A Special Interest Policy

For almost a decade, I’ve been urging my Senate colleagues to pass a comprehensive national energy policy, one that includes the whole package – a complete tool kit of strategies to lessen America’s dependence on foreign oil and enhance our national security.

To date, the Senate produced only timid measures, policies which aren’t groundbreaking. These bills haven’t been enough to prevent gas from increasing more than 50 cents a gallon during the first five months of 2007 along.

The latest “energy bill” now before the Senate is less than timid. Far from an energy policy, it is a special interest policy. It contains nothing to address the current record-breaking fuel costs, nor our long-term energy needs. Though it has a few good provisions, overall it is weighted toward Washington’s environmental advocacy groups.

To really reduce our dependence on foreign oil, any significant energy policy must equally address the domestic production and the alternative energy sides. Incentives for getting more oil and gas from American territory, and applications of new technologies like fuel cells, biofuels, ethanol, lignite, and windpower, must all be melded into a single, diverse package.

Mississippians understand the current energy problem, and we know the solution. In fact, we’re implementing it right now. Our state is leading the way in both traditional energy and alternative fuels research and production.

Under construction around Mississippi are advanced new ethanol, biodiesel and lignite plants. Mississippi farmers are growing more corn and other material that can be used for alternative fuels.

Our traditional energy production capacity is being aggressively upgraded. Chevron Pascagoula, one of the nation’s largest refineries, is expanding, along with the Port Gibson nuclear power plant. We’ve just opened a large area for offshore oil and gas production, 100 miles from Mississippi’s coast.

Mississippians are leading the way in new research, too. Just last week, a group of engineering students from Mississippi State University won a national competition in Detroit. They redesigned a production SUV, putting a biodiesel-powered motor up front and an electric motor in the back. The result was a new hybrid layout enabling the SUV to get average gas mileage well into the mid-30s.

Most important, they achieved that efficiency without compromising performance or prohibitively increasing costs for the manufacturer or, more importantly, for the consumer.

Sadly, the Senate energy bill does nothing to encourage the sort of real-world innovation that’s going on in Mississippi and throughout America. In fact, it discourages it by imposing unrealistic new fuel economy standards, well beyond what can be mass-produced for the competitive market. It would dramatically increase the cost of your car, your fuel, repairs, and your entire quality of life. It even suggests you pay new energy taxes.

On the larger scale, it outright rejects new energy production, even clean nuclear energy and hydro power.

To enact a working energy policy, Congress must ditch the special interest “watchdog” groups and instead start watching the American people. If we craft energy legislation around America’s market demand for energy and first-world innovation, America could quickly overcome our dependence on third-world nations for so much of our energy.

I’m for increasing automobile mileage standards. I’m for prosecuting price gougers. I’m for renewable and clean energy. But considered unilaterally, these are not solutions, but mere statements designed primarily for political purposes.

Even if Washington doesn’t yet get it, Americans understand that energy independence will result only by enacting landmark legislation containing a portfolio of traditional production and alternative energy, employed in one bill. The current proposal falls far short of that. It’s merely a special interest policy, a pale shadow of the bold national energy plan Americans need. (06/14/07)

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (attn: Press Office)