Energy: The Conservative Alternative

By  Reps. Rob Bishop and Cynthia Lummis
There are two competing visions on energy policy in America today.  One leads down a road toward a regressive national energy tax that intentionally increases energy prices, restricts economic growth, and aims to dictate and regulate Americans into a new “green” energy future.

This “cap-and-tax” energy vision assumes that a massive national carbon tax is the only possible solution to create new energy jobs … and reduce our carbon footprint.

Republicans in Congress have an alternative vision on energy; one we believe is shared by the majority of the American people.  This vision looks to innovation, conservation, and production as the means to greater economic prosperity, a cleaner environment, real job creation and realistic environmental achievements in the near future.  This alternate energy vision is premised on the idea that tax increases never lead to job creation and that arbitrary government mandates only stifle American ingenuity.  It is based on the understanding that the government cannot dictate and regulate job creation.

Both sides agree that America needs to wean itself off of foreign sources of energy.  Where we differ is that Democrats seem to believe the best way to do that is to make domestic energy as expensive as possible.

They seem to believe that we can tax, dictate and regulate ourselves to economic prosperity and job creation.

They seem to believe, almost in an Orwellian fashion, that by hamstringing our economy, we are strengthening it.

They seem to believe that by putting America at a competitive disadvantage, we are improving our strength in the world.

This Democrat energy vision is embodied in the sweeping cap-and–trade legislation the United States Senate is set to consider when it returns from the August recess.  Similar cap-and-trade legislation passed the House in June.

While it’s difficult to summarize the Democrats’1500 page cap-and-trade bill, the main effects of the legislation are to 1) make cheap and abundant American fuels less so 2) confiscate and redistribute trillions of dollars from payrolls and family budgets to special interests and 3) send thousands, if not millions, of U.S. jobs overseas where environmental standards are less rigorous.  Supporters of the bill obviously see it differently.

For example, shortly after the House vote, the lead bill sponsor, Henry Waxman (CA), boldly touted passage of the legislation, exclaiming, “Today we have taken decisive and historic action to promote America’s energy security and to create millions of clean energy jobs that will drive our economic recovery and long-term growth.”  Edward Markey (MA), the other lead sponsor of the House cap-and-trade bill, effused, “This legislation will create jobs by the millions, save money by the billions and unleash investment in clean energy by the trillions.”

This type of rhetoric is common in the cap-and-trade debate.  Indeed, proponents typically describe cap-and-trade as the equivalent of a magic job maker.

They are wrong.  In the real world, government doesn’t create jobs; the private sector does.

However, rather than merely critiquing the cap-and-trade vision of energy, we offer its proponents a simple proposal:  If you truly believe confiscating more money from your constituents, intentionally increasing energy costs during the heart of a recession, and imposing a complicated web of new federal mandates and regulations will lead to an economic renaissance, more power to you.  But, neither we, nor our constituents, desire to partake in your scheme.

We have introduced a number of energy alternatives that would promote an “all of the above” approach to energy that will help our nation develop energy as cleanly as we can, and as quickly as we can, without raising energy prices.  One specific example of the alternative Republican energy vision is the American Energy Innovation Act (H.R. 2828), a bill we, along with 70 other House Members, cosponsored this Congress.  This legislation represents a comprehensive, positive, forward-thinking proposal that will spur the best in American ingenuity and foster market-based approaches to America’s energy needs.  It represents a fiscally responsible approach to reducing our dependence on foreign energy, providing a cleaner environment, and putting Americans to work by:

1) Encouraging innovation within the energy market to create the renewable fuel options and energy careers of tomorrow.

2) Promoting greater conservation and efficiency by providing incentives for easing energy demand and creating a cleaner, more sustainable environment.

3) Increasing the production of American energy by responsibly utilizing all available resources and technologies and streamlining burdensome regulations.

We need more, not less, nuclear power.  We need more, not less, clean coal technology.  We need more, not less, private sector innovation and expansion to provide more energy to power America’s advancement.  That is the conservative way.

We do not have to have a one-size-fits-all cap-and-trade regime imposed on the entire country.  There is still time to change course.  We can, and should, give both federalism and the free-market, ingenuity-focused approach to energy embodied in the American Energy Innovation Act a chance.

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