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Congress Needs a Real Energy Plan


Location: Washington, DC

Like most Americans, Minnesotans have had enough.

As I travel around the south metro and rural southeastern part of our state, Minnesotans share with me their concerns and express growing frustration over skyrocketing costs of everyday items such as food, household products, and gasoline. I, too, share their anxiety.

Just 16 months ago, Nancy Pelosi accepted the gavel from John Boehner in an historic moment in our nation. She and the new majority in the U.S. House of Representatives were ushered into leadership bolstered by a repeated promise for change that included a "commonsense plan" to lower gas prices. At the time, Speaker Pelosi and the new leadership had within their grasp an opportunity to bring Members from both sides of the aisle together so we could pass meaningful, bipartisan legislation on behalf of all Americans.

Rather than seize the opportunity, majority leadership squandered it. And you are paying the consequences for their broken promises by the gallon every time you pull up to the pump. In January, 2007, the average cost of gas in Minnesota was $2.14 per gallon - already too high. Sixteen months later, we have seen no "commonsense plan" and as I traveled last weekend to my wife's family farm in southeastern Minnesota, I filled my tank for $3.51 per gallon. Meanwhile, the only solution offered by majority leadership was House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell's plan for a 50-cent tax hike on every gallon of gas you buy. We cannot tax working families' and truckers' tanks from empty to full.

How high do gas prices need to soar before majority leadership presents its long overdue "commonsense plan?" There are 535 Members of Congress - Democrats and Republicans - many of whom have ideas and solutions worth considering to curb energy costs. Unfortunately, their voices are being stifled.

Let's have that debate on the House floor to find ways to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil. Let's have the debate to develop long-term energy alternatives. Let's have the debate to advance comprehensive bipartisan solutions that will help American families and small business owners with the rapidly rising cost of living. I welcome those discussions.

Congress owes the American people as much.

Some say we have an addiction to oil. What is abundantly clear is our addiction to foreign oil, which is not only an economic issue; it is a national security concern. We need to examine ways to increase domestic production, explore long-term energy solutions, and advance a real energy plan that increases American supplies in all forms.

- Congress should consider opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to
environmentally safe production, and increase offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf
(OCS). Clearly, drilling for oil in Alaska or in the Gulf of Mexico is not a short-term solution, but
if we continue down this course of inaction, will we still be discussing plans for rising energy
costs when gas reaches, say, $8 per gallon? Today, Cuba is developing its deep-water energy
resources. Yet, lawmakers - Republicans and Democrats - in Florida and California are
standing in our way, blocking any efforts for the United States to drill in the OCS some
125-230 miles off our coasts.

- We should build new oil refineries. While production at our existing oil refineries continues to
rise, we have seen no new oil refinery construction in the last 30 years.

- Clean-coal technology is another exciting energy resource that must continue to be explored
and we have the domestic coal reserves to power our economy for generations.

- Renewable energies like wind and solar also should be part of the equation, but obviously
there has to be a baseline with these renewable energies when there are clouds and no wind.

- Nuclear energy is the top source of emission-free electricity and provides a clean and reliable
baseline for much of our state.

As Americans continue to be squeezed by the soaring costs of living, Congress can no longer sit idly by and hope gas and energy prices magically drop. Years of inaction have proven too costly and Americans are paying the price. The time for working together and debating sensible solutions is long overdue.

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