Scott Peters, candidate for new the 52nd Congressional District, today outlined the elements of a long term sustainable energy policy which he will make a top priority when he is elected to Congress. Peters is the Democratic frontrunner in the race to succeed entrenched Republican incumbent Brian Bilbray who has taken nearly $200,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.
"Earlier this year, House Republicans, with Brian Bilbray in lock step, proposed a highway bill that basically funds more highways and guts funds for alternative transportation. When gas prices are skyrocketing this makes absolutely no sense," said Peters. "And it doesn't get us any closer to a practical and sustainable national energy policy that reduces our nation's dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil."
Peters said the House Republican plan especially hurts seniors and others on a fixed income. "When gas prices are high, more people, particularly seniors, students, and others on fixed incomes, turn to public transportation for a reliable, affordable way to get to health appointments, school and work," he said. "This is just another way Brian Bilbray has put large oil companies first, and our seniors and working families last," said Peters.
"When I get to Congress, I will make development of a sustainable energy policy a top priority," he added.
Peters said that as a nation, we must work toward a long-term energy policy that: 1) creates new American jobs; 2) emphasizes greater energy independence; 3) invests in the development of alternative fuels; 4) promotes clean energy technology like wind and solar; 5) ensures greater national security; and 6) provides automakers with incentives for producing fuel-efficient vehicles.
He also suggested that planners do a better job of building housing and employment centers nearer to one another to reduce commutes, and to make communities more pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly, as was done in the community of Bird Rock when he was the San Diego City Council. Bird Rock has been held out as a case study by federal transportation authorities, and has won awards from public works associations, engineers, and the Urban Lands Institute.
The House Transportation bill proposed by Republicans, and supported by Bilbray, would end funds for bike lanes, sidewalks, and the critically important "Safe Routes to School" program which helps neighborhoods pay for infrastructure improvements that keep kids from getting hurt or killed while walking and bicycling to and from school every day.
Peters has become an expert and nationally recognized advocate for better bike lanes, trails and sidewalks as the co-founder of a national organization called the Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute that helps city planners find ways to incorporate into neighborhoods more ways for people to get around without their cars. He said that, this, too, should be a part of the nation's plan to achieve greater energy independence.
Peters also said that there are some steps Congress could be taking now to stop price-gouging at the pump, such as holding Wall Street commodities traders and speculators more accountable. Many experts agree that speculation in energy markets drives up the price of oil, which raises the price of gas for consumers. Last year, House Democrats tried to increase funding for the agency in charge of policing price manipulation in oil markets. But Republicans, Bilbray included, voted to slash these funds by almost half.
"We've also got to stop subsidizing oil companies," said Peters.
Last year, the five largest oil companies posted record profits of $137 billion. That's a 75% increase over 2010. Yet, House Republicans, Bilbray included, continue to support enormous tax breaks, deregulation, and subsidies for them, while taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from them.
"Brian Bilbray alone has taken almost $190,000 from the oil and gas industry," he said. "Are the votes and the contributions connected? The voters are smart and they'll decide for themselves."