By Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) - 06/15/09 04:34 PM EDT
Since the beginning of the energy debate last year, many of my constituents have asked why we as a country do not utilize the natural resources we have and instead continue to rely on Middle Eastern oil. I have advocated for the recovery and production of our natural resources as a simple way to increase our supply of oil and natural gas, while reducing our dependency on foreign oil.
The American Energy Act increases the supply of American energy by immediately moving forward with a leasing program on the already open OCS. The bill also simplifies and harmonizes the OCS mileage restrictions, expanding state territorial waters to 12 miles offshore (most state borders stop at three miles) and giving coastal states a share of the receipts from such energy exploration. A portion of the revenues created by OCS exploration would go to a renewable energy trust fund to pay for a variety of renewable, alternative and advanced energy programs.
Last year, I traveled with my Republican colleagues to Alaska to see firsthand the oil production that is taking place and to learn more about the potential oil production in the area. During our trip, it was abundantly clear that responsible, economical drilling can take place in Alaska. Our bill further increases American energy by opening the Arctic Coastal Plain to exploration in an environmentally sound manner, which could provide an additional 1 million barrels of oil per day.
An important piece of the House Republican “all-of-the-above” policy is clean and renewable sources of energy, including nuclear power. The 104 nuclear reactors in America today provide the United States with 20 percent of its electricity and 73 percent of its CO2-free electricity, yet no new reactors have been ordered since 1978. Last month, I had the privilege of touring the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in San Luis Obispo, Calif., with the American Energy Solutions Group. During our tour, we heard repeated stories of bureaucratic red tape that power suppliers must cut through to continue to operate or establish a nuclear power facility. The American Energy Act looks to simplify this process and establishes a goal to bring 100 new nuclear reactors online over the next 20 years by outlining an accelerated regulatory process for new nuclear applications for companies who already meet certain requirements set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Lastly, the American Energy Act provides tax incentives for businesses and homeowners who improve their energy efficiency. It also extends tax credits for using energy-efficient appliances and making energy-efficient upgrades to existing homes, a tax credit for individuals who purchase a new energy-efficient home and a tax credit for energy-efficient commercial buildings, home energy audits and smart meters.
Under the proposed Democratic Cap and Tax policy, rural congressional districts like mine would be especially hard-hit because of our reliance on coal-generated power and petroleum-based fuels for work, travel and recreation. Cap-and-trade is nothing more than a national energy tax that will only raise energy prices and increase our already staggering unemployment rate. As we continue to debate cap-and-trade in the House, Republicans want to be part of the solution of our nation’s energy policy. I am proud to be a member of both the American Energy Solutions Working Group, in addition to the Rural America Solutions Working Group in which we continue to generate thoughtful debate and alternative plans in order to present members of Congress with options when considering energy legislation.
Taxing Americans more is not the way to solve our nation’s energy challenge; we must work for a smarter, multi-faceted solution. It is time to help relieve the burden on Americans during the economic crisis. We must work to make energy more affordable and more efficient. The American Energy Act, if passed, would provide a sensible, long-term solution to our nation’s energy problem by providing affordable energy while incorporating clean and renewable practices to America’s energy portfolio.
Latta is a member of the House Budget Committee.