A Publication of WTVP

Here we go again. Summer is here, gas prices are rising, and our country is without a long-term energy strategy. Every year, it seems like we find ourselves in the same position—gas prices go up in the summer, heating prices go up in the winter, and we blame our addiction to foreign oil as the problem. Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth to that. Did you know the U.S. expanded its dependence on OPEC members by a full seven percent in 2007 alone? Since then, we have done nothing to reverse that trend.

In the last decade, our energy needs have grown by 12 percent while domestic production increased by less than one percent. In my mind, that pretty much sums up the essence of the problem we face today as a very large energy-consuming country, and our economy reflects this, as it grew at a lackluster 1.8 percent during the first quarter of this year. Many analysts identify the sharp rise in gas prices as a contributing reason.

All this has led me to co-sponsor a long-term comprehensive energy bill called The Energy Roadmap. The Roadmap explores ways to incentivize production in the short term while looking at the long-term energy needs of our country by focusing on several areas including the outer continental shelf, arctic coastal plain, oil shale, coal-to-liquid and nuclear, as well as the development of a renewable energy trust fund.

The United States has 104 nuclear reactors in commission today, which provide 20 percent of our nation’s electricity and 72 percent of our carbon-free electricity. The Roadmap would increase the use of this power source, but it takes a long-term commitment to benefit from nuclear power. In many cases, it takes decades between when a reactor is approved for construction until it goes online. By increasing our nuclear power capabilities threefold, we can produce up to 320 gigawatts of electricity to power 237 million households, which would constitute 52 percent of the United States electricity portfolio by 2030.

Coal-to-liquid technologies continue to offer a lot of promise. Today, there are more than 250 billion tons of U.S. coal reserves, which are equal to an estimated 800 billion barrels of oil. The United States can convert this technology for about $35 per barrel, which is significantly lower than the average barrel of imported oil we currently consume.

If we couple these resources with our own efforts to extract natural gas, which we have found in great quantities in oil shales in Pennsylvania, Texas, and all along the Gulf Coast, we can greatly increase our own production of domestic energy. Additionally, we must include the outer continental shelf, which is estimated to hold nearly 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 85 billion barrels of oil. That’s enough natural gas to heat 100 million homes for 60 years, or enough oil to replace current Persian Gulf oil for 59 years.

The Energy Roadmap won’t be an overnight solution, so Congress must continue to take steps to pass legislation to increase domestic production now to create jobs and lower energy prices. Recently, the House voted to approve the Restarting American Offshore Leasing Now Act, which requires the Secretary of the Interior to conduct oil and natural gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Virginia that have been delayed or cancelled by the current administration. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this legislation would generate $40 million in new revenue over the next decade and lessen the burden on overseas imports of foreign oil. But this is just one step down a long path toward energy independence.

All this is to say we need to develop a long-term approach to increasing our domestic production of energy. We have the technology and the capabilities to do so; now we just need to put the energy behind it. iBi