Guest Commentary: We Need An Energy Plan

April 26, 2013

TIPTON: Small businesses across the nation are being impacted by high and unpredictable energy costs

Energy prices are a constant source of frustration and uncertainty for families and small businesses in my district, and in this tough economy, it’s the last thing they should have to worry about.

Last week a constituent, who owns a small carpentry business in Alamosa, called my office to tell me that gas prices are hurting his small business.

Robert told me that he relies on his truck to get to carpentry jobs, and because of high gas prices, has been limited to only taking jobs close to home.  He’s worried that this will only get worse as we go into summer when gas prices tend to get even higher. Robert has lost work because of high energy costs, and is doing everything he can just to get by.

Like Robert, small businesses across the nation are being impacted by high and unpredictable energy costs, including farmers in the San Luis Valley who rely on fuel to plant, harvest and transport their crops to market. Families and seniors are facing a similar burden, tightening their belts even more in order to pay for high fuel and electricity costs, on top of paying increased healthcare costs and higher taxes.

The good news is that this problem has a solution: American energy.

Historically, our country has lacked a clear plan for energy development on public lands.  In 1979, President Jimmy Carter challenged the nation to be energy self-sufficient, and yet more than three decades later, we are nowhere close to achieving that goal.  In fact, last year we imported 41 percent of our liquid fuels from overseas, compared with the 27 percent we imported in 1985.

There is no reason for our nation’s anemic domestic energy production. America is blessed with an abundance of energy natural resources, including vast supplies of oil and natural gas, much of which is located on federal lands. While production has increased on private property, it has declined on federal lands. According to a newly released Congressional Research Service non-partisan report, natural gas production decreased by 33 percent on federal lands since 2007, while the average time to process a drilling permit increased 41 percent between 2006 and 2007. Our nation is now producing less oil than we did in 2007 on federal lands. We are going backwards when we need to be building for the future.

As it stands, there is no benchmark for meeting the inevitable demand for energy in both traditional and alternative sources in this country, leaving our nation dangerously dependent on foreign oil and gas in an increasingly volatile geopolitical environment. Furthermore, we are missing the opportunity to create countless American energy jobs. Changing this trend is not only a matter of economic importance, but critical to strengthening our national security.

With this in mind, I have reintroduced legislation that uses a common sense criteria—the needs of the American people—to establish production goals for a true all-of-the-above domestic energy plan.

Under my Planning for American Energy Act, the non-partisan Energy Information Administration provides the projected energy needs of the United States for the next 30 years to the Secretary of the interior and the Secretary of Agriculture  which they then base four year production plans. The bill requires that all domestic sources; oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, oil shale and minerals needed for energy development be included in the plans. It achieves this responsibly, without repealing a single environmental regulation or review process.

Because local communities in districts like ours play such a large role in domestic energy production, my bill also requires that the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture gather input from affected states, federally recognized tribes, local governments and the public during the process.  I believe that is important to ensure that production is done safely, effectively and responsibly.

Be it through wind energy in Pueblo, oil and natural gas in Grand Junction, clean coal in Craig, solar in Alamosa, or hydropower throughout the Western Slope, communities in my district, where real unemployment remains as high as 20 percent, stand to benefit from increased responsible energy production.

I’m optimistic that we will see action in the House of Representatives soon to advance this commonsense all-of-the-above plan to encourage responsible development of our nation’s abundant energy resources, create new jobs, strengthen national security, lower energy costs to provide needed relief for families and seniors, and open up opportunities for hardworking Americans like Robert in Alamosa.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He is a member of the House Resources, Agriculture and Small Business Committees

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