Friday, June 6, 2008

Boehner Column: We Can Increase American Energy in an Environmentally Sound Way

For years I’ve been an advocate for increasing the production of American energy in an environmentally responsible way to liberate our nation from its dependence on foreign oil. And for years, such reforms have been blocked by Washington politics. This summer, we’re witnessing the bitter consequences of Washington ’s failure. Skyrocketing gas prices are hurting working families and destroying jobs right here in our region. It didn’t have to be this way. . .and it doesn’t have to stay this way.

General Motors announced recently it will close its Moraine plant in two years because the products made there are no longer in demand. Sales of pick-up trucks and midsize SUVs are down since gas prices keep going up. Just days after the GM announcement, DMAX Ltd., also located in Moraine, announced that it would lay off 290 hourly workers at its diesel-engine plant by mid-July. The DMAX plant builds engines for large trucks and vans, which are also not in demand as gas prices continue their upward climb. What began as a steady drain on family budgets has turned into a dire situation. We’re losing good jobs.

The situation is an outrage. It has been clear for decades that we must strengthen the development of alternative fuel sources and increase the production of American energy. It has also been clear for many years that these steps can be taken in an environmentally responsible way. Why hasn’t it happened? A lot of the blame goes to politicians who say one thing and then do another. Many have promised to increase our nation’s energy supply, but consistently voted against legislation to achieve it.

We have plenty of oil spread throughout Alaska , Montana , North Dakota , the Rocky Mountains and offshore, but extreme regulations prohibit us from going after it. How ridiculous are our current restrictions? As columnist George Will recently noted, China is drilling for oil off U.S. shores, but American oil producers can’t. Congress has repeatedly denied them permission to do so, even over the objections of the coastal states nearest to the potential drilling zones. Instead we’re importing more than 60 percent of our oil from other countries, including a number of nations hostile to America .

Meanwhile, our domestic resources remain locked away, including 86 billion barrels of American oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS); 10.4 billion barrels in a tiny, desolate portion of the remote Arctic coastal plain; and 2 trillion barrels of American oil shale in the Intermountain West.

I’m for increased domestic production, and I have been for years. But don’t take my word for it; look at my voting record. Ninety-one percent of current House Republicans (I’m one of them) have historically voted to increase environmentally-responsible production of American-made oil and natural gas. By contrast, 86 percent of House Democrats have consistently voted against it.

Here are just a few of the most recent examples:

Aug. 4, 2007: the House voted down an amendment to H.R. 3221 that would have included provisions for more oil and gas from Alaska , the OCS and oil shale; removed bureaucratic obstacles to allow construction of more refineries; and promoted more research and development into efficient energy sources. I voted for this amendment; Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voted against it.

June 29, 2006: while I was serving as House Majority Leader, the Republican-led House passed H.R. 4761, a bill that would have provided incentives to coastal states to permit offshore oil and natural gas exploration under strict environmental protection. I voted for this bill; Speaker Pelosi voted against it.

June 7, 2006: the Republican-led House passed H.R. 5254, a bill that sought to lower gas prices by expediting the permitting process for expanding oil refineries. I voted for this bill; Speaker Pelosi voted against it.

May 26, 2006: the House passed H.R. 5429, a bill supporting environmentally-sound oil and gas exploration and production in the Alaskan coastal plain. I voted for this bill; Speaker Pelosi voted against it.

These are just some of the most recent examples of my votes. You can find more votes on my website,

I don’t believe $4 gas was the “new direction” Americans believed Congress would take under Speaker Pelosi, but unfortunately that’s where we are. And under Democratic leadership, not only is the U.S. House not doing anything to increase production of American energy, it’s actually trying to enact stricter regulations that further hamper our chances of achieving energy independence. Unless we take immediate steps to increase our own production in an environmentally sound way, we will remain dependent on foreign and oft-times hostile regimes.

Increasing production is just one of the steps we need to take. We also need to conserve more. We need biofuels. We need alternative fuels. We need to have a real serious conversation about the cleanest form of energy, nuclear power. But none of this will make a difference unless we’re willing to explore our own land here in America and increase domestic energy production in an environmentally safe way. We can do this.

House Republicans have announced we will force a steady stream of votes in Congress in an effort to get the energy reform process moving. We need your help to get Congress to take action. Washington is broken. Working together, we can begin to fix it. And we must.

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