Reaching energy independence

The United States imports 61 percent of its crude oil and 15 percent of its natural gas. Our dependence on imported energy is a significant economic and national security worry. We need to encourage more production of all forms of energy in order to keep our dynamic economy functioning and competitive. That was the laudable goal of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which, among much else, streamlined ways to get government permits and stripped away unneeded regulations. Nothing has happened since 2005 to change the need or the goal.

Even so, a mere two years after passage of the 2005 law, Congress is moving to slap the paperwork and red tape back on the energy industry. A bill sponsored by Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., would greatly slow down the discovery and exploration of new oil and natural gas deposits. The bill adds redundant regulations that do nothing to increase domestic production but will discourage the private investment required to nudge our nation closer to energy independence.

Of particular note is Rahall’s proposal to repeal the current law’s requirement that federal agencies designate “energy corridors” within two years. These are meant to become the nation’s main conduits for electric transmission towers, natural gas and petroleum pipelines and dedicated rail lines to divert volatile chemicals away from highly populated areas. National corridors are needed now — urgently.

The federal government should not be an obstacle to achieving energy independence. Getting more domestic oil and gas instead of relying on unstable governments in the Middle East means giving energy companies positive incentives. Without such incentives, the billions ofdollars needed to find and develop new oil and gas reserves hidden deep within Earth won’t be invested.

Unfortunately, Congress too often takes the negative approach, which can also be seen in another energy bill under consideration. The misnamed Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also imposes unnecessary new requirements on the energy industry. The Rahall and Reid proposals offer exactly the wrong blueprints for achieving energy independence.

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