- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,

Is dearly bought; ‘tis mine and I will have it.

Act IV, Scene I, Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’

Every time we go to the gas stations, it feels like we are giving a pound of flesh. With gas prices soaring toward $3 a gallon and the summer driving season approaching, family budgets are getting pinched and small businesses are sweating the bottom line.

Simply put, Congress needs to overcome the partisan gridlock and pass the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a plan that will foster a responsible approach to energy that includes increased production, conservation, and investment.

Today, as many Americans already know, our nation faces a looming energy crisis already manifesting itself in rising crude oil costs and skyrocketing gas prices. This crisis could have been avoided much earlier, except the Senate Democrat obstructionists have continued to prevent a balanced, comprehensive energy plan from being passed each of the last four years.

This week, the House will again consider an effective and reasonable energy policy to provide our nation energy security for years to come. It will mark the fifth time the House has tried to pass an energy bill. Since Senate Democrats first blocked energy legislation in 2001, U.S. oil imports have increased nearly 10 percent and the average price of a gallon of gasoline has skyrocketed from $1.34 to $2.05.

However, for the first time in years, there is positive movement in getting a sensible, forward-thinking energy plan enacted. Already the Senate has passed a provision to allow oil drilling in Alaska National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) and the House Resources Committee passed a similar provision last week.

Our dependence on foreign oil threatens our national security, and this will help increase domestic production. Furthermore, the entire Alaskan congressional delegation supports ANWR drilling, which will add important jobs in their state.

Responsible drilling in ANWR is an important, but not the only, component of an effective and comprehensive energy plan. Other important items include promoting conservation and efficiency, increasing domestic production, diversifying the U.S. energy supply and modernizing the energy infrastructure. We must pursue these goals while also upholding our responsibility to be good stewards of the environment.

The Republican energy plan also encourages growth and advancement in hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles and residential solar energy systems, increased efficiency of existing and new coal-based power plants, updating of the U.S. energy grid and extending the Energy Star program — a government-industry partnership to promote energy-efficient products.

It is time for Congress to put the needs and concerns of hard-working Americans ahead of partisan politics. Through expanded production, conservation and increased renewable energy sources, our energy future will be secure and stable.

Americans deserve a better deal at the gas pump and a more secure energy future. A stable energy supply is key to our future growth, and House Republicans are committed to ensuring that by passing the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a top priority for this Congress. If this is done, hard-working American families won’t have to pay such painful costs at the pump.

Mario Diaz-Balart is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida.

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