My Congressional district represents the opposite ends of the spectrum on the energy debate. The eastern end, on the edge of Houston, sits within a few miles of the largest concentration of petrochemical facilities in the world. On the western end sits my hometown of Austin, Texas, a globally recognized green technology center.
From my unique vantage point I see that our nation must have the vision to invest in both sides of this philosophic tug-of-war in order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and achieve energy independence.
Expanding domestic exploration and production of oil and gas onshore and offshore in an environmentally responsible manner is absolutely necessary.
Embracing and expanding the advancement of alternative fuels including solar, wind, nuclear and clean coal is equally necessary. These technologies offer long-term assurance of energy independence and cleaner air.
The U.S. is positioned to be the worlds largest market for photovoltaics. This is the process by which sunlight is converted directly into electricity. In order to achieve this goal, however, we need the collaboration of industry, government and academia to move forward with research and development.
This month, I visited the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics at Stanford Universitys research institute, where I met with several researchers developing materials that are just as effective but less costly than silicon as a solar energy transmission compound. They and researchers at the University of Texas are at the forefront of making solar energy more widely available and affordable. The Solar Technology Roadmap Act has the potential to be landmark legislation. It provides the collaboration that the professors at Stanford, the University of Texas and other leading institutions need to further their research so they can effectively harness the suns energy. The challenges they must overcome include storage, transportation and transmission of solar energy. I am hopeful this is the step that allows us to vastly expand Americas investment in research and development and commercialization of our solar industry.
In addition to alternative energy, Congress must encourage energy efficiency, which is why I authored the Green Energy Education Act that passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support. Buildings produce more CO2 emissions than automobiles. This legislation allows the federal government to help train the next generation of architects and engineers to create more energy-efficient buildings.
These new building designs pay for themselves by reducing energy consumption. Better lighting, ventilation and temperature controls create a healthier and more productive working environment. The construction of high-performance, energy-efficient schools will similarly improve our childrens learning environment.
While I am a strong proponent of alternative energy, it is only one part of a comprehensive energy plan.
The American Energy Act, which I support, is an all of the above strategy that embraces both alternative and conventional energy without imposing a national energy tax.
I voted against the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill because it would result in higher energy prices and fewer jobs and would not necessarily reduce carbon emissions, as shown in European countries that have passed similar legislation. My home state of Texas could lose 277,000 jobs in the first year and up to 400,000 jobs by 2030. Rural energy co-ops estimate a 38 percent price increase for Texas customers. Add this to the recession, and the effects would be devastating.
We need to make more energy of all forms in the United States. This will create American jobs, make us energy independent and improve the environment. While we can promote and incentivize alternative energy, the reality is that until those industries can meet large-scale demands our nation will remain dependent on fossil fuels.
Dependence on foreign oil represents a dangerous foreign policy. Each year, the U.S. transfers roughly $700 billion to foreign countries, many of whom underwrite terrorist operations and threaten our national security.
Yet our unduly cumbersome permitting processes have effectively prohibited the construction of new oil refineries for almost 30 years. We must encourage refinery construction and bring money and jobs back to our country.
In addition we must reverse our policy on nuclear energy. Nuclear is the most reliable zero-carbon-emissions source of energy. The Navy has for decades relied upon nuclear-powered vessels. Eighty percent of Frances electricity is generated by nuclear reactors. The University of Texas is working on a patent with a goal of reprocessing 100 percent of the spent fuel from nuclear reactors, adding yet another innovation to decades of technological improvements.
Yet those who refuse to consider any position except their own without regard for current technologies and safeguards have prevented us from starting construction of a single nuclear power plant for 31 years.
Its time for this nation to move forward with safe and environmentally sound nuclear power.
This comprehensive strategy will rejuvenate Americas industrial and manufacturing base. As a nation we can go green as we keep drilling. Call it the hybrid energy policy for the 21st century. But if were serious about achieving true energy independence, we cant afford to wait another three decades to act.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) is founder of the House High Tech Caucus and co-founder of the Green Schools Caucus.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.