal-fire plants with the added benefit of being emissions free, while gas costs three times as much as nuclear, wind costs five times as much and solar costs 10 times as much. Next month I will host a Seminar in Charleston entitled, "the Nuclear Alternative" where we will discuss the benefits of expanding this important industry.
I am proud to help South Carolina play a role in weaning our nation off gas-powered vehicles and replacing them with biofuel or hydrogen technology. In addition to nuclear, our farming communities are looking for new crops such as soybeans, sugar beets, sugar cane and even our prolific regional plant - kudzu -- that could sustain a biofuel economy and build new markets.
While "a box of crayons and a picture of an oil derrick" may be some people's vision of our nation's future energy policies, I am more inclined to take a more enlighten and long range approach. Congressional Democrats are supporting an innovations agenda that seeks to make America energy independent by 2020. We can achieve that goal, but only if we are willing to look forward and not backwards.