By Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.) - 06/27/07 07:05 PM EDT
I believe there is a way for Americans to become energy independent by coming together on issues we all agree on, instead of fighting over divisive issues like ANWR. Established in 1960, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska is brimming with flora and fauna in a pristine, untouched landscape. A variety of wildlife thrives in the Alaskan wilderness, including polar bears, caribou, snow geese and many other species.
Yet, this federally recognized refuge has become the center of contentious debate between the importance of maintaining natural resources and America’s dependence on oil.
The biological heart of the refuge — the coastal plain where the caribou and polar bears thrive — is the very place the oil companies want to infiltrate with drills, machinery and pipes to send the fossil fuels down to become gasoline. Private industry, particularly the oil and gas industry see ANWR as a source of revenues and additional fossil fuel supply for the United States. Environmental groups are adamant that we protect this expansive Alaskan wilderness, which spans 19
million acres in the northeast corner of the state.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has concluded that the prospective oil recovery and yearly production are uncertain. We don’t know what lies beneath.
Further, we haven’t finished exploration of the potential in Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in North America and the source of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. In fact the pipeline, built for domestic use, ships some of our oil overseas.
With energy dominating the public policy debate today, why get hung up on something people disagree on as opposed to looking for places we can all work together? We should look beyond ANWR. There’s a fundamental problem with simply being reliant on oil — it is a fossil fuel drawing on finite, dwindling resources. Additionally, our reliance on oil contributes to CO2 emissions. Renewable energy resources — such as wind and cellulosic ethanol — are constantly replenished.
That’s why I joined with Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) in supporting his legislation, H.R. 39, the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act to protect ANWR. This legislation designates specific lands within ANWR as wilderness and as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
That is also why I am pursuing an agenda of creating incentives for diverse technologies to produce American energy. This approach is good for our economy, environment and homeland security. In fact, promising legislation on this front recently passed the House. Under the H-Prize Act, we will provide incentives for innovation in hydrogen energy technologies by researchers, universities, companies and private citizens. These innovators would be awarded for development of technical breakthroughs related to key aspects of the hydrogen fuel cycle. Hydrogen is clean, abundant, and more importantly, it can be produced here at home, taking our energy supply security out of the hands of politically volatile nations and oil cartels.
While we work on future solutions like hydrogen, we also need to work on “bridges” that can be accomplished now. Along with Reps. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), I recently asked the president to launch a new National Security Initiative to jump start mass-production of flex-fuel, plug-in hybrid vehicles, which he implemented by executive order in January. I’ve also joined with Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) on legislation, H.R. 589, that would have a significant impact on the development and deployment of plug-in hybrid technology in the nation’s transportation sector through a grant program, a pilot program on integration, a government test site and tax incentives. Plug-in hybrids can utilize energy already being created on our power grids and be charged during off peak times such as the middle of the night when energy we are already creating goes to waste. Under the order, federal agencies are directed to purchase an increasing percentage of these new vehicles to create a market for them.
In addition, through my CAFE standards legislation, H.R. 656, we can conserve much of the energy we already consume. By increasing our current standards H.R. 656 will result in a savings of 2.6 million gallons of oil per day by 2025. This is the equivalent of what we currently import from the Persian Gulf.
If we truly want to move toward energy independence and keep our country strong, we must stop using oil as a crutch to quench our immediate thirst for energy, but perhaps more importantly, first we must start working together — the government, both political parties, consumers and industry.
Americans need energy. American treasures must be preserved for future generations. We can meet both goals.
Reichert is a member of the Homeland Security and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.
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