As we approach the Memorial Day holiday, families face the beginning of another summer driving season with gasoline prices expected to rise. If, or how much, the economy rebounds will have the most impact on how high fuel prices will increase.
This situation is unacceptable. The good news is that it is not too late to take action and remove this uncertainty by adopting a comprehensive national energy strategy that relies on America's diverse resources and America's ingenuity and innovation.
As a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, I have witnessed firsthand the consequences of the failure to have an effective national energy strategy. The American people are paying for the federal government's refusal to open up our domestic sources of energy.
America remains the only developed country in the world that restricts the development of its own energy resources. Furthermore, the United States puts its economy and national security at risk by relying so heavily on foreign oil. In fact, we send billions of dollars overseas to purchase oil every year instead of taking advantage of our own resources.
With more than 10 percent of Georgia workers unemployed, it makes no sense to pursue economic polices that place a greater financial burden on families and small businesses. Real economic recovery will only happen when we have a tax policy that allows individuals and small businesses to keep more of their hard-earned money and an energy policy based on maximizing American sources of energy.
Energy independence and innovation are essential to America's national and economic security. Rising gas prices and the high gas prices from the summer of 2008 illustrate just how critical energy is to this country. The recent explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico do not change that fact.
Unfortunately, politicians in Washington have seized upon the opportunity to use the recent explosion aboard a Deepwater Horizon offshore platform to call for further restrictions of offshore energy exploration and development. These calls to ban the pursuit of domestic sources of energy are not new.
For three decades, Congress and the Executive Branch have continued the ban on any homegrown development of energy off the Outer Continental Shelf and refused to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Yet, the fact remains that oil and natural gas are still the main sources of energy in America. Recent events of volatile energy prices, natural disasters, international turmoil in the Middle East and Asia, worldwide economic recession and the current oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico only reinforces our need to develop a national energy strategy.
The best way to address America's energy needs for the future is through a comprehensive approach that considers all resources. We will be able to meet the challenge of increasing our energy supply and reducing our consumption of fossil fuels by taking an "all-of-the-above" approach, which is why I strongly support the American Energy Innovation Act.
This act addresses our energy needs through increased innovation, conservation and production. It encourages more production of American energy sources, and provides incentives for conservation and efficiency.
The American Energy Innovation Act opens up the Outer Continental Shelf and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to exploration and development of oil and natural gas; lifts the ban on exploring oil shale on federal lands; reforms and encourages the development of emission-free nuclear energy; and removes government red tape in utilizing our federal lands for energy exploration and production of its resources.
Finally, it encourages ingenuity and new ideas through entrepreneurship and reduces regulatory, financial and legal burdens.
Unfortunately, the energy debate is often seen as increasing the domestic supply of energy vs. conservation and renewable resources - an either/or approach. The simple truth is that the two are not mutually exclusive. An effective energy strategy will incorporate improving conservation, increasing our domestic supply of energy, and investment and research into new types of cleaner and more-efficient fuels.
American consumers have paid too high a price for too long for this neglect and inattention. If we want to help our economy recover and then grow and American families to prosper, we must pass a comprehensive effective national energy strategy now.
(U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, M.D., R-Ga., represents Columbia County and Georgia's 10th Congressional District.)
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