Energy is the lifeblood of the American economy, and ensuring its affordability and accessibility will be the engine which drives our economic recovery. To say it is "essential" is downplaying its importance. There isn't a segment of our society not reliant on access to affordable energy in one way or another.
Unfortunately, the leadership of Congress seems determined to push through an energy bill commonly referred to as "cap-and-trade," a measure which will restrict greenhouse gas emissions from industries and other sources and which will have a tremendously negative impact on our economy for years to come.
Cap-and-trade will stifle opportunity and hurt an already struggling job market. Though it purports to create "green jobs," the bill could actually cost our economy as many as 2.5 million jobs.
That's because at its core, this bill is a national energy tax certain to be passed onto energy consumers. That's you. Cap-and-trade will kill jobs, bleed budgets, and lead to more government intervention into our energy markets. Annual energy costs for a family of four in Nebraska could grow by as much as $1,700 including taxes, forcing families to reduce consumption of goods and services or making other sacrifices.
The stakes are even higher for Nebraska agriculture. Agriculture is an energy-intensive industry relying on fuel for the pick-up truck, to fertilizer for the crops, to generators to keep heaters on during the winter. Even a small increase in the operating costs for agriculture producers would have dire results.
I support an all-of-the-above approach to our energy policy, focusing on job creation and innovation in the marketplace to conserve our resources for future generations. America needs to encourage research and exploration into all sources of energy - including solar, biofuels, clean coal technology, hydropower, wind, domestic oil exploration, and yes - nuclear energy.
The 104 nuclear reactors in America today provide 20 percent of our electricity, yet no new reactors have been ordered since the late 1970s. We need to begin building new nuclear power plants to create clean, reliable energy - a central theme of legislation I support and co-sponsored last summer: the American Energy Act. Unlike the House-passed cap-and-trade bill which excluded nuclear power from its federal renewable energy standard, the American Energy Act would bring 100 new nuclear reactors online over the next 20 years, directly creating 242,000 jobs and another 404,000 jobs from additional economic activity.
Instead of new energy taxes on families and small businesses and regulation standing in the way of domestic exploration and production, Congress should aim lower gas and electricity prices by lifting government impediments. This would allow America's energy entrepreneurs to develop innovative, market-driven solutions to energy needs. For instance, I had the opportunity to visit the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado where cutting-edge technology is leading to more efficient uses of domestic energy resources, including biofuel from algae.
By developing American energy we can ensure our economy recovers and then remains on stable ground so our nation won't have to rely on foreign sources of energy.
As we continue to debate America's energy portfolio, Washington needs to support proven measures to develop domestic energy, eliminate irresponsible government spending, create new jobs, and put our economy back on track.