Energy policy must promote safety, innovation and economic growth. Our nation is bound together by a desire to reduce its dependence on imported oil from the Middle East. With the goal of replacing imported oil as a staple of our energy supply, we must be mindful that other technologies will develop, some more slowly than others. As new developments arise, our energy policy will evolve to satisfy demand, and renewable portfolios may vary significantly from one region to another. A comprehensive energy policy will combine innovations from different sectors of our economy, including nuclear power, biofuels, geothermal power and concentrated solar thermal technology among other renewable sources.
Our energy problems are significant, and they require a short-term and long-term approach. In the short term, we need to secure our oil supply so that we can continue to grow the economy. This is not an endorsement that our addiction to oil should go untreated. Instead, this short-term goal is reflective of how oil impacts every American. In the long-term, the federal government must encourage innovation and a broad renewable energy portfolio. Although free markets must be allowed to work, I believe that the federal government should appropriate federal dollars into appropriate research projects which help enable our nation to become more energy independent.
Four key principles serve as the foundation for my position on energy policy:
(1) Securing Our Oil Supply. Rising global demand for energy, particularly in China and India, requires the federal government to secure energy partnerships with major energy producing companies. I envision a federal government which enters into strategic relationships with our friends and neighbors to address contingencies in the event of a major supply disruption in hostile regions. Developing a free-market with friendly, oil-producing states is critical not only to our near-term supply but also to our national security. Our dependence on Middle East and imported oil affects more than just gas prices and household budgets; it shapes our foreign policy and threatens our security as a nation. But we do not need to rely on Middle East nations for supply. Canadian oil sands contain vast resources that can be developed economically. Mexico has seen a decline in oil production because of corruption in its state-owned oil companies, and this is a potential untapped resource for the United States to pursue. Strategic partnerships focused on energy are critical to our economic growth and safety. At home, we must examine the viability of increasing production of oil-bearing shale in Colorado and allow drilling for crude oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a goal which can be accomplished in an environmentally-sensitive manner.
In addition, the federal government must act to secure critical supply points in the Suez Canal and other strategic locations at risk for terrorism or piracy. Because our oil supply is based in substantial part on resources in a politically volatile area, the government does have a responsibility to work with our allies and to ensure that shipping points are secure. As our economy evolves and as energy sources proliferate, the United States will almost certainly be able to move away from Middle East oil. That will benefit everyone and will reduce the security costs that result from maintaining a secure oil supply. However, in the short-term, we need to act to guard against major supply disruptions.
(2) Diversifying Our Pool of Energy Resources. We must pursue a long-term goal of creating a diverse, safe energy supply that allows us to operate free of hostile oil-producing regimes in the Middle East and other OPEC-affiliated nations, such as Venezuela. A one-size-fits-all energy policy for the entire United States is neither realistic nor economical. In particular, use of oil-bearing shale will contribute to energy supply in the Rocky Mountain region, while ethanol and other biofuels are substantial components of an energy platform in the Midwest. Similarly, wind power simply cannot be harnessed in certain areas of the United States, while it would make little sense for the Pacific Northwest to rely substantially on solar power. Simply put, I believe that federal energy policy should recognize that geographic and climate limitations will impact the pool of energy resources from state to state.
One centerpiece of any safe, secure energy policy is the development of nuclear power. Contrary to some statements from the Liberal Left, nuclear power is environmentally-friendly and emission-free. Equally as important, it is cost-stable and reliable. A core component of responsible nuclear energy policy is spent fuel containment. While technology for containment is likely to progress beyond what is now known, spent fuel can be recycled so that long-term storage is not as cumbersome as opponents first thought. The federal government must take an active role initially in overseeing quality assurance at nuclear energy plants.
We also must secure the FutureGen initiative in Mattoon, Illinois and establish a power plant that demonstrates how coal can turn into clean energy. I am concerned that the Department of Energy will use projected cost overruns to torpedo this project. As Congressman, I will fight for FutureGen. Illinois has one of the largest coal reserves of any state in the nation, and FutureGen belongs here. Federal dollars can help establish the power plant and defray the long-term costs of operating clean-coal technology.
Our renewable energy portfolio should, of course, focus on encouraging production of ethanol. Because ethanol cannot be transported via pipeline, its transportation costs are high, and it may never be a substantial component of an energy portfolio in certain parts of the United States. I would favor an energy policy which recognized the realities of ethanol’s contributions and its inherent production costs and limitations. In particular, ethanol is most useful and competitive in the Midwest. Under The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the amount of biofuels added to gasoline will increase from 4.7 billion gallons this year to 36 billion gallons by 2022. This will help the environment and the Illinois agricultural community.
(3) Directing Research Dollars Appropriately. The federal government must play a role in ensuring that research dollars go towards projects which promote affordable, safe and clean energy, not towards projects which are tied to special interests and which fail to advance a long-term solution to our energy needs.
Our scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are in the midst of developing technologies which will allow our economy to grow and keep our energy supply abundant with clean, renewable resources. Concentrated solar technology uses massive mirrors to heat water and drive turbine engines like those in traditional power plants. It is attracting enormous amounts of venture capital and provides a reliable, renewable source of energy. Projects are already working effectively in California, and as costs of production come down, this type of technology could contribute significantly to a renewable portfolio in many regions.
We also must explore geothermal power and apply technologies from oil exploration to this reliable, fertile energy base. The recently-passed Energy Bill appropriately recognized the vast potential of geothermal power. Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have concluded that we can develop staggering amounts of energy from geothermal systems. Unlike wind power, geothermal power is constant. Developing the technology required to tap geothermal power is not overly expensive – on par, in fact, with coal plants.
(4) Safeguarding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) is a critical asset in our federal energy policy. The SPR contains almost 700 million barrels of desirable crude oil. Under President Bush, the Department of Energy has been disciplined in adding 50,000 barrels per day to the SPR supply. Maintaining this policy is imperative to avert a supply disruption, particularly given our dependence on oil from politically unstable regimes. The SPR should not be subject to depletion for political gain, a tactic employed by former President Clinton in the 1990s to address high heating-oil prices in specific areas of the country. Loans and sales of reserves must be conducted under specific, narrow conditions keeping with the intent of the SPR to protect our nation from a major supply disruption.
As Congressman, I would make energy independence a legislative priority. Illinois is rich with alternative energy projects, from FutureGen to the ethanol industry. A clean environment and a stable supply of energy are interrelated concepts which we must address as a nation. Energy independence also is a matter of national security, as the United States cannot continue to replenish the coffers of dictators in oil-producing nations. Promoting energy independence will require a coordinated partnership between scientists, entrepreneurs and Congress to determine what projects merit funding and research.