Issue Position: Energy Policy
Today we are more dependent on foreign oil than ever before. In fact, 56 percent of our oil supply comes from foreign sources, which is a 20 percent increase over the 1973 Arab oil embargo levels. The Department of Energy predicts that in less than 20 years, America will rely on foreign countries for nearly 65 percent of our energy needs. This is not only a threat to our economy, it is a threat to our national security.
Unfortunately, our energy problems are not confined to oil production. Despite growing demand, our natural gas production has fallen 14 percent since 1973. Yet, nearly 40 percent of our gas resources in the Rocky Mountains are off-limits to production and most of the submerged lands under federal waters are off-limits to gas leasing until 2012.
The result: natural gas prices are higher in some parts of the country than they were just a couple of years ago. This price increase, while affecting all consumers, is hitting those of us in farm country particularly hard because higher natural gas prices mean increased fertilizer costs. This illustrates the important point that high energy prices effect virtually every aspect of our nation's economy.
While hydroelectric power is a great source of power in Montana and provides enough electricity for 98 million homes, the industry is facing more and more problems as a result of increased federal regulations. These federal rules and regulations have made the process of re-licensing hydro operations expensive and time-consuming, which in turn raises the cost of electricity.
Simply put, we must increase our power generation and transportation capabilities. If we don't start developing some of our natural resources now, the California crisis of a year ago will become the national crisis of tomorrow.
Fortunately, America has the tools to confront these energy problems, and we must use them. While energy conservation is critical, the U.S. cannot conserve its way out of this energy crunch. It is vitally important that we take steps to increase domestic energy production through access to and exploration of oil and gas prospects such as Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and through new and expanded energy delivery infrastructure, advanced coal technology, nuclear power, and solar and wind power. We also have to explore alternative renewable fuels, such as ethanol, which burns clean and supplies an important and profitable market for agriculture products.
The bottom line is that we have the resources to head off this problem before it gets worse. But that means implementing a national energy policy that encourages the development of our resources in an energy efficient and environmentally friendly manner. With recent technological advancements, I believe this can be done.
The House has acted with foresight on this issue by passing a comprehensive energy package legislation. This bill would address each of the problems and concerns I mentioned above. It is my hope that the Senate will act on this legislation in the very near future. Doing so would ensure a clean, inexpensive, and diverse supply of energy for families and small businesses to utilize into the distant future.