The current debate over energy policy begins with climate change legislation, which passed narrowly in the House this summer and is slowly beginning to move through the Senate. Thats where most of the heat is, so to speak, and where lawmakers and interest groups will focus most of their attention for the foreseeable future.
No matter how many times Congress debates it, and no matter how environmentalists couch it, cap-and-trade will do virtually nothing to stop global warming, and cap-and-trade, as Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said, is a tax, and a great big one. These are the fundamentals in the cap-and-trade debate, and Republicans must refocus on them.
For 30 years we have been pushing property owners on the benefits of energy retrofits from efficiency measures like double-insulated windows to clean energy installations like solar panels, micro wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps. Despite the governments best efforts to sell the public on going green, weve made little progress. Missing from the sales pitch to these property owners is a key factor: return on investment.
The National Academy of Engineering has named the electric transmission system as the greatest achievement of the 20th century. That massive system can be one of the nations most significant assets as we try to work together to rebuild our economy and ignite a clean energy revolution that creates millions of new jobs, reduces pollution and increases our security.
Electric power is not only Americas economic lifeblood, but an essential element of our nations security. Businesses, chemical plants, banks, refineries, hospitals, water systems, grocery stores and military facilities all rely on electricity to operate. Our electric grid, in turn, increasingly relies on computer-based operating systems. Herein lies a unique homeland security challenge how to protect the electric grid from failing, as a result of either intentional or unintentional events.
September sales figures for new cars have confirmed what many of us feared; auto sales have returned to the sluggish pace that we saw earlier in the year, and manufacturers are seeing significant losses in sales compared to last year. This unfortunate news reinforces the view that while Cash for Clunkers was a short-term lifeline for U.S. auto dealers and manufacturers, we need better long-term vehicle incentives if we are to rebuild an internationally competitive auto industry in this country.
From record-breaking fuel prices last year to the near-collapse of several domestic auto manufacturers last winter, the news surrounding one of the purest symbols of Americana the automobile has become increasingly dismal. While the cost of unleaded gasoline and diesel fuel has stabilized across the nation this year, it is imperative that we take a fresh look at the future of the automobile and more specifically, the way we fuel it.
Clean energy technologies face a range of obstacles. The credit crunch has slowed capital investment, disputes have arisen over which lands are suitable for infrastructure, and the electric grid has sometimes proved incapable of handling new generation. Over the long run, however, our most difficult challenge may be our most fundamental: ensuring a stable supply of the raw materials needed to manufacture clean energy technologies in the first place.
In February, as the nations 104 nuclear reactors were lighting and heating homes coast to coast, officials in the new administration signaled that they were pulling the plug on the Yucca Mountain repository for spent nuclear fuel. An alarmingly swift demise for Yucca Mountain despite 20 years of planning, more than $10 billion spent and more than $33 billion collected from ratepayers.
Lizards: 1, American security and economy: 0.
That is the latest scorecard for the environmentalists who have won another victory in their movement to block any new sources of energy that would solve so many of our problems here at home.
Our nations economic history is marked with technological advancements that have revolutionized our economy and helped make us one of the wealthiest nations in the world. But our recent reliance on the financial and real estate sectors combined with a continued decline in manufacturing has left our economy in a recession unseen in decades.
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.