Costa: Long-Term Approach Is Necessary

Posted February 4, 2010 at 2:11pm

If my time in Congress has shown me anything, it is that pure common sense is often overlooked.

Take energy policy, for example: Our nation accounts for 21 percent of the world’s energy consumption, and we have a heavy dependence on imported energy. Crude oil production in the United States has actually declined in the past decade from 5.8 million barrels per day to 5.4 million barrels per day. Common sense tells us we should use all the energy tools in our energy toolbox to expand domestic oil, natural gas and coal production and reduce our dependencies on foreign sources, while transitioning to greater use of renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydropower, as well as building new nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, common sense has yet to prevail for a strong national energy policy. Congress needs to realize that a balanced energy policy goes hand in glove with reducing greenhouse gases.

When Congress discusses energy, we often get caught up in our own excitement, and start sloganeering rather than debating real energy policy. We need to move past the bumper-sticker debate and listen to real solutions from all sides of the political spectrum. Our nation has the technology and the ability to reduce greenhouse gasses, increase domestic energy and increase conservation; with the exception of the acid rain treaty, successful cap-and-trade solutions have thus far proved ineffective.

For the past two Congresses, I have been a lead co-sponsor of H.R. 2227, the American Conservation and Clean Energy Independence Act. This is a bipartisan bill that outlines a practical, responsible energy plan for American energy development. It also provides funding to accelerate our transition to clean energy technologies, environmental restoration, energy conservation and carbon capture/sequestration — all without using taxpayer funds. It is a balanced approach to energy policy and climate strategy and does not burden American small business or farms with unnecessary high taxes.

What people often remember about the 1970s were the long lines at our neighborhood gas stations. Since then, every United States president has talked about a comprehensive national energy policy. It has nothing to do with lack of effort, as every president and Congress has tried to formulate a policy. But there have been a number of common flaws in these debates.

First, we’ve never thought about the fact that there are no silver bullets to solving our energy challenges. We need to move away from fossil fuels, but a fully green energy supply is not happening overnight. A combination of increasing our own domestic supply of natural gas, oil and coal and reducing demand will lower energy costs, create jobs and allow us to transition to cleaner fuel sources over the next 20 years. H.R. 2227 promotes this needed transition. In my district, solar and wind energy farms are quickly springing up and only expected to grow. In the Midwest, the solution may be bio-based products; in the Gulf region, aquaculture could be the boon. The important thing to remember is we cannot have a “one size fits all” solution.

Still, what is most frustrating is our lack of new nuclear facilities around the nation. Some in Congress are adamantly opposed to nuclear technology and building any new nuclear plants. This is a very shortsighted perspective to have when we are on the verge of an energy crisis. We are not in any position to shut the door on an energy source. Many highly developed nations are using nuclear power as a clean, reliable energy source, and most of the nuclear waste is being reprocessed for additional use. This is not 1979, and we’re not living in the Simpsons’ fictional city of Springfield. With American ingenuity and private industry investment, we can better utilize nuclear power and use it safely.

The use of fossil fuels will change, and in the future, our children and grandchildren will use a variety of sources of energy. Until then, we must understand and agree to realistic transitional timelines in the short, near and long term. Let us not be blinded by pre-existing notions of energy. It is the duty of both parties to find common ground and have the best minds work together to better our nation. Conventional energy together with renewable sources and a strategy of energy conservation will best serve our nation and mean blue skies in our future.

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) is chairman of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.