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A Bright Energy Future for America


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A few weeks ago, I visited Masonic Village in Elizabethtown where I toured the microturbine facility that provides heat and electricity for the community. The six microturbines are fed by natural gas. Compared to the old coal fired plant that was taken down ten years ago, the emmissions reduction is equal to taking 642 cars off the road. It's an efficient system that uses inexpensive American-produced resources.

All over the country, Americans are taking steps to make our nation more energy independent. It's a long-held goal that seems to be within reach if we make some smart choices in the coming years. To get there the United States must increase production of our own natural resources, take advantage of the latest green technologies and increase efficiency.

Forty-five percent of the oil we consume comes from foreign sources. For years, many assumed that this percentage would only grow. However, technological developments are helping us turn the corner.

The oil boom in North Dakota is only possible because of developments in extracting oil from shale rock. As recently as 2007, the North Dakota shale was estimated to contain about 3 billion barrels of oil. Today, just five years later, there are some estimates that we could get as much as 24 billion barrels of oil from this area. North Dakota isn't the only area in the country with similar rock formations. In the coming years, states across the nation could see their oil output rise.

In Pennsylvania, the natural gas boom has been going for a number of years. Now, after years of environmental roadblocks, New York may finally take advantage of the Marcellus Shale. Increased supply of natural gas makes it cheaper for more communities like Masonic Village to replace old heating plants and for municipalities to purchase natural gas fueled vehicles.

We also have to remember that not all foreign imports of oil are equal. Importing resources from friendly neighbors like Canada and Mexico is much preferable to having U.S. dollars flow to Venezuela or the Middle East. With both these nations increasing production, we will have greater access to more reliable and less expensive sources of oil. To handle increased cross-border imports we are going to need new pipelines like the Keystone XL.

Some people think that inexpensive fossil fuels will completely undermine green energy technologies. I don't believe this is the case. In fact, saving on energy costs allows Americans to have more resources to invest in solar and wind projects. Paying less for a gallon of gas now or having a smaller electric bill can help people save up to buy a newer, more fuel efficient car or install solar panels on their roof. More prosperity means more choices for consumers.

Lancaster County will soon host the state's largest solar plant in Drumore Township. Twenty thousand solar panels set up on unused farmland will provide enough electricity to power 950 homes. The project is funded with energy credits purchased by the Phillies, Frankin and Marshall College, Millersville University and others.

The Holtwood Dam's generators were upgraded just a few years to double the capacity of the plant. We don't need to construct more dams to get more out of hydroelectric, we just have to upgrade decades old equipment.

Using less energy is also helping pave the way for energy independence. Some of the best-selling cars in the United States are hybrid battery-gas driven vehicles. With plug-in versions of the vehicles coming onto the market, fuel efficiency will increase even more.

There have also been incredible developments in efficient home technologies. Appliances, heating and cooling systems, and windows have all seen dramatic increases in efficiency in recent years.

Congress needs to encourage all of these developments. The best way to move our country forward is an all-of-the-above energy policy. As I said before, greater prosperity gives us great choices.

The House of Representatives passed 11 major bills to increase domestic energy production, both fossil fuels and renewables. Each of these bills is stuck in the Senate. More energy of all types will help lower prices and give consumers more options. It will give Americans the economic freedom to choose the technology that they want to use.

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