Energy & Environment

Balancing on a tight resource rope

Conventional wisdom tells us that the U.S. oil-and-gas boom is a welcomed turn of events — especially in the Midwest’s heavily industrialized and economically struggling Rust Belt states, tight shale oil and gas appear to be new varieties of precious black gold.

In Ohio and its neighboring states, residents have suffered through decades of downturn. The region’s specialization in processing raw materials for manufacturing had faded away. Prosperity is now returning, though slowly, to the Midwest economy in the form of resources buried deeply in the disconnected fissures of the Utica, Marcellus and Devonian shale. Conventional thinking is unlikely to question the wisdom of this energy windfall.

Unconventional thinking, however, raises red flags in the conventional wisdom. Will the U.S. oil-and-gas boom bolster energy and economic security? Maybe. But there are risks.

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Embracing the shale revolution

If there is one conclusion that should be drawn from the boom in U.S. natural gas production, it is that supplies are so abundant that it makes economic sense to export some of our gas to countries overseas. No one could have imagined that possibility even a few years ago when the United States was actually importing natural gas, with much of it arriving on LNG tanker ships.
 
Today America is completely self-sufficient in natural gas. In fact, we produce more gas than we can use, and soon we will not have enough room to store the surplus gas.  Even now, some of the gas produced as a byproduct of oil drilling must be burned off or “flared” as a waste product until customers can be found to buy it.

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Keystone XL: Against our national security

The House of Representatives once again is trying to force the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline down our throats and through the heart of our country - this time by attaching approval for it to a federal transportation bill and claiming the Canadian pipeline will help our national security.
 
Don’t buy it.
 
Truth is, the longer the United States remains dependent on fossil fuels – no matter where it comes from– the longer our nation’s security will be vulnerable.

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Account for the cost of carbon emissions

While American politicians worry about how high gas prices are perceived by voters, Mexico is actually doing something to free their country from risky fossil fuels. Our southern neighbors are poised to approve ambitious climate change legislation, any day now, that will give them an edge in the race to produce renewable energy and create green jobs, while reducing carbon pollution.

Unfortunately, in the United States, efforts to tackle climate-related issues have stalled, even if the impacts of inaction, such as more severe and more frequent extreme weather events, have not. Last year, 47 of the 50 states were forced to declare a state of emergency in response to climate-related weather disasters, racking up $72 billion dollars in damages.

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Federal investment in innovation drives leadership in space

In a Hill editorial on March 27, Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) stated that since the retirement of the space shuttle last year, America has fallen behind in the battle for the ultimate high ground — space. He pointed to China’s plans for an increased number of rocket launches and its ambitions for more sophisticated Earth satellites and exploration of the Moon in stating that NASA is falling behind. These metrics, however, do not define the high ground or our nation’s technological capability to efficiently utilize this domain. Preeminence in space, and the economic and national security implications that follow, are not simply measured in terms of a number of rocket launches, but rather by the depth and breadth of a nation’s space capabilities and the skill and expertise of personnel that flexibly adapt these capabilities to new missions and new frontiers.

This century will be won by those who innovate, seek breakthroughs and develop new technologies and new industries. Reaching for grand technological challenges, engineers and scientists across this country stand on the cusp of dramatic advances in materials, information technology, energy and biomedical science. These breakthroughs provide lasting societal benefits and are a catalyst to America’s high-tech economy. The aerospace sector is no different. According to a December 2011 report of the Aerospace Industries Association, U.S. aerospace sales marked their eight consecutive year of growth and U.S. aerospace exports are up 12 percent with a positive trade balance of $57.4 billion — the largest trade surplus of any U.S. manufacturing industry. In aerospace, we lead the world. This industry is a job-creator, a technological innovator (e.g., GPS, CMOS imaging sensors, stealth technology, unmanned aerial vehicles and the Weather Channel) and provides a critical advantage to our nation’s economy and security. The aerospace sector is driven by new ideas, innovation and technology, and NASA is the lifeblood of many of these innovations.

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Big government is holding up American energy production

As high gasoline prices continue to hammer families at the pump each week, Americans are demanding solutions to our nation’s high energy costs. Colorado’s abundance of natural resources on federal lands puts our state at the heart of this critical national debate.

Recently, the three of us introduced a trio of bills in the House aimed at furthering an all of the above energy approach that we believe the Obama administration is only paying lip service to. Our bills seek to advance responsible development of renewables like hydropower and wind energy, along with traditional resources like oil and natural gas.

