It is imperative for the national security and prosperity of our country that we enact a practical, sustainable energy policy. For many years I have called for a more forward-looking approach that would embrace higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles; increased research, development, and deployment of renewable energy technology, and a more diverse energy supply that utilizes all of our nation's assets and ingenuity.
Turmoil in the Middle East has lead to a steep increase in gas prices. This comes at a particularly bad time as we fight our way out of a deep recession. High gas prices are pinching middle class families, small businesses, and family farmers at a time when they can least afford. As a result, I've been working with my colleagues to find ways to provide some immediate relief at the pump.
Ron tours the Hudson Target store, which took part in the EPA's Green Chill Program, installing all energy efficient, green-technology refrigeration units.
In March, when gas prices were beginning to climb, my Democratic colleagues tried to bring about a vote on the Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act, H.R. 964, which confront oil speculation and would make it illegal to sell gasoline at excessive prices. It would also prevent Big Oil from taking advantage of consumers by engaging in price gouging. Unfortunately, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle voted unanimously against even considering this legislation.
When gas prices skyrocket it becomes even more apparent that it is our dependence on oil that makes us vulnerable to fluctuating prices that so greatly impact family budgets. I have always favored an all of the above energy strategy that includes responsible domestic offshore energy development and increased investment in renewable energy. A "drill only" policy will not make us energy independent. The United States consumes 25% of the world's oil, yet we only have 1.6% of the world's proven oil reserves. Oil extracted from these reserves won't be available at the pump for at least 10 years. And, despite the BP oil spill, domestic oil production last year was at the highest level since 2003 - higher than during most of the Bush Administration. This increased domestic production was not enough to protect us from this spike in gas prices.
High gas prices will continue to be a problem until we put into place a 21st Century energy strategy. Drilling alone will not solve this problem. Petroleum is a limited fossil fuel resource and our continued prosperity depends on us finding renewable alternatives that will reduce air, water, and land pollution and produce more stable energy sources and prices.
Ending Tax Payer Subsidies for Big Oil:
I have always favored responsible domestic drilling where it can be done safely. With the BP oil spill in 2010, it was apparent we needed to reevaluate our oversight and safety requirements for offshore drilling. The review is over and drilling has resumed with 12 permits issued since March of 2011. Despite this pause in off-shore drilling, Big Oil is recording record profits, reporting $36 billion in profits so far this year. Oil companies may be doing better than ever, but working families continue to struggle paying $4 a gallon at the pump.
Even more alarming is the fact that Big Oil still receives taxpayer subsidies. At best, this is extremely irresponsible at a time of out of control deficits and high gas prices. There have been several efforts to end these subsidies and put the money toward deficit reduction, but my Republican colleagues have voted it down at every opportunity.
Western Wisconsin Leading the Way:
Instead of giving tax breaks to oil companies, this country needs to start making smart investments, much in the way we are in western Wisconsin. Right now, businesses in our own backyard are manufacturing innovative renewable energy sources that could lead the country and work to make us energy independent. I have taken several energy tours through western Wisconsin during which I visited businesses that are on the cutting edge of renewable energy production. I have visited Water Source Heating and Cooling, Inc in Eau Claire. Water Source Heating and Cooling produces geothermal energy to heat homes and businesses throughout the area. I have also toured and visited Energy Concepts, Inc. of Hudson, which uses a combination of professional engineering and renewable energy technologies to find sustainable energy solutions. They have completed a number of projects to date and have brought renewable energy technologies like solar to schools, homes, and businesses in the area.
These are just a few examples of local companies taking the lead in the emerging renewable energy industry. They are providing western Wisconsin residents with good, high-paying jobs that cannot be exported and providing an energy blueprint for the rest of the country to follow.