Good afternoon. For more than a week now, the world has continued to watch the unfolding drama in Japan. We are all saddened by the loss of life and destruction caused by the devastating earthquake and tsunami, as well as the dangerous, ongoing threat of radioactive fallout. Our prayers go out to the victims, their families and every single person impacted by this month's horrific events.
In the aftermath of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake, we are painfully reminded of the importance of doing everything possible to be prepared when disaster strikes, as well as the life-saving potential of promising new technologies that can provide advanced warnings for our region.
As of right now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have all stated that there is no risk expected to California or its residents as a result of the situation in Japan. But this certainly has served as a wakeup call for us all.
The earthquake in Japan is the latest in a series of recent major quakes: the 6.3 magnitude quake in New Zealand this past February and the 8.8-magnitude quake in Chile last year. These incidences will undoubtedly raise questions about what it means for our nation's nuclear energy industry, but especially for those plants most vulnerable -- those located near earthquake fault lines in California. These are important questions that must be addressed, and it's paramount for nuclear power operators to be held to the highest level of safety standards.
While the geology may be different than in Japan, we all know that the San Andreas Fault -- which runs through southern California -- is expected to rupture one day, and we must do everything we can to be prepared. Experts predict that the next earthquake in our area could register a magnitude of 7.5 or greater. The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant was built to withstand a 7.0 quake, and Diablo Canyon is engineered to withstand a 7.5 earthquake. However, we must apply the lessons learned from Japan to our own nuclear facilities in order to ensure that all potential risks are fully evaluated. With that in mind, I am asking both the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to re-evaluate both plants to make certain that all necessary safety precautions are firmly in place. What's more, we also need some answers about how the Administration plans to deal with the disposal of spent nuclear waste.
One thing we can all do in the meantime is to be prepared. The Great California Shakeout and other readiness programs help prepare communities, first responders and organizations in the case of a major earthquake. I've seen firsthand how programs such as these increase understanding and awareness of the critically-important precautions and measures needed to deal with catastrophic events.
I encourage our entire community to review their emergency preparedness plans and check safety equipment and provisions to minimize the impact of future incidents on residents and visitors.
For more information on earthquake preparedness, please go to: http://www.bono.house.gov/HotTopics/EarthquakePrepGuide.htm
If you continue to have concerns about a specific U.S. citizen in Japan, you can send an email to the U.S. State Department at: JapanEmergencyUSC@state.gov
You can also contact the State Department's emergency assistance center at 1-888-407-4747.
Today, with Japan continuing to reel from a catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster -- and violent turmoil in Libya and the Middle East spreading -- it's extremely important for the United States to look toward our own domestic energy resources as a way to provide some much-needed stability here at home.
With the average price of gasoline in California nearing $4 a gallon, I have sent a letter to President Obama, along with many of my colleagues, urging the Administration in the strongest terms possible to begin expanding domestic energy production immediately or run the risk of sending the already fragile U.S. economy into a dangerous tail spin. It's time for the President to show some leadership.
Today, oil prices are above $100 a barrel for the first time since October 2008, due in large part to the growing unrest in the Middle East. According to analysts, for every single penny the price of gasoline increases, it costs American families an additional $1.4 billion over an entire year. Clearly, even the smallest increase in gasoline prices has a significant impact on our struggling economy. So imagine what happens when gasoline jumps by more than 70 cents a gallon, as it has compared to just a year ago. The long-term consequences could be devastating.
What's the answer? For starters, we can help insulate ourselves from energy spikes----and keep our economy from suffering----by producing more energy here at home. It's time for an "all-of-the-above" approach to energy that includes more American-produced oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear, along with alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal. This will drive down prices, create new American jobs, reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, strengthen our national security and raise revenue to help tackle our $14 trillion national debt.
Unfortunately, since day one, the Obama Administration has actively taken steps to block or delay American energy production, making the U.S. more reliant than ever on unstable foreign countries for our energy. What's happening today in Libya should serve as a wake-up call for America, but the people in charge are still sleeping on the job.
Here are some sensible things we should do immediately if we're really serious about becoming more energy independent as a nation. These measures would also create new jobs over the long run and help reduce "pain at the pump" in the short run:
Increase Production in the Gulf of Mexico
The Interior Department is "slow rolling" permits. Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion last April, Interior has issued only a handful of shallow water permits and just three deepwater permits. This bureaucratic bungling is hurting our economy in a big way. According to the Administration's own estimates, the moratorium has resulted in 12,000 lost jobs and rigs are actively leaving the Gulf for foreign countries like Cuba, Brazil and Mexico. According to the independent U. S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), production in the Gulf has declined by nearly 300,000 barrels a day since last April. This is unacceptable, and consumers are suffering as a result.
Increase Alaskan Production
Declining production on the Alaskan North Slope threatens the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS), a vital artery of domestic oil. Several fields in Alaska with tremendous potential await exploration and production, but the Administration continues to drag its heels on permits. New production is needed to keep TAPS running and providing a safe and secure source of oil for America. The Administration is also blocking development of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A), which----by most estimates -- holds nearly 1 billion barrels of oil and 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Why?
Increase Onshore Production
Regulations imposed by the Obama Administration have significantly decreased onshore oil and natural gas production. Oil and gas leasing by the Bureau of Land Management in the Rocky Mountain West (CO, NM, UT, WY, MT and ND) has fallen by 67% since 2005. In addition, the Western U.S. holds more than half of the world's known oil shale resources, which can be converted to crude oil using new, innovative technology. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the region may hold more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil----six times Saudi Arabia's proven resources----and enough to provide the U.S. with energy for the next 200 years. Is anyone at the White House listening?
Tear Down Bureaucratic Barriers
Instead of relying on "unreliable" energy sources half a world away, America has an exciting new opportunity today to access energy from a dependable ally and good neighbor right here in North America. Yet, the Obama Administration is preventing that from happening by stalling approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would create new American jobs while enhancing our energy and national security by bringing 700,000 barrels of Canadian oil per day to U.S. consumers. As an added benefit, the Keystone XL pipeline would also allow us to access several hundred thousand barrels per day of oil in the newly-discovered Bakken formation in North Dakota. What's wrong with this picture?
Don't Increase Taxes on American Energy
I strongly oppose efforts by the Obama Administration to make energy even more expensive----and destroy jobs in the process----by imposing new taxes. The President's FY 2012 budget proposal includes more than $60 billion in tax and fee increases on American energy production. These taxes will hurt our economy and, at the end of the day, simply be passed on to consumers, resulting in even higher prices at the pump.
Make no mistake about it: with the volatile Middle East undergoing dramatic political change----and Libya now in flames----we are running out of time to get this right.