Energy. Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the United States this century. What policies would you support to meet the demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?
Representative Timothy Bishop, New York State–1 (D) and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, writes:
In order to meet our future energy demands, we must continue to invest in basic energy research to improve our current technologies to better utilize traditional forms of energy, as well as explore new energy resources. We must also support policies that incentivizes and enhances energy efficiency. I am proud of my record to expand and incentivize our use of clean and efficient energy technologies. For example, I have voted to improve fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, to provide communities with funding to expand public transportation, to provide tax credits to expand the use of wind and solar technologies, as well as expanding access to grants and tax credits for homeowners to weatherize their homes and purchase more fuel efficient vehicles. I also support policies to better utilize U.S. energy resources in a responsible and cost effective manner. This includes not only wind, solar, hydro and tidal resources, but also our abundance of coal and natural gas resources.
We must also be better stewards of hard-earned taxpayer dollars by directing federal investment where it can be most effective in addressing our energy needs. This means repealing outdated tax incentives for Big Oil who are benefiting from record profits and redirecting that money towards more innovative technologies and cleaner energy industries.
While there is no silver bullet to our nation's energy needs, these short-term solutions help advance our collective efforts to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, protect public health and protect our environment.
Representative John Boehner, Ohio–8 (R) and speaker of the House, declined to respond to the eight science questions we asked. On his Web site he lists bills passed by the House pertaining to the Republican-led American Energy Initiative. After the House passed the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act, Representative Boehner released the following column on June 22, 2012:
Millions of Americans are jobless or underemployed, energy prices remain too high, and wages are stagnant in the Obama economy. That’s why the House is working relentlessly to remove government barriers that are holding back robust economic growth and driving up prices on families and small businesses.
According to the National Federation of Independent Business, ‘energy costs are one of the top three business expenses in 35 percent of small businesses’ in our country. The average price for a gallon of gas in Ohio remains above $3. While these prices are an improvement from the record-setting prices we saw earlier in the year, they are still far too high for families and small businesses struggling to make ends meet. We need to do more to help bring down these costs and get our job creators back to creating jobs.
Unfortunately, at the urging of radical special interest groups that oppose increased production of American-made energy, President Obama has delayed, blocked, and restricted access to America’s energy resources, resulting in a 14 percent drop in federal energy production since 2010. From an offshore drilling moratorium to a de facto one put in place through the permitting and leasing process, American energy and the jobs it creates have too often been pushed aside by the Obama administration and its allies in Washington.
By contrast, my Republican colleagues and I in the House are taking action to encourage American job creation and lower the price at the pump for families and small businesses.
Furthering our all-of-the-above national energy strategy, we launched the American Energy Initiative in March of last year. This plan outlines long-term, commonsense solutions that will address gas prices for families and small businesses, create new jobs by increasing energy production, and approve job-creating initiatives like the Keystone pipeline.
As part of the American Energy Initiative, the House recently passed, with bipartisan support, the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act (H.R. 4480). This legislation combines seven different energy bills that are designed to increase American energy production and create jobs. The bill includes measures to stop excessive government regulations, streamline bureaucratic permit processes, eliminate red tape, and open new federal land to energy production to create thousands of new American jobs.
These long-term supply solutions will create jobs and lower energy costs. H.R. 4480, along with the other American Energy Initiative bills, deserves immediate consideration by the Democratic-controlled Senate. If President Obama is serious about helping get Americans back to work, he’ll call for swift action on this and the more than 30 other House-passed jobs bills still awaiting a vote by Senate Democrats.
House Republicans will remain focused on helping job creation across the country, and we hope that our colleagues across the aisle will work with us. Learn more about the American Energy Initiative and all of House Republicans' plans to encourage private-sector job growth by visiting Jobs.GOP.gov.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, California (D) and chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, writes:
As a result of my bipartisan Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act, which was signed into law in 2007, vehicles are more fuel-efficient and the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards are headed toward responsible levels, based on the best science available. New standards will increase fleet wide fuel economy to 35.5 mpg by 2016 and 54.5 by 2025, up from 25 mpg in 2006. This will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U.S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels. I am also a strong proponent of renewable energy technologies. This year I joined with Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe to draft provisions to renew critical tax incentives for energy efficient buildings and factories. And in 2009 and 2010 I championed renewable energy tax incentives that have been widely credited with growing the renewable energy sector even during the current economic downturn. Nationwide, renewable electricity production capacity has doubled over recent years, a remarkable achievement.
Representative Ralph Hall, Texas–4 (R) and chair of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, writes:
The best way to increase the energy security of our nation is to encourage and expand production of our vast domestic resources, which will not only increase our domestic supply, but also put Americans back to work. America is blessed with a wealth of natural resources; Citigroup has predicted that the U.S. could soon overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's largest oil producer. By expanding access to lands for safe and responsible energy production, promoting infrastructure developments, and pursuing market-based solutions to reduce demand, we can increase energy security and sustainability while also creating jobs and spurring economic growth.
