Energy & Environment

Relieving the pain at the pump

The price at the pump has soared to $3.79 a gallon nationally, and more than $4 in many areas. Fears of another economic slowdown are prevalent because of high gas prices. Hardworking families in Tennessee and across the country are struggling to pay rising costs. Congress needs to pass common sense energy policies that move us in the direction of lower gas prices and energy independence.

If we want to create jobs in America and move our country toward energy security, Congress should pass energy policies such as the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline, supported by both employers and unions, will create manufacturing and construction jobs, while increasing energy security across the country. 

TransCanada estimates that 20,000 well-paying jobs will be created in 2012 should this project move forward. In addition, the project will provide an estimated $5.2 billion in tax revenue to the Keystone XL corridor states. Construction of the pipeline will also act as an economic engine in the private sector by generating additional private sector investment in food, lodging, fuel, vehicles, equipment, construction and services.


Shake a farmer's hand, set aside the government's hammer

National Agriculture Day is important for all of us, even for those who believe milk comes from convenience stores. Dr. Bruce McPheron, Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University, often says, “Though we often take it for granted, most Americans shake hands with a farmer at least three times a day.” No matter how far removed from the farm, all Americans rely on access to an affordable and safe food supply. We often forget or fail to recognize that every day America’s farmers are working to fulfill one of our most basic and life-sustaining needs.   

Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources have made agriculture the Commonwealth’s single largest industry. As in other parts of the country, our farmers know that caring for, improving and protecting the environment in which they live and work is fundamental to their livelihoods and the security of our country.


REFRESH Act: Farmers know conservation; Farm bill must put them first

As businessmen-farmers and conservatives, we take our commitment to conservation seriously. While bureaucrats evaluate conservation policy from office buildings far away, farmers who rely on their land for their livelihoods understand the importance of stewardship. As Congress begins the work of writing a new farm bill, farmers’ conservation priorities need to be front and center.

Conservation policy should promote farm productivity, strengthen true stewardship, and knock down the bureaucratic maze farmers now face. For these reasons, we introduced the REFRESH Act last fall. The REFRESH Act brings real reforms to farm policy and should be the foundation of the next farm bill.

American farmers lead the world in productivity and innovation. With food prices on the rise, they are ready to meet growing global demand. At the same time, Hoosier farmers understand conservation’s role in maintaining fruitful lands. Currently, many conservation programs provide valuable assistance in improving agricultural practices, protecting wildlife, and reducing the toll on vulnerable soil.


America's changing energy choices

This week, the American Security Project released the 2012 edition of its annual White Paper, “America’s Energy Choices”. The paper details a range of options for America’s energy future, ranging from coal to natural gas and solar to tidal power. It shows how each contributes to America’s energy make-up and how our business and political leaders should weigh the competing priorities of energy security, economic stability, and environmental sustainability when making decisions.
In preparing the update for this year’s report, it is clear that fundamental changes are underway in America’s energy supply and demand structure. While these changes will take decades to play out, the trends show that the U.S. is moving away from its consumer-oriented energy structure towards an economy that shows an interest in energy production, and even exports.
The proof is in the numbers: America imports around 9 million barrels per day (mbd) of crude oil, a level that has stayed mostly steady since the ’08 financial crisis – well below our peak of 10.6 mbd in the summer of ’06 (all numbers quoted are from the Energy Information Agency). However, since July of 2011, America has become a major net exporter of refined petroleum products, to a peak of 1.1 mbd just this past week.


REFRESH Act: Strengthen rural communities and U.S. energy security

The House and Senate will consider a new Farm Bill at a time when Americans are struggling with climbing energy costs. This nation deserves strategic policies that promote economic growth, enhance our energy security, and work to save Americans’ money. This will require a comprehensive approach that incorporates more domestic oil, biofuels, fuel-saving innovations, and trade with our Canadian partners.

