To Lower Gas Prices, We Need All Options On The Table

By Beacon Staff

At the beginning of the 21st Century, America sits on the edge of an energy revolution not unlike the digital revolution we had in the waning years of the 20th Century. The increased use of computers and digital technology didn’t happen overnight. Developing a new economy around energy alternatives is no different. While no one thinks that fossil fuel production is a permanent solution, the fact is today’s American economy relies on fossil fuel. Supporting alternatives does not change this fact, and failing to produce domestic resources while alternatives are developed will hamstring the economy at the expense of American families and the middle class. We need alternatives for the long-term and domestic traditional fossil fuels for the shot-term.

Montanans, regardless of political party or ideology understand that any solution to our energy challenges must include a wide variety of approaches. My energy plan, which is available on my Web site (http://www.house.gov/rehberg/energyindependence), includes increased conservation, development of alternatives, research and development of exciting new technologies and, of course, increased domestic production of traditional fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Although this last element has become the focus of the debate, it’s important that we don’t forget that as a nation, we agree on a lot more than we disagree about.

Unfortunately, some opponents of domestic fossil fuel production mistakenly claim that Republicans support drilling as an end-all solution to the energy crisis. They conveniently ignore a well-established record that supports a broad array of energy alternatives including the all-of-the-above energy solution provided in the American Energy Act. This legislation continues many of the provisions of the Energy Policy Act passed by the Republican Congress in 2005. For example, support for ethanol and other clean fuels, federal standards for increased energy efficiency, permanently extending tax incentives for wind and solar energy production and increased production of domestic energy to reduce our reliance on unstable foreign sources of oil. It also creates cash incentives for the development of new technologies including the first economically feasible 100 miles-per-gallon vehicle.

This well-balanced approach has bipartisan support in Congress, but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has continually blocked efforts to give a responsible energy policy an up-or-down vote. On Aug. 1, she adjourned the House of Representatives for five weeks even though no action had been taken to address increasing prices at the pump. As I traveled throughout Montana in August, I heard over and over again the harmful impact energy prices were having on families and people working hard to get by on a fixed income. They told me in no uncertain terms that it was unacceptable for Congress to be on vacation while they couldn’t afford to take one. So, at their request, I returned to Washington, D.C. twice while Congress was on vacation to ask Speaker Pelosi to call members of both parties back to work to do something about the high cost of energy.

Montanans are a hearty breed. We understand that an energy solution requires that we find more sources of energy while learning to use less. We also understand that opportunities are often born though hardship. Even as they suffer at the gas pumps, Montanans are working together to develop the energy technologies that will power the future. Montana State University is making exciting advances at the Center for Zero Emissions Technology (ZERT), while Montanans pioneer uses of cellulosic ethanol and methane gas from landfills. Clean coal, carbon sequestration and increased wind energy production are just some of the ways that Montanans are making themselves a part of the solution.

At the onset of the digital revolution, it would have been a serious mistake to discard existing technologies for the then unfulfilled promises of new technological advancement. Americans didn’t throw away their pens and paper when the first word processor rolled off the assembly line. We didn’t scrap the Post Office when the first e-mails were developed. If, in our excitement about the technology of the future, we had abandoned the tried-and-true technologies of the day, history might look very different. A new energy future is a goal that is worth striving for – and we are making great progress. But until the technology is available to replace fossil fuels, we must do what we can to keep energy prices low and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. That is why I will continue to ask for an up-or-down vote on the American Energy Act, which provides an all-of-the-above energy solution for Montana and the country.

U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont, is a member of the House Appropriations Committee