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The Virginians are Mobilizing for Energy

Written by RSN

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June 23, 2008
Right Side News
I have read press releases from both Senator Warner and Senator Webb introducing legislation that would allow the Commonwealth of Virginia to explore for natural gas off its shores, empowering Virginia, not Washington, to make decisions regarding its own coastline.  Couple this with our good Congressman Eric Cantor in his article in the Times-Dispatch.  I pray and have hope that the States of these United States will forge ahead on their own initiatives, as the Federal Government has been so inept and such a very dismal failure in securing the nations energy.  We are the laughing stock of the world, as we sit on abundant energy supplies and fail to act due to anti-capitalist and anti-industrialist groups that apparently have their own agenda, which thwarts our economic engine and way of life. 

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The bill would allow the state, upon approval by Virginia’s governor and its General Assembly, to petition the Department of the Interior for a waiver to explore for natural-gas resources. Should exploration yield potential reserves, the commonwealth could then request a waiver to extract natural gas. It would also give Virginia’s neighbors a voice in the process should the commonwealth submit such petitions.

Under the terms of the bill, the federal government and Virginia would share any revenue that might be generated: 50 percent of all monies would go to a new Clean Energy Fund in the federal treasury, 37.5 percent to the state and 6.25 percent to the Land and Water Conservation Fund for conservation purposes. An additional 6.25 percent would be placed into a fund to mitigate any damages that might result from drilling.        

“I believe it is essential that we continue to modernize our energy infrastructure and develop a reliable, commonsense approach to American energy – one that includes new supplies from domestic exploration and extraction, encourages conservation and promotes the use and advancement of clean, renewable energies,” said Warner. “I am pleased to be joined by my colleague, Senator Webb, in introducing bipartisan legislation that would allow Virginia – if it chooses to do so – to explore for natural gas.”

“I am co-sponsoring Senator Warner’s legislation to move forward with the possibility of natural gas exploration off the coast of Virginia,” said Webb.  “Our national security requires that we work responsibly toward energy independence, and Senator Warner’s legislation offers a preliminary step toward exploration and development of one of our domestic energy sources.  In order to address our nation’s energy crisis, all options need to be on the table, as we seek a comprehensive national energy policy that incorporates the combined approaches of energy conservation, renewable energy, clean coal, and nuclear power.”
 
Webb continued: “This legislation offers the possibility of natural gas exploration 50 miles off the coast of Virginia, but allows the extraction of those resources only if Virginia state government supports the endeavor.  In addition, a portion of the royalties from such extraction activities would come to Virginia at a time when our state leaders are trying hard to fund much needed programs. These royalties could potentially be used in the development of clean energy technologies, transportation and infrastructure projects, and for reducing the tax burden for our citizens.”

Natural gas is the fuel of choice for many American businesses and industries, meeting 22 percent of U.S. energy requirements, heating 62.5 percent of U.S. households and accounting for almost all new electricity capacity in the past five years.

But natural-gas supplies are not keeping up with demand. Americans have endured steadily rising natural-gas prices since 2000, while domestic production has remained flat and imports are on the rise.
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WASHINGTON On the most pressing issue of the day -- gasoline prices -- some of our national leaders wedded to "change" cling to the failed policies of the past that have deepened America's dependence on foreign oil. As gas prices climb steadily, stoking inflation throughout the economy, the majority party in Congress reflexively opposes opening up America's oil and gas-soaked expanses to energy exploration and drilling.

Every day, $1.5 billion is siphoned from our economy to pay for foreign oil. Petroleum imports now account for about half our trade deficit. As we lick these self-inflicted wounds, hostile and anti-American oil-exporting regimes must laugh. From Tehran to Caracus, the mood is bliss.

It's impossible to square Speaker Nancy Pelosi's ongoing obstruction to energy exploration with her 2006 campaign promise to drive down "skyrocketing" gas prices with a "commonsense plan." Her party's empty pledge has resulted in unnecessary burdens on the American family. When the difficult choice is being made between gas and food, real solutions must be put in action.

Any plan grounded in common sense would not contradict the most fundamental laws of supply and demand. The run-up in the price of crude oil -- the chief component of gasoline -- has been triggered by the prospects of demand growth far outstripping production growth.

But how can we expect OPEC to increase supply and explore new drilling opportunities when we refuse to do it ourselves? We have no leverage on producers when crude sells above $135 a barrel.

INCREASED ENERGY exploration can change that. Even if it doesn't yield oil for years, the expectation and promise of a secure future supply will strongly impact the cost of oil today. In fact, the expectation of higher prices -- reflected by steeper prices in the futures market for oil -- has been a significant factor in pushing up the current cost of oil despite slackening demand from the developed world. Buyers want to make purchases before prices go up.

Congress should start by lifting a 27-year-old moratorium on exploration and drilling in the deep waters of almost all of the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, as well as broad swaths of the Gulf of Mexico. There is enough oil in the deep waters off the coasts to meet 100 percent of our oil needs for 10 years, and all of our natural gas needs for 20 years. While Congress wrings its hands, ironically, other countries are beating us to the punch and exploring not far from our coasts.

Likewise, the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) -- a minuscule but resource-rich slice of this vast terrain -- contains an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil. Were it not consistently blocked from exploration by opponents, it's estimated the area would today supply at least 5 percent of total U.S. oil consumption.

Supporters of more drilling and exploration have also met fierce partisan resistance in our calls for exploration of oil shale in the American West, and to ease regulations that strangle refining capacity and coal-to-liquid development. A study by the Rand Corp. estimates that a stretch of land straddling the Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming borders contains 800 billion barrels of oil. That's about three times the reserves held by Saudi Arabia.

Does a renewed commitment to energy exploration necessarily mean we give up on the environment and the development of alternative and renewable sources of energy? Not in the least. It means we are realistic. In the foreseeable future, the answer for our energy needs will include not only alternatives, but gasoline as well.

GOVERNMENT must invest in promising alternatives such as wind power, solar power, geothermal power, liquid coal, and cellulosic ethanol. But we also must recognize their shortcomings. Wind energy, for example, is hampered by capital-intensive equipment and unreliable facilities. Liquid coal generates twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as gasoline. Solar power is the most expensive alternative energy source. Geothermal power can be tapped only in certain areas.

The most promising alternative is nuclear energy. Efficient and carbon-free, nuclear power accounts for 20 percent of our current electricity use and should hold the key to our green future. Unfortunately, bitter opposition by certain groups and their allies in Congress has prevented the construction of a single nuclear facility in 30 years.

Importantly, we are capable of new and efficient drilling techniques that won't threaten the environment. Moreover, many of the environmental fears used to deter energy exploration are overstated.

Drilling off the coast of Louisiana has had a negligible impact on the local ecosystem, even in the wake of Katrina. If you haven't heard of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge or Prudhoe Bay, it's because these Alaskan sites have produced billions of barrels of oil without damage to the environment or local wildlife. The Prudhoe Bay field is only 55 miles west of ANWR.

Looking for real change on issues that directly impact all American families? We must choose substance over empty rhetoric. On gas prices, the same folks beating their chests for change offer the same old obstruction to domestic energy production. In addition to conservation and the development of alternative sources of energy, becoming energy independent requires a commitment to exploration and drilling.
 
Eric Cantor represents Virginia's 7th District, and is the chief deputy Republican whip, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Contact him at (202) 225-2815 or through his Web site at http://cantor.house.gov.

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