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Column - All-of-the-Above is the Only Answer

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On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled his aggressive plan to address climate change. It comes as no surprise that the president plans to implement these changes without Congressional input and approval. While some American families are struggling to put food on the table, this misguided plan will raise energy costs, continue the president's war on the coal industry and cost billions of dollars. I agree that we must be good stewards of the environment, but this plan is not the answer.

Many believe greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to the gradual warming of our planet and changing of our climate. If America stopped all carbon emissions, however, the global temperature would decrease by only .08 degrees Celsius by 2050. Whatever one believes about climate change, we should all be able to agree that we shouldn't inflict catastrophic damage on our economy, but the president's proposal could do just that.

In 2009, President Obama pushed a similar plan that would have established a cap and trade system to curb carbon emissions. Anyone who flips on a light switch, turns up the thermostat, fills up the gas tank or purchases an American-made product would have been forced to pay higher energy bills thanks to this new tax increase. Some estimates show that American families could have paid more than $3,000 per year in higher energy prices. Fortunately, the Senate didn't agree to this plan, but now the president is trying to implement this plan through regulation.

President Obama touts the administration's "success in doubling America's use of wind, solar and geothermal energy" but fails to mention what his energy policies have done to a very important industry in America: coal. In 2012, U.S. carbon emissions may have fallen to the lowest level in two decades, but the number of jobs in the Kentucky coal industry fell to the lowest numbers in half a century. According to the Heritage Foundation, if the current regulations pushed by the Obama Administration on the coal industry stand, more than 500,000 jobs will be lost. But these regulations won't just harm the coal industry, Americans could see their electricity prices increase by roughly 20 percent. The fact is, coal is cleaner than ever before, and provides a reliable, safe electricity option. We must look at cost-benefit analysis. Still, coal isn't the only energy option we should be exploring and fostering to create jobs in this country.

President Obama has yet to give the Keystone XL pipeline the green light, opting to put the demands of environmentalists ahead of the needs of working Americans. Earlier this year, the president's own State Department released its review of the Keystone project, and raised no major objections to the pipeline. The report also said any of the alternative options to get oil from Canada could be more harmful to the environment than the pipeline.

There is no one source of energy that will leave America energy secure. We must pursue a true all-of-the-above energy policy that includes nuclear, natural gas, coal, and oil in addition to renewable energy like wind, solar and hydro. But we must encourage this development in a way that makes sense, and we should do it without massive government subsidies that favor one form of energy over another.

When I was mayor of Johnson City, we conducted an energy audit. We made simple, commonsense investments. As we were becoming a more energy-efficient city, we were also saving taxpayer dollars. To name a few changes we made, we began replacing burned-out intersection stoplights with light emitting diodes (LEDs). While LEDs are more costly on the front end, they're brighter, safer, last longer and use less energy, resulting in a net savings of tax dollars. We also built a pipeline to turn methane from our landfill into electricity for the VA facility in Mountain City. Today, that facility is heated and cooled at no cost to the taxpayer. Additionally, we replaced some city vehicles with hybrids, which helped lower the fuel cost line item in our budget. I believe these are the kinds of changes we should be making nationwide, not pushing burdensome regulations that will harm, not help, American families. We can do better.

Please rest assured I will continue to monitor the president's proposal. I will also support a commonsense, all-of-the-above energy plan.
Feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family.


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