- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

The old cliche that necessity is the mother of invention never rang truer than the need in this country to gather and become more energy self-sufficient — and soon.

The oil and gas offshore production and petroleum refineries recently hammered by Hurricanes’ Katrina and Rita is all the proof required that marked dependence on the Gulf Coast for our energy needs is akin to putting too many eggs into just one basket. Up to 33 percent of our energy production and supply lines in “Hurricane Alley” force the country to consider the fragility of our energy infrastructure. Recently, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton, Texas Republican, said: “Energy in America is based on a 1970s model that has not changed. It would make a difference today if we were not as restrictive as we’ve been the last 20 years.”

Well I second that. As far back as the Carter White House, America relied upon imports for 37 percent of its oil. President Carter cautioned that must not increase. Well today, the percentage is much closer to 60 percent and growing.

Demand for energy resources, exacerbated by massive new global requirements from the emerging consumer giants in India and China, are at least in some part responsible for current energy price increases. But closer to home, make no mistake, the main cause for our domestic energy shortage is that liberals in Congress and the White House have for decades favored massive regulations, even to the point of proposing major tax increases on fossil fuels while also opposing nearly every effort to increase domestic oil and gas supplies.

Never mind the huge strides in clean-coal technology, we get stifling opposition. Never mind the extraordinary safety record of nuclear plants, we get regulation. Never mind conservation efforts while drilling for more capacity offshore in the East, West and Southeast coasts. We get blocked access. Never mind the advance of proven environmentally sound drilling on public lands; we get demagoguery. Never mind the massive contribution to energy independence possible from opening the Alaskan Natural Wildlife Reserve; we get denied access.

The result:

• No new refineries built in the last 29 years.

• No new nuclear power plants built in the last 32 years, further magnified by opposition to waste disposal in Yucca Mountain, Nev.

• Regulation and blocked permits against quick development of new coal mines and use of coal, which generates about half of U.S. electricity.

In light of all this need, the sad reality is the radical left in Congress with the aid of extreme environmental groups and leftist funders continue pressing for the deeply flawed Kyoto Accords while pandering to scare the American people and exaggerate whatever if any legitimate concerns there may be for so-called “global warming.” It has been argued and rightfully so that Kyoto would do serious damage to jobs and U.S. economic growth while doing little or nothing to reduce “greenhouse gases,” while exempting large countries like India and China from any controls at all.

We simply must stop allowing so-called “environmentalists” to dictate our energy policies. There is really no alternative to oil, natural gas, coal and uranium as the major sources for meeting our energy needs. Even a major expansion of “alternative fuels” and uranium would supply only a drop in the energy bucket.

Congress recently passed landmark energy legislation that will do much to increase domestic energy availability while bolstering related infrastructure. This includes encouraging construction of critically needed new refineries. Just as important is the coming budget bill whereby we’re likely to finally pass legislation is to start developing the large energy reserves in ANWR, and not a moment too soon. We’ll need the oil from ANWR to supply the new refineries we must build.

Seniors have long memories. We fondly recall cheap gas and boundless energy supplies. And while we’re probably the most practical American demographic, we know those days are gone. We’re fed up with politicians who complain about a more ambitious energy policy but allow energy prices to skyrocket because of intransigence on finding real energy solutions.

We need the United States to exert much greater control over our own domestic energy; that includes coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear. In the end, if left more to a robust free market and less political manipulation, good old American “can do” will be the catalyst, I believe, for securing greater energy self-sufficiency that respects conservation and the environment.

Roger Zion was chairman of the House Republican Task Force on Energy and Resources in the early 1970s. He served in Congress 1967-75 from Evansville, Ind., and is honorary chairman of the Institute for Senior Studies, Arlington, Va.,and of the 60 Plus Association.

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