Unfortunately, President Obama has chosen a very different path - limiting federal lands available for lease, restricting development in the Gulf of Mexico and Outer Continental Shelf, blocking over a million acres of public land for oil shale development, and regulating the oil and gas industry at every opportunity. Additionally, the Administration has rejected the Keystone XL pipeline, a major infrastructure project that would decrease bottlenecks in the transport of crude oil, ensure availability and continued access to critical petroleum resources, and create jobs and increase local tax revenues. Despite the benefits of and need for such a project, the President rejected the pipeline permit in a political move designed to appease his supporters in the environmental community. Those same environmentalists oppose energy production in the Alaska National Wildlife refuge, saying "don't drill on little ANWR." But it's just 2,000 acres out of 19,000,000 and could supply us more than one million barrels of oil per day.
A genuine "all of the above" approach would expand opportunities for production rather than stifle them, open land for development rather than restrict it, replace confusion and red tape with regulatory certainty, and could position the U.S. as a top global energy producer for decades to while enhancing the energy security of our nation.
Senator Tom Harkin, Iowa (D) and chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, writes:
Our energy economy is the source of several major problems. Our energy systems are the source of the vast majority of our greenhouse gas emissions as well as a great deal of our air and water pollution. Our dependence on imported energy supplies also makes us vulnerable to disruptions. Finally, we know that the fossil fuel resources that supply the majority of our energy needs are finite. We need to transition our energy economy to one that is significantly more efficient and sustainable. That means continuing and maintaining support for both energy R&D and alternative energy adoption. The recently announced CAFÉ standards coupled with the Renewable Fuel Standard represent the kind of trajectory for beginning such a transition for our highway transportation sector. The drive towards net-zero energy buildings represents a similar trajectory for the buildings sector. The building sector focus needs to include energy efficiency retrofits because of the slow turnover in that sector. The rapid expansion of windpower, the broader adoption of geothermal energy systems, and the rapidly growing adoption of solar power are providing strong inroads toward more sustainable electric power generation. In short, we are starting our move toward a sustainable energy future, and we need to stay the course.
Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky (R) and Senate minority leader, did not respond to the eight science questions by press time. He outlines his energy views on his Web site:
We need to find more American energy, and use less. This means developing more of America's own energy resources, including wind, solar, clean coal, biofuels, nuclear energy, as well as oil and natural gas -- which will reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil and create thousands of jobs here at home. A balanced energy policy which both finds more, and uses less will strengthen our economy, protect our environment, and enhance our national security.
Coal especially is a vital part of Kentucky’s economy and history. With over half of our nation’s electricity coming from coal, this industry must remain a key component of our nation’s energy strategy. Preserving our environment is an important responsibility, and we must do so in a sensible manner than does not harm our economy or raise prices on working families.
I was encouraged by President Obama's calls for the construction of more nuclear power plants, as well as for increased offshore exploration of oil and natural gas, and the further development of clean coal technologies. These are all critical components of any commitment to maintain both a healthy economy and a healthy environment.
Representative John Mica, Florida–7 (R) and chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, writes:
It is vital that America continue to work toward energy independence and future sustainability. In the short term, the Federal government can encourage increased use of nuclear energy by streamlining the permitting process and by backing necessary financing to get new facilities online. We should also encourage and incentivize domestic energy production. In the longer term, prudent investments in new technologies should continue. American innovation can and should lead the way to energy independence.
Representative Nancy Pelosi, California–8 (D) and House minority leader, writes:
House Democrats support an "all-of-the-above" approach that embraces all domestic energy supplies in a safe and responsible way. This includes working to create jobs by expanding affordable clean energy. When we passed the America COMPETES Act, we bolstered basic funding at the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and we created ARPA-E, an innovative program, modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to encourage the pursuit of high-risk, high-reward renewable, clean energy technology development. In the bipartisan 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, we increased new fuel economy standards for vehicles, along with other provisions to increase energy efficiency, save drivers money, reduce pollution, and strengthen our security by making America less dependent on foreign oil. President Obama has built on that work – taking additional steps to strengthen our economy, support the auto industry, and create good-paying American jobs. Thanks to policies like those contained in the 2007 law, dependence on foreign oil has dropped by 25 percent since President Obama entered office. Meanwhile, our domestic oil and gas production is at record levels. But there is more to do.
Senator Harry Reid, Nevada (D) and Senate majority leader, did not respond to the eight science questions by press time. He spoke on August 9, 2012 at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, NV. His full speech includes references to extreme weather events around the country and says they are likely due to global warming. He also urged the closure of the Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant north of Las Vegas and endorsed solar power as an alternative. An excerpt from his prepared remarks, published by the US Fed News Service and accessed via Lexis Nexis, follows:
There should be no one in this room who doubts the importance of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels - not only because it's good for the environment, but because it's good for the economy and good for national security.
We've already seen how incentives, funding and public-private partnerships have spurred job creation and innovation in this critical sector. This has been a ray of sunshine during the Great Recession.
It is easy to see the logic, the urgency and the opportunity of a clean energy revolution. That is why President Obama has fought hard to advance the policies that will reduce our reliance on oil and other fossil fuels, increase our production of clean energy and create good-paying jobs that can never be outsourced.
