Let’s take control of our energy future

Published 9:44 am Thursday, June 2, 2011

Column: Tim Walz, Guest Column

A few summers ago, when gas prices were soaring, a group of members of the House of Representatives –equally divided between Democrats and Republicans—put aside partisan differences, listened to each other’s view and produced a consensus energy bill.

Tim Walz

Much has changed since then, but gas prices are back up and heading higher. We still need to take control of our energy future, and we still need dollars to fund critical infrastructure repairs that would put Americans back to work.

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America has talked about eliminating our dependence on foreign oil for decades, but we continue to spend too much time talking and too little time acting. Each day, we send $1 billion overseas that can’t be used to invest in our own economy. We cannot wait any longer. We have to act now to secure our energy future, the future of our economy, our ability to compete in the world marketplace and a clean environment for our kids.

Speeding up America’s transition to an energy independent future and investing in our infrastructure is critical for our economic competitiveness. As businesses look to be competitive in the global marketplace, they need a safe, efficient and reliable system of transportation to ship their goods to market, yet our nation’s infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates we need $2.2 trillion in infrastructure spending to get us up to par. Our bill will significantly invest in improving those roads, bridges and waterways.

The future of our economy is not the only thing that depends on getting this policy right. Many of the nations we rely on to meet our energy needs are politically unstable, which contributes to the volatility of gas prices. Even worse, some of these foreign governments use this money to buy weapons, bombs and IEDs that are used against our own soldiers.

That’s why several months ago, we put the Bipartisan Energy Working Group back together in the House of Representatives and immediately started working on legislation that would take control our energy future.

Recently, the group was proud to introduce H.R. 1861, the Infrastructure Jobs and Energy Independence Act. The basic premise of the Infrastructure Jobs and Energy Independence Act is simple: take the royalties from expanding access to our domestic oil supply and invest them back into America.

This legislation harnesses America’s vast natural resources by allowing the safe, responsible expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration. But that’s just the beginning. Our plan dedicates the new federal revenues from offshore energy production to increase renewable and alternative energy sources, clean up our environment, create jobs, cut the deficit and rebuild our crumbling highways and bridges.

This is not just an energy bill, it’s a jobs bill. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1.25 billion investment in infrastructure supports nearly 35,000 jobs. This is a plan that will unleash the kind of American entrepreneurship that will put us on the path to a clean energy future by also investing in:

• Renewable energy and energy efficiency.

• Clean coal technology development.

• Environmental restoration.

• Conservation efforts.

• Carbon-free technology and nuclear technology.

• Clean water and wastewater infrastructure.

• The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

• Paying down the national debt.

Recently, President Obama announced in his national radio address that he would support a safe expansion of domestic oil drilling. We believe this offers the nation the most realistic opportunity for bipartisan cooperation we’ve seen in a long time. In 2008, then Minority Leader John Boehner brought a previous version of this bill to the House floor.

This bill is a balanced, reasonable approach and it deserves a vote in Congress. We will be working hard to build support amongst our colleagues and we urge leadership in both parties to bring this bill to the floor for Congress to pass.

Working together, we can unleash America’s energy potential. With entrepreneurship and an American can-do spirit, we can create good-paying jobs right here at home. Our proposal is the best first step to ensuring Americans can depend on secure, affordable and responsible sources of energy for generations to come.

Tim Walz, D-Minn., and Tim Murphy, R-PA, are part of the original Bipartisan Energy Working Group that wrote and introduced the Infrastructure Jobs and Energy Independence Act.