The Ripon Forum

Volume 40, No. 5

Oct - Nov 2006 Issue

Promoting Energy Independence

By on October 21, 2015 with 0 Comments

We must continue our efforts to increase production and develop alternate fuels

by PETE V. DOMENICI

Republicans and Democrats have strong philosophical differences about energy. Conservation is the lynchpin of every Democratic energy plan I have seen. By contrast, Republicans match conservation with a push to increase energy production and employ innovation and technology to create new energies. 

I think these philosophical differences are crucial to America’s energy future. In particular, these differences could have a significant impact on the price consumers pay for energy and the effect these energy prices have on inflation and the economy. 

Last year, under Republican leadership, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. I took the lead in writing this bill and getting it through the Senate. I worked to craft a bill that increased energy production where possible, particularly the production of clean energies like wind, solar and nuclear energy.

My colleagues and I wrote an energy bill that took our national energy conservation efforts to a new level.  We raised the minimum standards for energy-efficient products and provided new incentives to both businesses and consumers, respectively, to manufacture and buy products that require less energy.   

Finally, we wrote a bill that expanded America’s investment in the research and development of new, clean energies we hope can one day replace our reliance on foreign oil. We invested in research for advanced nuclear power, for coal-to-liquids technology that could one day power jet airliners with synthetic fuel from American coal, for cars powered by hydrogen and for electricity from a coal gas that doesn’t pollute the air. 

This year, Senate Republicans have further responded to consumer concern over high oil and gas prices by passing legislation in the Senate to expand our own production of oil and gas.   

Why? Because supply is a fundamental principle of free market economics. If you want to lower the price of a commodity in high demand, simply increase its supply. 

Senator Domenici and President Bush talk with Thomas Hunter of Sandia National Laboratory during a tour of the Lab's National Solar Thermal Test Facility in August 2005.

Senator Domenici and President Bush talk with Thomas Hunter of Sandia National Laboratory during a tour of the Lab’s National Solar Thermal Test Facility in August 2005.

Right now, oil prices are the lowest they’ve been in six months. Gasoline prices  have dropped as much as 90 cents a gallon in some areas since mid-summer. Natural gas prices have dropped below $5 per Btu (British thermal unit), down from a high of $16 per Btu a year and a half ago. 

These days, energy is a global commodity. If global oil supplies tighten, we see the effect  immediately in the price of oil and a few days later in the price of gasoline. If we want to keep our own energy prices from over-reacting every time something happens overseas, we must increase our own production here at home.   

I couldn’t do as much as I wanted to in the energy bill to increase our supply of oil and gas. So this year, I passed a bill through the Senate that expands oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. My bill, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, would limit exploration to 100 miles off the coast of Florida and would bring 1.2 billion barrels of oil to market along with 5.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s enough gas to heat and cool nearly 6 million homes for 15 years.

If we want to keep our own energy prices from over-reacting every time something happens overseas, we must increase our own production here at home.

Interestingly, shortly after the Senate passed my bill, Chevron announced that it had tapped into a vast oil reserve in the Gulf of Mexico that may be bigger than anything we have found in Alaska. This discovery affirms my conviction that America can do much more than it has been doing to meet its own energy needs. I am currently working to get the Senate bill through the House. 

Republicans understand that expanded production – environmentally sound production – is critical to easing prices, keeping inflation in check and powering our economy while we refine tomorrow’s energies.   

We are unwavering in our commitment to the ingenuity and innovation that will develop those new energies. For example, the energy bill made a tremendous investment in ethanol and other bio-fuels. The ethanol provision of the energy bill alone will displace more than two billion barrels of foreign oil over the next six years. President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative expands our investment into the refining of bio-fuels that may one day replace gasoline. 

Nuclear energy illustrates the Republican commitment to innovation and technology. I am a passionate advocate of nuclear power and have been for almost 10 years. First, it’s right for the environment. It is clean energy that holds tremendous promise for addressing climate change.  Second, nuclear energy is one of our most affordable and reliable energies. Right now, electricity from nuclear power is the second cheapest source of electricity in America. Only hydro-power is cheaper.

Nuclear power station in Cumbria, England.

Nuclear power station in Cumbria, England.

…for 30 years, America has been slow to recognize the value of nuclear power. While we have staled, other developed and developing nations have forged ahead with advanced nuclear reactors that are smaller, safer and produce more energy than anything we have here in America.

But for 30 years, America has been slow to recognize the value of nuclear power. While we have stalled, other developed and developing nations have forged ahead with advanced nuclear reactors that are smaller, safer and produce more energy than anything we have here in America. By 2020, China plans to build as many as 32 nuclear reactors. That is in addition to the 10 already in use or under construction. 

President Bush also recognizes the tremendous promise nuclear power holds for this nation. In 2000, he included the expansion of nuclear power in his national energy plan. Today, because of the combined efforts of a Republican Administration and a Republican Congress, utilities have announced plans to build as many as 30 nuclear reactors in the lower 48 states during the next 20 years. This means enough clean and affordable electricity to power more than 17 million households without any airborne emissions.   

What Republicans are doing for nuclear power, we are also doing for hydrogen technology, clean coal technology and coal-to-liquids technology. Republicans like competitive, bold and innovative ideas. It is at the heart of our free enterprise philosophy and our deep pride in American ingenuity.   

We are at a critical point in our energy future.  We are just beginning to reap the benefits from the national energy policy President Bush announced six years ago and Congress codified last year. We are midway through the work of building on those successes. President Bush earlier this year announced his Advanced Energy Initiative, which builds on our commitment to renewable fuels and technology. I am working with my Senate colleagues and House Republicans to do what we can to further stabilize the price of oil, natural gas and gasoline in the near term while our long term investments in conservation, technology and renewable energies pay off.  Now is not the time to waiver or change our course. 

The Republican record on energy is a strong one and one that will look even stronger in the future as the effects of what we are doing now are felt. It is essential that Republicans remain in the majority if we want to keep working to strengthen America’s energy security.  RF


Pete V. Domenici represents New Mexico in the United States Senate. He serves as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 

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