Republicans unveil energy agenda

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Washington is broken, and families and small businesses across the country are feeling the effects — especially as a result of soaring gas and food prices, runaway health care costs, and a housing downturn that has cascaded throughout the economy. House Republicans have worked for over 16 months to expose how the Democratic majority’s “tax, spend, and regulate” agenda is precisely the wrong approach during these difficult days.

Simply pointing out the wrong direction in which Democrats are leading the country is not enough. Republicans in Congress must offer solutions of our own; we must be willing to lead where the Democrats have failed. Beginning last week, with Texas Rep. Kay Granger’s American Families Agenda, House Republicans began to roll out our agenda of change and reform. We continued that effort this week, with our plan to bring down gas prices and other sky-high energy costs.

In April 2006, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, promised the American people a “commonsense plan” to lower gasoline prices. Two years later, House Democrats have not only failed to offer any meaningful solutions, but they have actually put forward policies that will have precisely the opposite effect. As a result, Americans are paying nearly $1.50 more per gallon at the pump than when Mrs. Pelosi became speaker.

To help ease the pain of the Pelosi Premium, House Republican leaders have strongly supported short-term legislation that would suspend the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax this summer. We also support establishing a corresponding freeze on all taxpayer-funded earmarks to ensure the Highway Trust Fund will not be impacted. Savings from the earmarks freeze also would be applied toward reducing the federal deficit. Likewise, we have backed a short-term plan to stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in order to increase the oil supply available to American consumers.

But even more importantly, Republicans are committed to a comprehensive energy policy that will boost supplies of all forms of energy right here at home to reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, protect us against blackmail by foreign dictators, create American jobs and grow our economy. Yesterday, my House Republican colleagues and I announced our plan to deliver the change America deserves on gas prices and energy costs by presenting meaningful solutions, not the type of empty rhetoric Mrs. Pelosi used back in 2006. Here is how we will do it:

• First, we will increase the production of American-made energy in an environmentally safe way. This includes the exploration of next generation oil, natural gas and coal, as well as the production of advanced alternative fuels like cellulosic and clean coal-to-liquids — all while protecting our natural resources for future generations.

• Second, we will promote clean and reliable energy sources like advanced nuclear and next generation coal, while encouraging clean power from renewable energy such as wind and hydroelectric power. Nuclear energy has proven itself as a safe, carbon-free and environmentally-friendly alternative; France relies on it for 80 percent of its electricity needs, compared to just 19 percent in America. We must do better.

• Next, we will cut red tape and increase the supply of American-made fuel and energy in order to lower prices. Heavy-handed bureaucratic regulations and limitations on the construction of new oil refineries have decreased domestic energy supplies and increased the Pelosi Premium. Did you know that the last oil refinery built in the United States was in 1976? Thirty-two years later, we are paying the price — literally.

• Finally, we will encourage greater energy efficiency by offering conservation tax incentives to Americans who make their homes, cars and businesses more energy efficient. This will give more families and businesses the chance to take advantage of the newest, most efficient energy technologies available.

When Mrs. Pelosi told us in 2006 that our nation’s gas price and energy woes would be solved with a “commonsense plan,” she was right. The only problem is, her prescription — higher energy taxes, more Washington regulations and greater dependence on foreign sources of oil — is the same failed approach that caused long gas lines and rationing in the 1970s. Working Americans across the country are feeling the pain of these price spikes that break their budgets and force them to choose between taking the family to a movie over the weekend and paying the gas bill. That is not a choice they should have to make.

American families and small businesses deserve better. And with the energy agenda we have outlined, House Republicans are prepared to provide the change America deserves.

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio is Republican leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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