My Turn: Brown’s solution to high energy costs
August 5, 2008
For years politicians have passed the buck on hard choices we’ve needed to make about our energy future ” and today, we are all paying the price.
They refused to raise fuel economy standards. Now, American car companies are on the verge of going out of business. General Motors’ stock recently closed at its lowest price since 1954.
They’ve given tax breaks to oil companies reaping record profits while we’re paying $4 to $5 for a gallon of gasoline.
The results are telling. We import more oil from the countries that serve as fertile recruitment ground for Al Qaeda today, than we did on 9/11. And we’re importing increasing amounts of refined gasoline because we haven’t built a new refinery since 1976.
Personally, I’d drill for oil on the White House lawn if it would solve our energy problems. Unfortunately, nearly 80 percent of the land that is leased by oil companies for drilling in the U.S. is not being used. The Bush Energy Department has said even if ANWR turned up massive amounts of crude, the net affect on U.S. gas prices would be $.01 at the pump.
As for offshore drilling, the world’s existing drill ships are already booked solid for the next five years. And there is a well-documented shortage of the skilled workers needed for drilling.
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To those who blame rising demand, we must consider that over the past five years, global oil supply has increased at a faster rate than demand but not faster than gas prices.
It’s easy to lay blame on oil companies, China, speculators, environmentalists, and OPEC. But that’s the problem with Washington ” plenty of blame, but no actions.
The hard truth is that we use 25 percent of the world’s produced oil but hold only 3 percent of the world’s reserves.
We won’t solve our energy problems by playing the blame game. This is not a Democrat or Republican problem. It’s an American problem. If we move fast, act smartly and work together, our current energy crisis presents our single greatest economic opportunity since the industrial revolution.
That’s why I am calling for the federal government, which is also the world’s largest energy consumer and landholder, to lead a new energy revolution by example, and invest the $14.5 billion it spends annually on energy into alternatives like wind, solar, bio-fuels, hydrogen and yes, nuclear power, over the next seven years.
I’m not calling for any new government spending, merely the willingness to create new priorities and put the purchasing power that the world’s largest energy consumer behind American made alternatives that can break our unhealthy addiction to oil.
Don’t forget ” it’s our money.
Moving federal investment away from oil would encourage more innovation, expand the availability and affordability of alternatives, create thousands of new jobs, and strengthen our security. And by matching this $100 billion federal investment with a renewable energy tax credit for U.S. consumers, we can make it even easier for American families to declare their own energy independence, and grow our new energy economy.
Just recently, T. Boone Pickens, an oil billionaire and conservative Republican, announced plans to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas. Pickens has said publicly he’s not “going green” ” he’s in it because he sees the limitless economic potential of alternative energy.
Federal investment serving as the launching pad for new technologies is certainly not without precedent. Photovoltaic cells were first developed by the U.S. space program. The Air Force plans to run the entire fleet on alternative fuels by 2011, and has already built the world’s largest solar array at Nellis Air Force Base.
Announcing that the United States is moving away from foreign oil would also affect the prices we pay at the pump today by sending a powerful message to OPEC about our nation’s commitment to change the way we do business. In recent history, such actions have caused an anticipated drop in oil demand, and ultimately, a drop in prices.
For example, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake’s recent comments about declining purchasing power for U.S. consumers yielded an immediate drop in oil prices. President George H.W. Bush’s decision to tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve prior to the first Gulf War yielded a 33 percent drop.
We can take additional steps to reduce gas prices over the short term by tapping the strategic petroleum reserve, drilling on all leased federal lands and building more refineries.
Long term, fueling the federal government with domestic alternatives instead of foreign oil, providing energy tax credits for consumers, and redirecting subsidies for oil companies into more renewable research will grow our economy, drive down our energy costs, improve our security and create thousands of good paying American jobs.
The cost of doing nothing is simply too high.
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