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Will Congress Finally Get Serious About Our Energy Crisis?

By Wis. GOP Rep. Paul Ryan

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September 15, 2008 | comments
The devastation in the wake of Hurricane Ike provides Americans with countless stories of service and selfless sacrifice. We can draw inspiration from the heroic rescue efforts by Coast Guard crews, first responders, and ordinary citizens in Texas.

Another lesson, albeit more elementary, is evident in the impact of supply and demand on energy prices. With temporary shutdowns at refineries in the Gulf region and the Colonial Pipeline, sudden supply shortages have produced swift increases in gas prices. Many states – especially in the Midwest – saw gas prices jump back above $4 a gallon. This fundamental law of economics is painfully obvious to millions of Americans, yet continues to befuddle many elected officials here in Congress. Hurricane Ike has given us another reminder of the need to expand and diversify American-made energy. The stubborn refusal to unlock American energy supplies continues to wreck havoc on the American people.

As it appears that Congress will finally have the long overdue energy debate, it will be critical to examine whether any energy package brought to the House floor is serious in its understanding of supply and demand. Will there be serious efforts to promote increasing domestic energy supply, or will the House Majority cloak “drilling” language in a maze of disincentives, limitations, and regulations? Will there be serious efforts to limit the frivolous lawsuits by radical special interests that have held up existing leases for oil exploration? Will the energy package be earnest in it efforts to boost incentives for alternatives and conservation, which House Republicans have consistently supported? Will the House Majority continue to neglect commonsense provisions, such as streamlining the permitting process for new refineries, reducing the costly boutique fuel mandates, and encouraging nuclear power plants?

Trying to enact meaningful energy legislation in the final moments of the 110th Congress is a tall order for a Congress that has been successful at ignoring our most pressing issues – from the economy to health care to entitlements. Nevertheless, Congress must seize this moment of opportunity and tackle our energy crisis before calling it quits for the year. With record home heating costs expected to hit Americans hard this winter, the energy crisis will not let up. Those I serve in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District have seen their paychecks eliminated from job losses in energy-intensive industries, while all Americans have had their paychecks stretched to limit by higher energy costs. Enough is enough.

At a time when we send $1.5 billion a day to countries that are hostile to our interests, we must reduce our dependence on foreign oil. A commonsense, all-of-the-above approach – as found in H.R. 6566, the American Energy Act – is urgently needed. This bipartisan, comprehensive energy package would give our children a safer world, a stronger economy, and a cleaner environment. While Americans continue to wait and see what the House Majority decides to bring to the floor, it is my hope that Republicans and Democrats can work together to address our nation’s most pressing energy concerns before the close of the 110th Congress. The American people deserve it.


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