An overlooked source for innovative energy policies is America’s farm program. As Hoosier members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, we laid out responsible energy policies when we introduced the REFRESH Act last fall. The REFRESH Act brings real reforms to farm policy and, by simplifying and consolidating the previous Farm Bill’s energy title, encourages diverse fuels, efficiency investments, and new energy opportunities for rural entrepreneurs.

The Lugar-Stutzman REFRESH Act eliminates or consolidates the energy title to just six core initiatives, half of the previous farm bill. Specifically, the REFFRESH Act would:


Bringing oil intensity to the energy debate

Here we go again. Oil is over $100, gasoline is $4, motorists are angry, the media is obsessed, and politicians are sounding off. It seems like the movie Groundhog Day: the same panic over high oil prices, time after time.

You wouldn’t know it by the speculative price rise in oil recently, but some pretty important things have changed--for the better--in US oil policy in just the last five years, in part because Democrats and Republicans have both supported common sense policies.

For example, both parties have helped raise fuel efficiency standards.  First under President Bush in 2007, then under President Obama in 2010, America has vastly improved the mileage performance of our vehicles, which will roughly double by the end of this decade. This is keeping our demand for oil down even as our economy grows.


America rich with energy possibilities

One of the biggest challenges for Washington policymakers who are driven by yesterday’s headlines is to formulate policies that will sufficiently address problems yet unknown and accommodate opportunities few can yet envision.

Another challenge is their tendency to revert to old battle lines when debating new issues. This is especially true in energy debates where much of the rhetoric remains unchanged from the 1970s. Forty years ago the popular mantra among intellectuals and policymakers was that the United States was an energy-producing weakling with an exhausted resource base, whose insatiable appetite for energy left it addicted to imported energy. This narrative has largely remained unchanged. Yet, America is a top tier energy producer, expanding its development of fossil fuels, and using energy more and more efficiently.    

While the nation is still dependent on imports, the energy dynamics are changing. Roger Diwan, partner and head of financial advisory at PFC Energy, stated at a recent congressional hearing: "We believe that by 2020, the United States will become the largest producer of hydrocarbons in the world, surpassing Russia.” So, while the forecast of U.S. ascendency can be debated, that we are witnessing a rapid and dramatic shift in the energy equation is not disputable. Neither is the impacts of increased domestic production on the nation’s economy will be significant.


Rising gas prices due to 'commodity gamblers'

Here we are again. Gas prices are on the rise and citizens want to know why. They feel in their gut that the system is rigged. And in fact, they are right.

The cost of gas is not going up because of decreased supply. The world oil supply rose by 1.3 million barrels per day in the last quarter of 2011.

The cost of gas is not going up because of increased demand in America. Demand for oil in America is at an 11-year low.

So what is going on? The answer in short is that the futures market for oil is being operated like a casino.

Let me explain.


Climate control: A moral issue

It is the winter of 2012, but it feels like spring. And our gut tells us that that is not a good thing.

But before we get up the courage to link this lovely, but eerie, weather to the steady warnings coming from climate scientists – who’ve been telling us for decades about the dire consequences of climate change if we continue our unbridled use of fossil fuels - Senator Inhofe looks to provide the mind- and heart-numbing relief he believes we long for in the form of a misguided book. 


Obama's misguided energy policy

Despite his recent spin about presiding over an increase in domestic production, since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has worked to sabotage American energy development. As a result of restricting access to domestic resources and implementing restrictive regulations which hike energy costs, American families are suffering.

With gasoline near $4 per gallon around the country, the President is under increasing political pressure from the left to release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). However, lowering gas prices requires a sensible, long term solution, not a one-time short-term fix. Dumping our emergency reserve into the market with a moment’s notice will only make a bad situation worse.

Tapping the SPR in this environment won’t have a meaningful impact on gasoline prices. Last summer, when President Obama released oil from the SPR, prices rose again the next week. A one-time infusion won’t fool OPEC nations into believing that America can manage world oil prices. A unilateral draw on our own reserve would do little to affect world price because other producing nations, especially OPEC, would simply reduce production to offset our meager addition.