The Capitol Times
Nearly 50 years ago, President Kennedy issued a bold challenge to Congress: Put a man on the moon within a decade. Many said it could not be done. But eight years later, when Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong took that first step for man and mankind, it became the single most powerful image of our strength as a nation to achieve the impossible.
In issuing this challenge to Congress, Kennedy said: "I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership."
Kennedy's words in 1961 draw a lot of parallels to where we are today -- facing an energy crisis that has slowed our economy and threatened our quality of life. Again "we possess all the resources and talents necessary" to make our nation independent of foreign oil, but "we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources to do it." This has to change.
For too long, our energy policy has been anything but forward-looking. A lack of leadership in the White House to enact a comprehensive energy policy and leaders sympathetic to the oil industry have left Americans with $4-a-gallon gasoline. To add insult to injury, countries like Brazil and Germany are years ahead of us in the quest for independence from oil.
The Democratic Congress is working to try to make up for the failed policies of the past. Over the last few weeks, Democrats in Congress have brought forward six measures designed to reduce gas prices -- including a bill that would jump-start domestic drilling in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and tell big oil companies to explore the leases they already have on federal lands but are not using.
Republican opposition has stopped each of these bills.
Only a comprehensive approach to this crisis will help bring some relief to families. The impulse right now is to focus only on the immediate future, but we cannot squander this opportunity to make the investments now that would prevent this situation down the road. That's why I'm calling for an Apollo-scale energy strategy that would bring us to the next level.
The technology already exists to harness the wind and sun, and research shows that our abundant supplies of natural gas could quite possibly be a viable, less expensive, and most importantly domestic fuel that would power our vehicles in the future. What we need now is the federal investment to enhance our energy infrastructure and bring these energies to market.
We must also recognize that everyone has a role to play in our energy future, and work to reduce demand through increased conservation on the federal, state, local, and individual level. For example, simple behaviors like driving the speed limit can save you a lot of money; the federal government estimates each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 30 cents per gallon for gas! Everyone taking small steps together could realize tremendous savings.
Much attention recently has surrounded tapping the resources the United States holds, and I believe increasing our domestic oil supply should be part of the equation. Oil companies should immediately develop the 68 million acres of federal land for which they already hold leases. I also believe we should allow coastal states to determine if they want to open new saltwater areas to drilling.
Through all of this it is important to remember, however, that drilling is not the cure for our addiction to oil. Independent estimates indicate that even with additional domestic drilling, consumers would not experience a large reduction in energy costs. The reason is simple math: The United States holds only 2.5 percent of the world's oil reserves, yet we use 25 percent of oil produced every day.
Finally, we must take into account the role the decreased value of the U.S. dollar has on energy prices. Since oil is priced in dollars, when the value of the dollar declines, oil prices rise. The Federal Reserve and Congress must work together to balance our federal budget and reduce our deficit. Together these actions would strengthen our currency and reduce our energy costs.
We must again capture President Kennedy's spirit and respond to this energy crisis with a new Apollo Energy Project -- investments as monumental as the task. Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon showed the world that Americans can achieve anything we put our minds to. Energy is the next great challenge of our time. We must roll up our sleeves, work together, and again show the world what we can do.
Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, represents Wisconsin 3rd District in Congress.