While President Obama talks about cracking down on oil speculators, without providing any evidence that speculators are in fact driving up prices, we are pursuing what we believe are more effective, common sense policy solutions to lower gas prices for American families and businesses.

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National ocean policy protects ocean health and benefit fishermen

In recent weeks, Republicans in Congress have once again taken aim at a comprehensive ocean management and protection plan. In misleading hearings and op-eds, their talking points mirror rumors that have long been exposed as false—that the National Ocean Policy (NOP) is somehow a direct assault on fishing.

Frankly, such an assertion is ridiculous. The National Ocean Policy, with proper stakeholder input, would actually protect habitat and access and result in the common sense management of marine resources. Current attempts to defund and delay implementation of the National Ocean Policy are a thinly veiled attack on the basic programs that protect, maintain and restore the health of our oceans and coasts.

The policy’s improved ocean management effort is designed to protect and create jobs, and grow our economy by ensuring all the multiple uses of the ocean don’t come crashing down on each other. It requires the more than 20 federal agencies that govern our seas—currently in an uncoordinated and ad hoc way—to finally work together, with input from local governments, ocean industries and, yes, fishermen. To some, this may appear as yet another layer of government intervention. But the truth is it will actually streamline the process, reduce bureaucratic red tape and perhaps more importantly, enlist local stakeholders in the decision-making process.

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Designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

For more than a century, the Antiquities Act has given American presidents the authority to protect some of our nation’s most important and threatened places. Across my home state of New Mexico, we see the benefit of the Antiquities Act—Bandelier National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, White Sands National Monument, and El Morro National Monument to name just a few. Research done late last year by the Green Chamber of Commerce shows that New Mexico's 10 national monuments established through the Antiquities Act account for 1.3 million annual tourist visits and $54 million in annual tourist spending that supports 1,061 New Mexico jobs.

One place in New Mexico deserving of such protection is the proposed Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County. For months now, I have heard from residents and elected officials in the city of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County asking for help with their efforts to protect these southwestern natural treasures. City councilors, county commissioners, and the Mayor of Las Cruces, Ken Miyagishima, have implored me to seek permanent protection. In addition, organizations as diverse as the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces, the League of Women Voters, and the Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen all support a comprehensive approach to preserving Dona Ana County’s wild lands.

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New Hampshire a model for responsible conservation and energy efficiency

If you have ever hiked one of the mountains in the Presidential Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and seen the majestic views of the national forest from the top of the peak, you know firsthand the beauty and resources that we are fortunate to have in the Granite State.

I am proud to represent a state that offers a little bit of everything for the nature lover: mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, and beaches, all within a short drive from anywhere in the state, and all offering a multitude of opportunities for fishing, hunting, bird-watching, hiking, skiing, boating, swimming, and scenic drives. New Hampshire’s environment also provides my state with the sustainable resources it needs to fill its sawmills and fuel the clean biomass power generation plants that provide thousands of residents and businesses with electricity.

These natural resources are treasures to be shared and preserved for future generations, and why I have long been a supporter of conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Community Forest Program (CFP). These programs provide the opportunity to protect working forests for multiple uses and are vital to protecting our nation’s natural treasures. LWCF and CFP have already made an impact on projects in my home state such as the Newfound Pathway at Newfound Lake and the Randolph Community Forest.

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Tariffs on imported solar cells are a bad idea

Like any moment of truth, the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce to set unexpectedly low tariffs on solar cells and panels imported from China, may be a precursor for its next decision on May 17 in a trade case brought by SolarWorld, the German-owned solar cell manufacturer.

Since filing a petition seeking tariffs as high as 250 percent, SolarWorld has made repeated claims that the Chinese government provides huge subsidies to Chinese solar cell manufacturers with the goal of undercutting U.S. manufacturers.

In his November 8 testimony to the International Trade Commission, which is conducting the investigation into SolarWorld’s allegations, Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld’s U.S. subsidiary, asserted, “But for the massive amounts of support from the Chinese Government, China's solar industry has no production cost advantage to warrant its exceedingly low-priced product.” Clearly, the Department of Commerce decision on March 19 took the wind from SolarWorld’s sails when they announced tariffs of just 3 to 5 percent on imported Chinese cells and panels.

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