Affordable Energy Essential for Economic Growth

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 @ 7:47PM

Affordable energy is essential for economic growth and the wellbeing of American families. During cold winter months, too many families feel pain not just at the pump, but also when they open their utility bills. While there are steps we can, and should, take to conserve energy, there are also steps Congress can take to make America more energy independent.

Energy independence won’t just ease the bite on family budgets, it will also reduce our dependence on oil from countries that are unstable and help grow our economy by making our businesses more competitive. To reach this goal, we must tap into all available energy sources – including coal, natural gas, wind, solar and oil. I believe we can do so in a way that economically and environmentally responsible.

For instance, look at the Keystone Pipeline. This project has widespread, bipartisan support and would create thousands of jobs. Despite the State Department’s assessment that proved Keystone to be environmentally sound, President Obama refuses to give this project the green light. This is why I voted in support of H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, when it passed the House last May. This bill would approve the pipeline, but is being blocked in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid.

As we debate extending basic unemployment benefits for those struggling to find work, it seems to me we should also do everything we can to support economic growth in this country. According to the Washington Post, every state but one – North Dakota – has added more people than jobs since the economic recession began. Oil production in North Dakota is six times higher than it was in 2007, and there’s no question energy jobs have helped that state thrive.

In contrast, a recent Wall Street Journal analysis found that coal mining employment in Eastern Kentucky fell from 11,900 to 8,000 workers over the last decade, due in part to strict new environmental regulations pushed by the Obama administration on the coal industry. This is why I support legislation introduced by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) to push back against a new set of proposed greenhouse gas standards for power plants. This bipartisan bill will keep the EPA from bypassing Congress to implement Cap and Trade through increased regulations.

More oil and more coal aren’t the answer to all of our energy problems, but we should not rule out any viable, affordable – not to mention abundant – energy source. We should pursue an all-of-the-above energy policy that takes advantage of American creativity. But we must make these changes and transitions in a way that makes sense, and we should do it without massive government subsidies that favor one form of energy over another.

There are many ways to address our nation’s fiscal and unemployment crises, but investing in the energy sector is one of the best. There’s no question, increasing our domestic energy supply and reducing demand will lead to lower unemployment and decreased cost to energy consumers.

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