Values Matter in Energy Debate

The word is the Senate will vote on energy legislation before the President’s Day recess. It’s about time. The House passed energy legislation last August, and as with so many other pieces of legislation favored by the Administration, Senate Majority Leader Daschle has used obstructionist tactics to delay a vote as long as possible. Now he hopes to use floor debate to shape an “energy” bill acceptable to the radical environmental movement. They want energy legislation, to include:

  • No increased domestic production of fossil fuels, specifically no drilling in ANWR

  • Big new government subsidies for alternative fuels

  • A back-door legislative implementation of the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty

If that is not exactly what you understand to be energy legislation, now is the time to express our values when it comes to the energy debate. I believe in less government, lower taxes and more economic freedom. Not just as good things in of themselves, but because limited government creates a more prosperous, more just and more fair society. These principles apply when determining a rational and fair energy policy for America.

Too often this debate is viewed as big corporations hoping to make greater profits versus environmentalists who want the world to be a “greener” place. That is not what this debate is about at all. There are some very important values at stake. I think the American people share our values, but we’ve failed to express our beliefs in these terms.

Let me cite just a few basic values that should guide the debate:

Value 1: Economic Growth

A growing economy is a cornerstone of a healthy free society. While government itself does not create wealth, through bad policy decisions, it can inhibit growth. When government slows economic growth, jobs are lost. Resources diminish for national defense, schools, or environmental protection.

We need a stable and reliable energy supply to keep the economy growing. Financial markets need confidence that America has adequate energy capacity to fuel expected economic growth. Manufacturers must have confidence that they can purchase affordable energy before they can decide to open a new plant.

The House-passed energy bill, supported by President Bush, attempts to increase the reliability of future energy by tapping American sources of energy. In particular, the bill allows for limited drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The opponents of the bill want to stop ANWR.

Creating economic growth is a value worth fighting for and we should say that very explicitly, and very forcefully.

Value 2: Realism

I am all for conservation, particularly in my own home. But it is not a viable solution to meet America’s future energy needs. When the economy grows and population increases, demand for energy increases. Conservation cannot possibly keep up with America’s growing demand for energy. Alternative fuels may hold answers for the future — but most certainly do not provide predictable, cost-effective and reliable supplies of energy for the foreseeable future.

We need a more realistic assessment of the environment impact of drilling for oil in ANWR — including the realistic impact of finding energy from other sources around the globe. As the Paul J. Rainey Wildlife Sanctuary in Louisiana makes clear, oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas can succeed. This 26,800-acre refuge is owned and operated by the National Audubon Society and has allowed oil drilling for nearly 30 years. Through careful land management and directional drilling, Audubon has protected the ecological resources while at the same time prospering from oil extraction.

We just learned a good, but painful lesson in why realism is so important. Last summer farmers out in Oregon and Washington were denied water because the federal government said the water was needed to save the “Sucker” fish. The farmers and local officials made clear the science was wrong and the values were wrong. Farmers were denied the right to earn a living. Now after there has been enough time for objective scientific research, it turns out that
the government needlessly took away the rights of individuals
. Emotionalism triumphed over realism.

Our energy policies need realism, not emotionalism and wishful thinking.

Value Three: Independence

Global energy markets are essential to maintaining a stable and adequate supply of energy. That does not mean, however, that America should unilaterally make become more dependent on foreign oil than is needed.

Today imported oil makes up a larger portion of our total oil supply than at any time in our history. And yet, some want to block our ability to increase domestic production. What value is being advanced by consciously making America more dependent on energy from unstable political regimes? Because I think energy independence represents a value worth defending.

Value Four: Standing Up for America

Senator Daschle and his allies are plotting to include an amendment regulating the emission of Carbon Dioxide (Co2) to the energy bill. Make no mistake, the goal is to have the United States unilaterally implement provisions of the Kyoto global warming treaty. Economic forecasters have estimated that Kyoto could cost the US economy nearly $400 billion per year, export hundreds of thousands of jobs overseas, destroy industries, and greatly increase the price of gasoline, electricity, housing, food — everything.

Scientists believe global warming may be occurring, but there is no scientific consensus on that point. Some believe the global warming, if it is occurring, maybe caused by increased man-made emissions of carbon dioxide. Others disagree. All agree, that Co2 emissions from the United States have the exact same impact, whatever it may be, on the environment as Co2 emissions from China. So I don’t understand why we would unilaterally cut back our own emissions and allow other countries to increase theirs? I certainly don’t think it going to do anything to help stop global warming.

As an American, I think we should at least start by standing up for America. If countries want us to reduce emissions, then all countries should reduce emissions as well. Equally important, unilateral energy disarmament does not belong in legislation designed to give Americas a more stable and secure energy supply.

America needs and deserves a secure and reliable energy supply. And we Americans who believe in limited government need to tell our Senators and clearly and proudly express the values that guide our beliefs.