Friday, May 30, 2008

Boehner Column: Energy Independence America Deserves

Energy Independence America Deserves

Gas prices in Ohio soared over $4 per gallon last week, and that’s a record I am sure families would rather not have achieved. We can waste our time pointing fingers and finding someone else to blame, but the fact is we cannot meet our own energy demands. When it comes to energy production, we’re stuck in the 1970s while our global competitors are going after 21st century technologies. We haven’t built a refinery in the United States in 30 years, and 70 percent of our energy needs are supplied by other countries. We have to stop this dependence on foreign energy; we must begin to meet our own needs.

Simply pointing out that we keep going in the wrong direction is not enough, which is why I am pleased to lead House Republicans in introducing an energy agenda that offers both short- and long-term solutions.

To help ease pain at the pump in the short-term, I am supporting legislation that would impose an immediate freeze on public money for lawmakers’ pet projects (“earmarks”) and use the resulting savings to reduce the federal budget deficit and suspend the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax for the summer. No one should mistake this for a comprehensive solution, and I’m under no illusions that this alone is going to ease the pain motorists are feeling. But stopping the earmarks is something we ought to do anyway in Congress until fundamental changes are made in the spending process, and using the billions of dollars in savings to reduce the deficit and provide even a small measure of relief for families at the gas pump seems like a much more responsible use than frittering it away on pet projects most Americans will never see or use.

Even more important, though, are the long-term solutions embraced by House Republicans that will boost supplies of all forms of energy here at home. The reforms we’re advocating will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and remove the threat of blackmail from foreign dictators who control our energy supplies. At the same time, we will be creating jobs here at home and growing our economy. This is a win-win for everyone, and House Republicans are aggressively seeking solutions to the challenges we face.

First, we will increase the production of American-made energy in an environmentally responsible way. This includes the exploration of next generation oil, natural gas and coal, as well as the production of advanced alternative fuels like cellulosic and clean coal-to-liquids all the while protecting our natural resources.

Second, we will promote clean and reliable energy sources like advanced nuclear and next generation coal, while encouraging clean power from renewable energy such as wind and hydroelectric power. Nuclear energy has proven itself as a safe, carbon-free and environmentally-friendly alternative. France relies on nuclear power for 80 percent of its electricity needs, while here in America it meets just 19 percent of our need. Clearly, we must do better to utilize this energy resource.

We use an estimated 20 million barrels of oil each day, and we haven’t been able to meet our own demand since 1970. As I mentioned previously, we haven’t built a refinery in more than 30 years and there are thousands of capped wells that, while some may have run dry, could help supply us with oil.

A recent report from the U.S. Department of the Interior notes that an incredible 62 percent of oil on federal land is inaccessible for development and another 30 percent is restricted. This leaves just 8 percent of America ’s 31 billion barrels of on-shore oil available for use. The report also states that of our nation’s 231 billion cubic feet of on-shore natural gas, only 10 percent is accessible. Is it any wonder we’re paying such steep gasoline and energy costs when the vast majority of our domestic supply is tied up by extreme regulations that prohibit us from going after them?

Under the House Republican energy agenda, we will cut red tape and increase the supply of American-made fuel and energy to lower prices. Heavy-handed bureaucratic regulations and limitations on the construction of new oil refineries have decreased energy supplies and increased prices.

Finally, we will encourage greater efficiency by offering conservation tax credits to Americans who make their homes, cars and businesses more energy efficient. This will give more families and businesses the chance to take advantage of the newest, most efficient energy technologies available.

All we’ve seen from Washington lately are more of the same failed approaches that caused the long gas lines and rationing we had in the 1970s. Working families across the 8th Congressional District today are feeling the pain of these failed policies. It is inconceivable that we would continue down that same path again, especially when we have the technology, the know-how and the desire to make a change that will give us the energy independence we deserve.

Boehner represents Ohio ’s 8th District, which includes all of Darke, Miami and Preble counties, most of Butler and Mercer counties, and the northeastern corner of Montgomery County . He was first elected to Congress in 1990.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Boehner Column: Using Our Troops to Score Political Points Does Not Honor Their Sacrifice

By Rep. John Boehner:

Earlier this year, Congress worked quickly to pass a bipartisan stimulus package to help middle class families and small businesses and boost our economy. We were able to accomplish this because leaders in both parties passed a clean bill, refusing to let it turn into a “Christmas tree” with all sorts of unrelated spending attached to it.

Unfortunately, this good example wasn’t repeated when it came time to craft legislation to fund our troops in harm’s way. Instead, Democratic congressional leaders tried to use and abuse our troops by attaching tax hikes and spending increases to what should have been a clean bill to fund our men and women in combat. Outraged legislators who support the troops and their mission refused to go along with the scheme, and it fell apart. I was among these legislators who took a stand on behalf of our troops by voting “present” on the bill instead of being complicit with the politicians’ exploitation of our military personnel.

At this point, the Majority should have done the right thing. It should have put a “clean” troop funding bill on the floor for an up or down vote, and sent it to the President. Instead, the Democratic Majority stubbornly did nothing. And the result was that Congress let our troops down by failing to pass a clean troop funding bill before Memorial Day.

The consequences of this failure are considerable. Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in early May, “We need [the troop spending bill] very badly before the Memorial Day recess. We stop paying soldiers on the 15th of June and we have very little flexibility with respect to that.”

Congress heard the Admiral’s warning. But the Democrats who run Congress didn’t heed it. Instead, congressional leaders saw an opportunity to advance their political agendas. Knowing the troop funding bill is popular and certain to pass, politicians in Congress tried to attach tax increases and unrelated spending increases to it – in effect, exploiting our troops by forcing them to carry unpopular political provisions they knew could not pass Congress on their own.

Attaching these “riders” is the sort of stunt that has made Americans extremely cynical about Washington . That anti-war forces in the U.S. House would employ this scheme right before Memorial Day was irresponsible at best and depraved at worst.

Congress owes our military men and women the funds they need for success in Iraq and Afghanistan . That means passing a bill free of unnecessary riders trying to enact an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and add-ons such as $210 million to cover cost-overruns for the U.S. Census Bureau. The American people know our troops are carrying a heavy burden on their shoulders, and they don’t like the idea of Washington politicians exploiting our troops by using them as a vehicle for tax hikes and spending increases. By voting “present,” we were able to stop this scheme and give Congress another chance to do the right thing by passing a “clean” troop funding bill.

Unfortunately, the Majority that runs Congress still didn’t do the right thing. Unhappy that it couldn’t get its way, the Democratic congressional leadership left town for the Memorial Day recess without holding a vote on a clean bill. Then it had the audacity to launch political attacks against legislators who had refused to go along with its cynical scheme, distorting their “present” votes as a vote against the troops. Never mind that dozens of Democratic legislators, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) herself, voted “no” on the troop funding bill itself.

If, as Admiral Mullen warned Congress, the Pentagon is forced to stop paying soldiers by the middle of June, it will negatively affect military families while our troops are fighting overseas. Our soldiers, sailors and airmen should not have to worry about the financial well-being of their husbands, wives, sons, or daughters while they’re halfway across the world facing insurgent bullets and roadside bombs.

Our fighting men and women deserve to be honored for the sacrifices they made and continue to make in defense of our freedom. Lawmakers in the U.S. House can show their gratitude by passing a clean spending bill and giving our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan the resources they need to win and come home safely. It’s disappointing that the Democratic Congress was so devoted to the idea of using our troops to carry unrelated spending and tax increases that it went home for Memorial Day without passing legislation to fund our men and women in harm’s way.