TIME FOR A COMPREHENSIVE ENERGY PLAN
Capitol Notebook: A Column By Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-OH)
We're just past the halfway mark of the traditional Congressional August Recess and my colleagues and I are still trying to convince the Congressional Leadership that high energy prices are hurting families across the country and we must produce more American-made energy and improve energy efficiency. Democrats voted not once, but twice to go on a five-week break without allowing debate or a vote on increased energy production on the Floor. I along with nearly every Republican voting in the House voted against adjourning. Unfortunately, nearly all of the Democrats voted to go home, and we lost.
After that Speaker Nancy Pelosi closed down the House, turned off the lights, the microphones, and the TV cameras. A handful of members, however, decided on the spur of the moment to stay on the Floor. Their actions were unprecedented; they spoke to each other, to reporters who had stayed behind, and most importantly directly to the American people visiting the nation's Capitol. They spoke of the need for comprehensive energy reform and their frustration that votes and discussion were blocked. I hear that first day was a little reminiscent of a pep rally with members of Congress, and members of the audience chanting and cheering. Members decided that throughout the traditional August Recess, they would take turns and continue the protest on the Floor, asking to be called back in to session to vote on real energy reform.
In the following days members of the House returned to Washington to join in the speeches on the Floor. Just days ago, I traveled back to the U.S. Capitol to tell my colleagues what I had been hearing from you. I spoke with so many people at events like the Hartford Fair, Taste of Reynoldsburg, and the Pataskala Street Fair about how high energy prices were affecting the way you live your lives. I even heard from some of you at church, at the hardware store, and at the grocery store. On the House Floor, I told my colleagues about your concerns. I told them how you were demanding action. I described how one of you told me that if you decided to take days off without completing a task you'd get fired. What did that say for Democrats shutting down Congress without a vote on energy?
I described how I believe we need to have an "all of the above" approach to energy reform. How we need to begin exploring for oil and natural gas in ANWR, on the outercontinental shelf, and on other public lands. I believe we need to build more refineries to produce more American energy. I believe American energy shouldn't just come from traditional sources, but should come from alternative sources like wind and solar power and we should continue developing new energy technology like coal-to-liquid and oil shale production. Finally, we need to make better use of the energy we do have by encouraging efficiency.
As I've mentioned before, encouraging American energy production in all its forms creates American jobs and encourages American innovation. We can be the supplier of future energy technology for the world rather than having to buy it from somewhere else. In fact we're already exporting some of that technology now. At companies right here in Ohio we're manufacturing components of new energy technology and sending them overseas. We need to be using American-made products to produce American-made energy. We already spend $700 billion a year to buy oil from other countries. Take a look at some of our sources of oil - Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to name just two - they're not exactly our best friends. Imagine what would happen if we spent that $700 billion a year on American-made energy. Think how that would boost our economy, think of the new jobs that would be created, and think how our nation and American workers would thrive.
However, it's not just economic security that energy independence will encourage but our nation's physical security as well. Over the past few weeks we've heard stories about Russia invading the former Soviet Republic of Georgia. We've been working hard to diffuse the situation diplomatically, but it's been hard for some European countries to take a firm stance against Russia for their aggressive actions because Russia is also a large supplier of oil to Europe. Russia at any minute could turn off the spigot to Europe's oil supply. This is just one example of what happens when one country is dependent on another for their energy supply. We don't want that to happen to us.
I have already personally asked the President to call us in to an emergency session to vote on energy legislation. On the Floor, I repeated my call to Speaker Pelosi. Call the Congress back in to session and allow a vote on increased energy production. She may not be in favor of new American drilling, but other representatives are following the will of nearly two-thirds of the country and want to increase America's energy production. Speaker Pelosi should allow a vote on drilling, she should allow a bill to come to the Floor that can be debated and amended. We need a new comprehensive energy plan that allows for increased American production of traditional and renewable fuels, and improved energy efficiency. We need the vote to decrease energy prices, to help improve the economy, to make us more secure as a nation, and to put us on the right path toward a future where the United States uses the resources it has to thrive.