Jobs and the economy are still the No. 1 issue in America and in Congress, but the spending spree that has defined the past two years has done nothing to rein in unemployment and create the jobs that are needed to get our economy moving again.
It is time for a new approach. Our nation’s long-term stability depends on our ability to promote job creation and jump-start the economy. Instead of printing more money and growing government, let’s look to our nation’s energy sector to power the future and drive job creation. Private businesses involved in energy production — both traditional and new energy — deserve the opportunity to create jobs and generate wealth without stifling government overreach.
I have always advocated an “all of the above” approach to energy. The United States is the largest energy consumer in the world, but our domestic rate of consumption has increased faster than our domestic rate of production. The consequence is that much of America’s energy is purchased from foreign nations, many of which are less than friendly to U.S. interests.
America is putting its energy policy at the mercy of foreign, and sometimes unstable, powers. For example, the unrest in Libya has caused oil prices to surge, and in my home state of Colorado, drivers have recently seen gasoline surpass $3 a gallon for the first time in three years. On the eastern plains of Colorado, where I’m from, prices have gone up even more.
But this is not the first time American energy prices have been affected by civil unrest in foreign nations. Democrats made similar arguments for energy independence when they tried to pass a cap-and-trade regulatory tax in 2009. The reason cap-and-trade failed is because it would have placed an increased burden on businesses, farmers and struggling families — but that does not change the cold hard truth that America needs to produce more of its own energy and wean itself off foreign sources.
My district, which covers northern and eastern Colorado, is home to wind farms and natural gas wells. I’ll be the first to admit that we need both. Instead of picking winners and losers, as cap-and-trade would have done, let’s work together to develop all of our natural resources like wind, solar, coal, oil, natural gas and even nuclear. I commend President Barack Obama for asserting in his State of the Union speech that we need a balanced energy independence agenda that promotes the use and development of both traditional and renewable energy, and I look forward to working with him toward that end.
It is also crucial that we streamline energy development projects in a way that will cut down on costly litigation and on permitting setbacks that can delay energy production by years and sometimes even decades. When the government wants a freeway built, it makes sure that everything is zoned properly before starting construction on the project. This ensures the freeway is completed in a timely manner.
I propose a plan that includes the creation of “American energy zones” that are pre-approved at state, local and federal levels where development of gas, oil and renewable energy sources can thrive. This will provide economic opportunity for energy development and job creation.
It is important to remember, however, that whatever changes are made to our national energy policy should be done out in the open and through an act of Congress. The administration’s back-door tactics of using the Environmental Protection Agency to impose a cap-and-trade-like regulatory tax is unacceptable. Through my dealing with the EPA it has become clear the agency thinks Americans are able to absorb the cost of stricter regulations, but these mandates are squeezing businesses and families at a time when they can least afford it.
The Energy and Commerce Committee has already begun to work on some of these issues and held hearings on foreign oil and the impact of EPA regulations on energy costs. But we’ve got a lot more work to do. By promoting a balanced energy plan at home, we can ensure that our nation has a strong and vibrant future.
Rep. Cory Gardner is one of five freshman Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He was elected last fall with 52 percent against Democratic incumbent Betsy Markey in Colorado’s 4th district (North and east — Fort Collins; Greeley).