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National Energy Policy Needed


Location: Washington, DC

National Energy Policy Needed

Last week I wrote about the need to restore honesty in today's debate about energy policy. Since then, recent solutions pushed by this administration have been disappointing.

I agree with President Bush that there is no more pressing issue than gas prices for millions of American families right now. Family budgets are being strained by high gas prices, food prices are on the rise, and people in Maine are already worried about how they will afford heating fuel this winter.

But the only answer that seems to be coming from President Bush is that we need to drill more. Make no mistake, I support increased domestic oil production. In fact, I have encouraged oil companies to utilize drilling rights and refining capacity that they already have at their disposal.

Currently, oil and gas companies hold leases to 68 million acres of federal land that they are not producing on. It is estimated that these inactive leases could produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil per day. In addition, 80 percent of the oil and gas resources in the outer continental shelf are located in areas where drilling is already allowed. The problem is that the majority of these resources have not yet been tapped by oil companies.

We cannot drill our way out of our current energy situation. Since 2000, domestic drilling has increased dramatically - climbing about 66 percent. However, gas prices continue to increase. Giving oil companies access to more sites will do little to nothing to lower the high costs consumers are now paying. In fact, it will be years until a single barrel of oil comes out of new drilling sites, and even then it is not estimated to do much to lower prices. For example, even if we were to open up drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Department of Energy has concluded that it would not reduce the price of gasoline until 20 years from now - and then only by about 1.8 cents.

To address our current energy crisis, Congress has passed legislation to suspend shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help increase supply to provide some relief to consumers. Congress has also gone after off-market energy speculators who are running up the price of gas and developed a real energy plan that will diversify our supplies and reduce our dependency on oil.

Unfortunately, the administration and its allies in Congress have prevented some of the most important measures from going through. For example, the House passed legislation to redirect taxpayer subsidies from oil companies already earning record profits to clean renewable energy. Regrettably, the President threatened to veto it and the bill has not yet passed the Senate. The President has also threatened to veto a bill that the House and Senate passed that would crack down on price gouging by big oil companies. These are all rejected in favor of more drilling and tax breaks for oil companies - steps which will benefit Big Oil, not reduce the prices at the pump, and not provide investments in alternatives to our current oil addiction.

Our country finds itself in our current situation because we never truly learned the lessons of the past. The energy crisis in the 1970s should have provided a serious wake up call. While we saw increased use of solar and other important changes, there was no real planning for our energy future.

Recent administrations have continued to do little to break our "addiction to oil." In fact, rather than promoting a policy that concentrates on renewable and alternative sources, the current administration's answer to our energy problems is to drill more. The most recent push to overturn the ban on offshore drilling is yet another non-solution to distract us from what we should have been doing for years: investing in renewable and alternative energy and promoting more efficient buildings, appliances and automobiles.

Because this administration and administrations of the past have failed to provide our country with a coherent and effective national energy policy, we find ourselves in a costly and difficult situation. There are a lot of entrenched interests in Washington fighting reform, but we need to stand strong. Republicans and Democrats need to come together to do what is right. Above all else, the president needs to work with us.

Everyday we drive to work we feel the pinch financially at the gas pump. It is time for our leaders in Washington to start getting real and stop misleading the American people. Offering "solutions" that sound simple but that are not going to affect prices is not helpful. We need to take steps that will give relief to Americans experiencing increasing fuel prices, go after speculators who are running up the price of gas, and develop a real energy plan that will diversify our supplies and reduce our dependency on oil.

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