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Oil, Energy, and Our Economy

By Congressman Adrian Smith

Nearly 100 days ago, the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil facility experienced a catastrophic explosion, eventually leading to the largest oil spill in our nation’s history.  Since that time, we have seen challenges and setbacks to the cleanup effort.

There is no argument to the need to focus on permanently capping the well, making sure the oil is cleaned up, and ensuring the people of the Gulf States receive the support they need.  We also must discover what happened so we can make the informed and complete reforms needed to ensure American offshore drilling remains the safest in the world.

Unfortunately, some in Congress will use any opportunity – even a tragedy as devastating as this – as leverage to increase federal spending by billions on unrelated programs, such as a solar panel in Nevada or a wind turbine in Montana.  Others have jumped on the opportunity to pass new laws, regulations, and rules on matters totally unrelated to the oil spill or offshore drilling.

Recently, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a new moratorium on offshore drilling, despite a court ruling knocking down a similar proposed measure earlier this year.  This latest attempt to impose a moratorium on offshore drilling only will cause further harm to Gulf State economies.  The federal government needs to focus its attention on stopping the leak, cleaning up the oil and helping the impacted communities.  We should not make knee-jerk reactions which threaten jobs, the economy, energy independence and national security.

The Democrat leadership in the Senate is pushing its version of climate change and energy legislation, including language written by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), commonly referred to as cap-and-trade.

The cap-and-trade climate bill seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the price of energy to the point Americans will be forced to reduce their use.  Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency would set up a cap-and-trade system under which emissions allowances are sold to businesses, utilities, and other energy producers.  The cost then would be passed onto consumers in the form of higher gas prices, utility bills, and other hidden energy charges – a move which would be particularly devastating to our nation’s farmers and ranchers as agriculture production is an energy intensive industry.

I firmly opposed cap-and-trade for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it would decrease net farm income by an average of $23 billion per year as a result of the increased energy costs.  In these tough economic times with much of our nation facing an uncertain economic future, Congress should not rush to pass new laws which will stymie our economic growth, cost American jobs, and continue to place families and communities in no-win situations.

I am a co-sponsor of the American Energy Act, which encourages clean and renewable sources of energy such as nuclear power, solar, and wind.  It also lowers fuel costs and creates jobs.  I also have worked to modernize our nation’s electrical grid to ensure energy created in one area of the United States can be transported efficiently.   These are the types of solutions we need to develop American-made energy.

Cap-and-trade won’t cap the oil spill.  Congress should be acting to improve the situation in the Gulf, not make it worse and drag our economy down with it.  We need an energy policy which doesn’t pick winners and losers.  Instead we must adopt an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy – one which includes safe and secure offshore oil and natural gas production and advances technologies to develop alternative sources of energy such as wind- and hydro-power.

By developing American energy, we can ensure our economy recovers, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, and prevent such tragedies as the one which has unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico these past three months.