By Jamie Herrera Beutler
The average family in Longview feels every dollar they have to spend at the gas pump. When they write the check for the monthly utility bill, every penny matters. So, when gas prices soar above $4.00 a gallon as they have recently, there's a real impact on the rest of the family budget.
Folks in Southwest Washington deserve a national energy policy that makes and keeps gas and electricity prices affordable. This seems like common sense, right?
Unfortunately, too many politicians and bureaucrats have pushed a long list of energy priorities having nothing to do with affordability. Some would make energy more expensive. Current U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu once infamously said, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Europeans are paying $8 per gallon -- a rate that would cripple the families and small businesses here who rely on their cars and trucks every day.
During my first 15 months in Congress, I've fought for an "all-of-the-above" approach to energy that would specifically benefit hard-working residents in Southwest Washington by promoting any and all affordable sources of energy.
From major manufacturers to very small businesses, energy prices matter. One small business owner recently told me higher energy prices had her considering cheaper but more cramped office space for her employees. And it's not just businesses. Another woman said that gas prices are consuming so much of her monthly budget that she and her husband can't afford to get much-needed dental work done.
It's easy to see why this is happening. The average family spent $173 per month on gas in 2009; in 2011, that number soared to $368. I've voted on six solutions that would increase domestic energy because I believe Congress has a duty to take action.
Take the PIONEERS Act, for example. This solution falls under the all-of-the-above approach: it would safely and responsibly increase sources of American oil, while also promoting renewable energy by clearing bureaucratic hurdles for renewable projects. The bill reflects my overall approach: let's work to make gas prices affordable for families and businesses today, while giving emerging forms the opportunity to develop and compete for a more stable energy future.
We're fortunate in Southwest Washington to already have the most affordable, cleanest form of energy providing a bulk of our energy. Hydropower electricity supplies nearly 70 percent of the electricity used in Washington state. At a recent roundtable I hosted in Vancouver, I heard from employers and manufacturers who located their operations here -- and the jobs they provide -- precisely because of our clean, reliable affordable hydro energy. Hydro energy should be a centerpiece of our national energy policy, which is why I'm currently building a bipartisan coalition in Congress to make sure we do just that. In February, I introduced a Congressional measure that recognizes hydro as America's most affordable, clean, renewable energy source. I believe it's important to protect hydro electricity from misguided actions that could cause utility bills go up for folks in our region. As our recovering economy works to get its head above water, this would be like throwing it an anchor.
Every day, I hear from small business owners or hardworking taxpayers who are struggling financially. Our region is still working its way out of the recession, making the economic and energy policies in Congress matter more than ever. I pledge to push an all-of-the-above approach to energy that makes gas and energy affordability our first priority, so that we can provide some relief to employers and families across Southwest Washington.