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Issue Position: Energy

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Gasoline prices and energy costs across the country have hit historic highs amidst an economic slow-down that has forced most Kentucky families to tighten their belts. Kentuckians, like all Americans, simply cannot afford to be paying nearly $4 a gallon every time they pull up to the pump.

I have worked consistently to bring these prices back down, giving regulators enhanced authority to prosecute price gougers and pushing for the development of other fuel sources to make our country less dependent on gasoline. However, to bring down energy costs for both the long and short term, we need to increase domestic oil supplies and provide immediate relief to consumers. To accomplish this goal, I have introduced legislation, the End the Pain at the Pump Act, which would provide a tax rebate roughly equivalent to the price of 1/3 of a gallon of gas for workers who use their personal vehicles to drive to and from work. The legislation would also grow the country's fuel supply by expediting the approval of refinery permits and opening additional areas to environmentally responsible drilling. The additional tax revenue generated from this drilling, which is expected to be as much as $190 billion, will be used to pay for the tax credit.

I also believe that we need to use more alternative fuels to increase fuel supply on the market. According to recent data, ethanol is helping hold down the retail cost of gasoline, resulting in a 35 to 40 cent per gallon savings compared to what those prices would be if that supply were replaced with oil. Corn ethanol is a transitional renewable fuel that is grown and produced here in the United States by farmers in rural areas, especially in Kentucky. As the Kentucky Congressman who represents the only ethanol facility in my state, I support the use of ethanol and biodiesel and especially the development of the next generation of energy sources, including cellulosic ethanol, hydrogen fuel cells, coal-to-liquids, tar sands, and oil shale.

While I will continue to put pressure on our nation's major oil and alternative fuel producers to reduce motor fuel prices by increasing supply, we must push to develop other fuel sources, such as coal, to meet our fuel needs. Today, the United States possesses enough coal reserves for the next 250 years, with much of this supply lying in Kentucky's own backyard. Kentucky's coal industry alone has an economic impact of $3.25 billion and employs approximately 17,000 miners, along with tens of thousands of additional workers.

For this reason, I have worked with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to ensure the future role of Kentucky coal as a vital part of the nation's fuel portfolio by providing incentives for coal-to-liquids technology. I have been a staunch supporter of new clean coal technologies that enable coal to be used in a manner that is both more efficient and environmentally friendly. Beyond the traditional generation of electricity, coal is now being used in the industrial, transportation, residential, commercial and military sectors. New technologies have proven effective in converting coal into natural gas, liquid fuels and hydrogen. Some estimates predict that these conversion technologies could produce enough coal liquid fuel to boost the U.S. oil supply by 10 percent and natural gas production by 15 percent.

Kentucky, and the First District in particular, has a long and proud history associated with the use of coal, and I am certain our area will continue to be a leader in the development of new coal technologies and innovations in the years to come. Diversifying our fuel supply is a critical part of reducing fuel costs and I plan to make certain that Kentucky coal plays a role in that.

The First District is also unique in that it is home to the only remaining uranium enrichment plant in the United States, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Nuclear power currently accounts for 20 percent of our nation's electricity and is a clean, emission-free energy source. The enriched uranium fuel from the Paducah Plant helps power our nation's commercial nuclear power plants. The workforce at the Plant has helped provide for our nation's energy and defense needs over the past fifty years and I am proud to represent them in the Congress.

During the 110th Congress, I have been proud to introduce and champion legislation which would keep employees at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) working and bring millions of dollars to the region for environmental clean-up. My proposal would provide a reasonable solution to the disposal of the 700,000 tons of uranium tails located at the Paducah and Portsmouth sites and could help keep the Paducah plant open for several years beyond the planned 2012 closure date, by directing the Department of Energy to contract with USEC, the operator of the Paducah plant, to re-enrich the uranium tails. This legislation would help resolve the environmental problem of disposing of these tails, generate revenue to continue environmental cleanup efforts and give additional life to the Paducah plant. Currently, I am working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to find a reasonable compromise proposal which would benefit the plant in Paducah.

In September of 2008 I was able to help usher through Congress a measure which limits the amount of Russian uranium that can be imported into the United States. This provision will prevent the U.S. market from being flooded with foreign uranium and protect the PGDP. The measure would also prevent the U.S. from becoming dependent on foreign sources of uranium. The PGDP is too important to the economy of western Kentucky to let it be threatened by the dumping of Russian uranium and I am pleased to have been part of this successful fight for its survival.


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