- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Currently, we find ourselves on parallel roads regarding our energy policy. We are dependent on fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas, all of which are produced in the 19th Congressional District in Texas and around the nation. However, the other road we are pursuing is alternative and renewable sources of energy.

The crossroad we face is that demand for energy is growing at such an increasing rate that we cannot afford not to pursue both paths at the same time. Some in Congress want to restrict our ability to produce fossil fuels and only travel the road of alternative fuels. If America is going to reduce its dependency on foreign countries to furnish its energy needs, the reality is that we must travel both roads.

If we do not begin to explore new possibilities, while at the same time increasing domestic production of fossil fuels, we will not only face rising costs, but our own national security will be at risk. Energy security is national security; it is imperative that America not only develop an energy policy that addresses the current problem, but also plans for the future. While oil and gas are critical to our economy and will continue to be for the interim, we must explore new options to secure energy independence. Indeed, we face a crossroad — we can continue to talk about comprehensive energy reform, or we can face the challenge and take the steps necessary to secure energy independence.

Commenting on problematic realities, Winston Churchill said, “The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Oil is a limited resource, mainly controlled in unstable regions or in countries controlled by unstable leaders. Currently, America is importing roughly 12.5 million barrels of oil a week at an average price of $67.10 per barrel. In general, we are spending $114 million a day on oil imports to countries that do not share our best interests. America must not allow this to continue. As each day passes, we put our economic and national security at risk.

Now is the time to end partisan bickering. We must significantly reduce our dependency on foreign oil. This is not a political issue; this is an American issue. It must be addressed with leadership, common sense and steadfast determination.

I am working with my colleagues in Congress, especially those on the Science and Technology Committee, to investigate innovative ideas in efforts to establish a long term solution toward energy independence.

First and foremost, we need to utilize our abundant natural resources. Congress must insist on efficient energy exploration that employs the latest technology and ensures strict accountability and environmentally friendly measures. Congress must act and approve exploration in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and we must not neglect other land based resources such as natural gas, coal and our offshore and coastal shelf prospects.

The last American oil refinery was built in 1976. We need new refineries and we must build them in such a way as to ensure continued production in the event of an unforeseen natural disaster. The majority of refineries are located in the Gulf Coast, and as we witnessed, refinery production can be severely disrupted if a major hurricane strikes that area. Limited refining capability equals higher gas prices and increased vulnerability to disruptions.

We must put in place policies that encourage the use of America’s vast resources. Congress should expand and reform loan guarantee programs as well as provide tax credits to endeavors such as cellulosic renewable fuel plans, coal-to-liquid plants, alternative fuel facilities and new nuclear power plants. Additionally, we must expand upon the endless possibilities of wind powered energy, while at the same time producing traditional energy resources. I am proud to say that Texas’ 19th Congressional District is the leading congressional district in the nation when it comes to wind energy production.

We are at a crossroads of reality as it relates to energy policy in America. Our energy dependence is both an economic and a security risk. As we move forward with energy policy, we need to understand that it is important to invest in new energy technology for future generations. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that our primary resources today are fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal. Until replacement fuels are in place, we must continue to develop and produce our existing resources in our country.

This will ensure both the economic and national security of America.

Rep. Randy Neugebauer, a Texas Republican who represents the 19th Congressional District, serves on the Agriculture Committee, where he is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee for Horticulture and Organic Agriculture. He also serves on the Financial Services and the Science and Technology Committees.

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