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Enacting Energy Legislation
Column by Sen. Trent Lott

            I’ve been harping on this for about six years, but the danger of America’s dependence on foreign oil simply can’t be overstated.  This week the Senate again has taken up the energy issue.  Each day millions of Americans grow more wary of depending on Saudi Arabia and other dubious nations for oil. America must either expend a little brainpower now and become more energy independent or risk losing our status as the world’s only superpower. 

Passing an energy bill this year may not immediately slash gasoline prices as we all would like. This is a much broader proposal dealing with a lot more than one type of energy.  This is about enacting a long-term, comprehensive, multi-faceted plan for weaning America off our dangerous foreign oil habit.  Our economy, our national security and our future are too important for us to remain tethered by energy dependency.

For America to be truly free of these dangerous energy dependencies, we’ve got to do two things in tandem – produce more energy here in America and become more energy efficient.  As many folks know, you’ve got to both diet and exercise when you’re trying to lose weight.  So it is with America’s dependency.  America can’t conserve its way to energy independence or produce our way out of our crunch.  But if we produce and conserve at the same time, we’ll find a healthy balance. 

The energy bill before the Senate meets this important dual standard, and it’s truly bipartisan. Groups ranging from the liberal Alliance to Save Energy to the more conservative National Association of Manufacturers have voiced support for it.  The former estimates that this bill could reduce the growth of our energy use by 10 percent during the next 15 years.  The latter group estimates it could save 700,000 manufacturing jobs by 2020.  Either way you look at it, these prospects are attractive.

The bill recognizes the penchant for American technology to prevail, even over the most daunting problem.  You know, a nation that can go to the moon, break the genetic code, build the fastest supercomputers, field the world’s most sophisticated military, and show the rest of the world how to find, retrieve and refine their own oil and gas can surely produce more of our own energy.  

So, this legislation calls upon Americans to use our technical expertise in an unprecedented effort to develop our domestic resources.  For example, with at least a 250-year supply, America is often called the “Saudi Arabia” of coal.  This bill will enact a federal program to design and develop clean coal technologies.  It also contains a provision for an expansive hydrogen fuel research program – a conjunction of federal labs, universities and automakers aimed at producing more and better hydrogen cars.  It also provides tax incentives for owners of hybrid cars now affordable and available.

The bill will simplify rules regarding American refineries so they can expand their capacity without compromising environmental safeguards.  Additionally it paves the way for construction of America’s first new refineries in almost 30 years.

It addresses conservation with a provision to enact first-time efficiency standards for 14 major appliances.  It provides incentives to expand the production of “alternative” energies like wind power, solar power, and plant sources like the bio-diesel and ethanol fuels being produced here in Mississippi.  According to the American Farm Bureau, just the ethanol effort alone could mean the creation of almost a quarter-million jobs resulting from the expenditure of roughly $70 billion in goods and services needed to produce both ethanol and biodiesel.

Now I’m not saying this bill is perfect, but it is bipartisan.  And it contains all the basic elements required to sever America’s leash to dubious countries like Saudi Arabia.   As always, there will be critics.  But consider the alternative. You’ll find there isn’t one, except to do nothing.  If America is to remain the world’s only superpower – the undisputed economic and military leader –  if we are to retain jobs, a high standard of living and our national security, we must apply America’s formidable brainpower to the energy question today, or pay a hefty price tomorrow.  (6/16/05)

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. 

Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email: senatorlott@lott.senate.gov

Editor's Note: GCN published Sen. Trent Lott's column with no editing or changes.

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