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Summertime Energy Blues


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As we move into summer and higher energy prices hit Nebraska families, small businesses, farmers, and ranchers it is becoming increasingly clear we need a real, comprehensive energy plan.

The onset of the summer travel season traditionally means an increase in the demand for fuel as families take to the road for vacations. When coupled with the growing threat of tropical storms and hurricanes, which can interrupt oil refineries and shipping routes, these factors will result in higher gas prices at the pump.

Rural residents like those of us in the Third District spend more per person on fuel and travel farther to get to work than Americans living in urban areas. As prices for gasoline increase, rural America will correspondingly feel the greatest pinch. Agriculture is an energy intensive industry, and increased production costs will invariably be passed to the consumer.

In order to fend off future price surges - while at the same time reducing our reliance on foreign countries for energy - Congress must take an "all-of-the-above" approach to our energy policy.

It is absolutely essential we continue to utilize our natural energy resources through research, development, and domestic exploration. The American Energy Act, which I support, encourages clean and renewable sources of energy such as nuclear power, solar, and wind. It also lowers fuel costs, reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and creates jobs.

Further, while it is doubtful the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico will drive up the cost of gas in the short term, it underscores the necessity of enacting an energy policy which draws on renewable sources as well as land-based oil and gas exploration.

Let me be clear: our first priority must be to stop the spill and do everything possible to preserve the livelihoods of those in the area. Pointing fingers will not plug the leak, and neither will recent efforts to institute a moratorium on offshore drilling or push through a reactionary energy bill.

As the price of gas continues to climb, now is not the time to increase our dependence on foreign oil by retreating from offshore exploration, nor should the administration exploit this disaster to advance the disastrous cap-and-trade energy policy. Doing so will only raise the cost of energy for every American.

The moratorium on offshore exploration could have a devastating economic impact on Gulf Coast communities who are already suffering. These wells generate 80 percent of the Gulf's oil production and 45 percent of its natural gas. The moratorium affects 33 oil rigs, and companies have already started moving those rigs out of the Gulf to foreign waters where they will be allowed to drill.

This administration already has limited onshore oil production, such as ANWR's 10-02 area - first designated by President Carter and Congress nearly 30 years ago for energy exploration and production. I've visited the 10-02 area in Alaska, which proximity to the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline means supplies can reach the continental U.S. without the danger and risk of offshore drilling or transporting by ship. By limiting our domestic exploration on both water and land, we only are increasing our reliance on foreign sources of energy.

Cap-and-trade regulations imposed in attempt to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions are especially costly for states like Nebraska. Our state generates two-thirds of its electricity from coal, a process which produces carbon dioxide. Under any cap-and-trade system, facilities which emit greenhouse gases - such as power plants, manufacturers, and possibly even farmers and ranchers - would purchase credits for their emissions from the EPA.

Today, there is no cost-effective way to capture carbon dioxide output, so any regulation which limits carbon dioxide emissions will either limit the use of natural gas, petroleum, and coal or dramatically increase their prices. The costs to businesses and agricultural producers would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher electric bills and more expensive products - including agriculture products.

We have delayed an all-of-the-above energy strategy for too long. Now is the time to act to focus on energy independence, job creation and a cleaner environment through greater efficiency and environmentally-responsible development of America's energy resources. By doing so, we can free ourselves from the reliance on foreign oil while at the same time build a stronger economy.

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