But his administration has waged an up-hill battle against moneyed special interests and their allies in Congress, who are invested in maintaining their sweetheart relationship with coal and oil companies.
As hard as it is to comprehend, there are still members of Congress resisting clean energy's American success story. And sadly they're doing their best to send clean energy industries and jobs overseas, and hindering the revolution in the process.
On his Web site, Senator Reid writes:
Our country is too dependent on oil and fossil fuels, which pollute our air, place our economy and national security at risk, and contribute to climate change. As the Senate Majority Leader, I am working on building a clean energy future that will help provide Americans safe, reliable, and affordable supplies of clean energy.
In March 2012, I released a report that details how Nevada’s renewable energy economy has been aided by federal legislation focused on spurring investment in clean energy and the reform of policies that have accelerated the deployment of clean energy projects on federal lands. Click here to read the report.
Through the Recovery Act, Nevada has received over $550 million for a range of energy efficiency, renewable, and weatherization projects as well as hundreds of millions in low-cost financing for transmission and renewable energy deployment projects. This legislation provided billions to modernize our electric grid and to enhance the security and reliability of energy infrastructure. The legislation also provided competitive funding for geothermal technologies, biomass research and development, and advanced battery manufacturing. These types of investments are making Nevada’s institutions of higher education, schools, cities, private businesses, and counties synonymous with some of the nation’s most innovative clean energy projects. And these are the types of clean energy projects that can help cost-effectively reduce our inefficient use of dirty fossil fuels, and through the electrification of our transportation sector, reduce our addiction to oil.
I was pleased to help ensure the legislation included extensions of important renewable energy production and investment tax credits, eliminated the previous cap on the credit for residential solar electric systems, and created the new Treasury Department’s (Section 1603) grant in lieu of tax credit program. These kinds of incentives are imperative for protecting our economic, energy and national security and providing business certainty. They have helped make solar electric panels more accessible and affordable for the average homeowner and helped businesses tap into the American innovative spirit, create jobs and build sustainable economic growth, and are speeding the development of Nevada’s and the West’s abundant solar, wind, and geothermal resources.
Senator Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia (D) and chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, writes:
Any comprehensive national energy policy must be based upon providing cleaner, domestic, reliable and affordable energy. Often these objectives can be conflicting, but we must not accept arguments that we have to choose between these goals. Rather we should continue seeking improvements in the way we use all energy sources. We must focus on bringing together wind, solar, natural gas, biofuels, hydroelectric, geothermal and advanced clean coal as part of a diversified energy portfolio since there is no single solution. Then, we can seek to improve each energy resource individually and better integrate them collectively. Improving energy efficiency—doing the same with less—is the cheapest and easiest step we can take to increase the security and sustainability of our energy supply.
Increasing our domestic energy production in a clean and sustainable manner will contribute to local economic development and create well-paying jobs in ways that ensure future energy consumption is economically viable. As an example, I firmly believe that there is great promise in advanced technologies, such as Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS), that can allow us to use our domestic coal and natural gas with greatly reduced carbon emissions. At the same time, the CO2 that is captured from power plants can be used to extract more oil from depleted domestic oil fields through enhanced oil recovery. Additionally, when combined with biomass, co-firing CCS can lead to completely carbon neutral electricity. This is a win-win technology that will allow us to increase our energy security, benefit from our domestic coal and natural resources, and reduce our environmental impact. We need to think innovatively to encourage widespread development and deployment of CCS. Beyond that, legislation I co-authored in 2010 would create funding for research, financial incentives for large-scale deployment, and technology standards for new power plants. There is also great promise in Underground Coal Gasification.
Representative Chris Van Hollen, Maryland–8 (D) and ranking member of the Committee on the Budget, writes:
Energy security requires a reliable, abundant, and affordable supply of energy to meet our needs; sustainability requires that the production and consumption of that energy be consistent with a healthy environment for future generations. As Co-Chair of the bipartisan House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, my focus has been on pursuing policies that make meaningfully more efficient use of the energy we currently have while accelerating deployment of cleaner, renewable energy sources for the 21st century. Those policies include a 55-mpg corporate average fuel economy standard by 2025, economy-wide efficiency standards and support for a modern public transportation system – as well as a national renewable electricity standard, the establishment of a Green Bank to provide low-cost financing for qualified clean energy projects and a properly structured tax code.
Representative Henry Waxman, California–30 (D) and ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, writes:
I strongly support a market-based policy to promote clean energy, reduce carbon pollution, and address climate change. A rising price on carbon will create incentives for investments and innovation that will reduce emissions, improve energy security, provide certainty to industry, and strengthen our economy. A carbon policy could also raise significant revenue that could be used to reduce our debt.
A carbon policy would help protect Americans from the worst effects of climate change, such as extreme heat waves and droughts. It would level the playing field for clean energy sources like wind and solar. It would spur research into and development of important new technologies, like electric vehicles and carbon capture and storage technologies. And it lessens our dependence on foreign oil.
Does Congress Get a Passing Grade on Science?
6. Fresh Water