WASHINGTON, DC - Gas prices are rapidly approaching record levels. The average price of a gallon of regular gas here in Ohio is twenty cents higher today than it was a year ago. If prices continue to rise, it may soon cost us more than two dollars per gallon to fill up our car, truck or minivan. Paying prices like these at the pump hurts our family budgets and our local economies.
Today we import nearly two-thirds of our oil, compared to only one-third at the time of the oil embargo in the 1970s. This dependence on foreign oil makes us nearly powerless when the price of foreign crude oil goes up. We must make America less dependent on foreign oil-it's a matter of economic security, but also energy security and national security. Through exploration, innovation and conservation, we can become less dependent.
Shortly after taking office, President Bush proposed a comprehensive National Energy Policy that would reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. The House immediately responded and passed similar legislation. The final hurdle is getting this energy legislation through the U.S. Senate, where it has a majority support, but not the 60 percent majority needed to overcome a filibuster.
If our nation is to meet the growing demand for affordable energy in the coming decades, we must use our existing energy supplies more efficiently and explore new alternative and renewable energy sources through research and development. Renewable and alternative energy supplies not only make us less dependent on foreign oil, they protect the environment.
The energy legislation that passed the House encourages more oil and gas production here at home and also provides more support for renewable and alternative energy sources. For example, the legislation includes $2.15 billion in funding for a state-of-the-art program to get hydrogen cell vehicles on the roads by 2020. Hydrogen energy can be produced from nearly any energy source, is likely to be virtually emission free and has the potential to be a nearly limitless fuel for America. The legislation also reforms regulations on hydroelectric dams to allow for more hydroelectric power generation, while preserving existing protections for fish and the environment. Hydroelectric dams are the nation's single largest renewable energy source and account for 10 percent of America's electricity supply. This legislation also takes steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions by offering financial incentives for the production of electricity from renewable and alternative fuels such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and others.
In addition to finding renewable energy sources, conservation is another way to reduce demand and improve our energy security. The bill requires a 20 percent reduction in federal building energy use by 2013 and establishes new energy efficiency standards for many new commercial and consumer products that use large amounts of energy. According to the American Council for Energy Efficiency, this comprehensive energy legislation would eliminate the need for 130 power plants (130 megawatts each) by 2020.
A comprehensive energy policy that balances consumption and environmental concerns is a common sense approach to solving Americas long term energy needs. We will have not have the needed control over prices at the pump until we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. It is urgent that the U.S. Senate pass the President's energy bill. America can then achieve greater energy independence by producing more energy domestically, investing in renewable and alternative energy sources, and improving our conservation methods.