All-of-the-above approach needed for U.S. to achieve energy security

The president’s State of the Union address focused on jobs, but unfortunately, many of the president’s policy goals and budget actions would serve to undermine both energy independence and job creation. If we are serious about creating jobs and strengthening the economy, we need to reduce the cost of production and support a wide range of energy sources: renewables, alternatives, nuclear, and fossil fuels. The American people understand that it will take all of the above to accomplish these goals.

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The president and our Democratic colleagues are focusing their efforts on green jobs and seek to eliminate tax incentives for oil and natural gas producers in order to spur development of renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, the most heavily subsidized renewables — solar and wind power — require base-load support from coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. Further, there is growing evidence from Europe that significant government subsidies for green jobs and renewables may do more damage than good. RWI Essen, a leading economic research institute in Germany, recently released its biannual report warning against government handouts to unsustainable energy markets.  Renewables need to become a larger part of our energy portfolio, but not at the expense of abundant and affordable domestic energy sources that already provide good jobs to millions of Americans.

Small, independent energy producers supply 82 percent of American natural gas, and an estimated 1.8 million Americans work for the oil and gas industry, not to mention another 4 million workers indirectly tied to the industry. The Obama spending plan would eliminate 12 tax incentives for oil and gas development and production, which would increase costs by an estimated $80 billion. The president also proposes scaling back the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, a move that seems to contradict the goal of energy security. Further, he continues to shut out resource-rich public lands, such as ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. Since this president and Congress refuse to use this land to promote our energy independence, I recently reintroduced my bill from last term that will return ANWR to the state of Alaska so that it may make wise use of the resources at its disposal.

America also has more than 250 billion tons of recoverable coal reserves. This is the equivalent of 800 billion barrels of oil, or more than three times Saudi Arabia’s proven oil reserves. We should be researching for ways to make this energy source cleaner and more efficient. The president’s spending proposal, however, zeroes out funding for the Clean Coal Project Initiative, and rather focuses all coal research on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). CCS technologies are promising, but in hearings in the Science and Technology Committee, we learned that scalable demonstration of these technologies remains a long way off. We need to make the coal we’re burning now cleaner and more efficient, so we can take advantage of our vast supplies, but the president’s budget ignores such near-term energy security needs.

The administration also proposes to cut all funding for natural gas research, including the Ultra-deep Program, which I helped pass several years ago. The program is designed to develop technologies to drill in ultra-deep areas of the Gulf of Mexico and unconventional onshore regions. The strongest supporters of the program are universities and small independent producers — not big oil. It has demonstrated its value by helping to drive discovery of numerous shale plays, pushing natural gas reserves to record levels. And the best part is the program pays for itself through funding from royalty revenues.

Finally, the president’s budget continues to assume that cap-and-trade legislation will overcome significant hurdles to become law. National polls show that only around 30 percent of Americans currently support a cap-and-trade policy in the U.S. My constituents, like many Americans, understand that the proposal to ration energy through an arbitrary price on carbon is inherently a tax on energy that will push manufacturing jobs overseas and ultimately raise energy costs for all Americans.

The one bright spot in the president’s energy budget is a renewed commitment to advancing safe, reliable, clean, and affordable nuclear energy, but the abrupt termination of Yucca Mountain as a nuclear storage site raises many questions about how we will deal with nuclear waste.

We need an all-of-the-above, common-sense approach to energy that encourages research and development and alternative forms of energy, while recognizing and allowing for the continued contributions and importance of traditional energy sources. In multiple speeches over recent weeks, the president and his team have charged that Republicans are not offering up solutions to the nation’s problems. When it comes to energy security, our solution couldn’t be clearer: all of the above! If the president would join us in this effort, he would be one step closer to meeting his goal of energy independence.

Hall is the ranking member of the House Science and Technology Committee.