Energy & Environment

Support for a cleaner environment

As global population booms at an exponential rate, we, as citizens of the world, must take greater care of the environment in which we live. We must take better care of our environment and be conscious of the footprint humankind is creating. This is why Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.) created Earth Day in 1970 – to bring awareness to our surroundings and how we are affecting them. America is currently the largest consumer of energy, and so we must first direct our attention to our conspicuous consumption.

In our district, which encompasses most of north and east Houston/Harris County, we do everything energy --both upstream and downstream-- including being the home of several offshore workers, five refineries, and dozens of chemical plants. I serve on the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over most energy policy.

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Earth Day 41 years later: A new crisis

Forty-one years after Earth Day began, our country has made tremendous progress. The conversation has changed. People from every corner of our country, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, all agree we want clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. Everyone understands the value of being good stewards of the resources God has made available to man. 

The summers I spent working on my aunt’s farm in Winfield, Kansas have instilled in me a deep personal love for the land and its importance to human well-being. Unfortunately, the Obama administration and its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have lost sight of our shared common goals and are instead advancing a radical, left-wing, ideological agenda, tantamount to faith because it is without reason, which narrowly focuses on eliminating fossil fuels.

Even before I entered Congress, I’ve known of EPA’s rogue behavior from my days spent running a small business and from conversations with Kansas families whose livelihoods have been put in jeopardy by reckless government behavior. For too many at EPA, it is no longer about human health and safety, but about achieving environmental perfection as they imagine it.

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A clean environment means a healthy economy

Earth Day provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the beauty and importance of our natural environment. For more than 40 years, Earth Day has been a time to rally around the changes that transformed our nation into a cleaner and healthier place.

Earth Day helped inspire me to pursue a career in clean energy. I spent over 25 years developing wind energy technology, doing everything from writing mathematical models to climbing 200 foot windmill towers for engineering experiments. My goal was to help develop energy technology that is reliable, environmentally friendly, and cost competitive with fossil fuels. Over the past two decades the wind industry largely achieved those goals.

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Protecting the California coast

During this week that we celebrate Earth Day and reflect on the one-year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, it is the perfect time to sharpen our focus on environmental priorities. As some 200 million gallons of oil were sent gushing into the Gulf of Mexico last year, destroying marine life and crippling the local economy, all I kept thinking was: we cannot let this happen to California’s Sonoma Coast.

Oil companies have made no secret, however, of their designs on this coastline in my district. That is why one of my top legislative priorities is the expansion, by more than 2,000 nautical miles, of the local marine sanctuaries that provide permanent federal protection from oil and gas exploration.

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Our responsibility to the Earth

"But what have you done for me lately?"

If our planet could ask that question, we'd definitely have a better answer this year than last. Just before Earth Day 2010, BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded -- a disaster that ultimately dumped more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico and wreaked unprecedented havoc on ecosystems, wildlife, and communities.

Not a good day for the Earth.

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Celebrating clean energy’s castoff

You would think that on Earth Day an energy source that is affordable, abundant, reliable and most importantly doesn’t create any emissions would be celebrated. For some reason, though, nuclear power remains a pariah in clean energy circles.

It is likely that one in five of you reading this online right now is doing it on a computer powered by nuclear energy. There are more than 100 reactors in 31 states supplying about 20 percent of our nation’s electricity. Unfortunately that number hasn’t changed much since go-go boots and bell bottoms were all the rage.

The sad fact for both the environment and the job market is that it has been more than 30 years since a new nuclear facility has been constructed in the United States.

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Going green for innovation

As a former member of the California Coastal Commission, the California Air Resources Board and current member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I have long been an active steward of environmental issues. What these experiences have taught me is that it is difficult to be an environmentalist without encountering some sort of paradox that suggests otherwise. 

As we celebrate Earth Day, it is important to take a moment and understand these paradoxes and the challenges they present. Take surfing as an example. I have been a surfer all my life and deeply understand how surfing compels those devoted to their vocation to be in harmony with the environment.

But what many surfers don’t realize is that we leave a larger footprint than what is washed away by the tide. Surfboards are made of toxic polymers, wetsuits and wax are made from petroleum, and surfers leave a significant carbon footprint as they travel by air, land and sea with their boards in tow.

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The rise of Mother Earth

The United Nations will soon consider a draft treaty penned by Bolivian President Evo Morales that would radically transform international law. If enacted, the treaty based on Bolivia’s recently-passed “Law of Mother Earth,” would give plants, animals, and bugs (daffodils, salamanders, and grasshoppers) the same legal rights as human beings.

What could be wrong with that? After all, Earth Day is coming up, which is like Mother’s Day for those who love Mother Earth. Who doesn’t love their Mother?

There is nothing wrong with loving Mother Earth. The problem is that many people who profess their love for Mother Earth also preach scorn for their brothers and sisters in the human race.

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Policy post-Macondo: A year of living dangerously

The world has changed since the Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico a year ago that cost the lives of 11 rig workers and resulted in the biggest oil spill in the nation’s history. Not only has the federal government tightened its oversight of offshore drilling, but the industry itself has implemented numerous additional safeguards to ensure a major blowout won’t re-occur. At the same time, political unrest in Middle East and North Africa—with attendant jumps in oil and gasoline prices—has thrust energy security into the public consciousness.

This isn’t the first time our economic and energy security have been put at risk by political unrest in far-away places. But perhaps this latest spike in oil prices can be a true “Sputnik moment” for moving ahead with a sensible national energy policy that focuses on developing our domestic potential. Unfortunately, both the public and politicians appear confused about how to achieve greater energy security.

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One year after the gulf, a plan to mitigate future spills

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, exactly one year ago today, triggered one of the worst environmental catastrophes in our nation’s history, with some 200 million gallons of oil eventually spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. 

It’s important to remember that this was also a worker safety tragedy – 11 workers died and 17 were injured. As Ranking Member of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, I’ll be fighting to make sure there are the strictest possible safety standards for the benefit of the men and women who do this kind of work.

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