• 75°

America must unite on energy policy

By By SONNY CALLAHAN
U.S. Representative
If any of you have recently visited your local gas or service station, you have certainly noticed that the price of fuel is again on the rise.  Locally, it is not unusual to find the lowest grade of gasoline being sold for $1.59 per gallon.  Several friends and colleagues from North Alabama are having to pay nearly $1.90 per gallon, and preliminary reports show the cost of fuel on the West Coast may rise as high as $3.00 per gallon by midsummer.
In addition, this past winter saw an almost frightening increase in the cost of home heating fuel, and a potentially long and warm summer will surely lead to increased electricity costs.  And as we are already aware from the problems being experienced in California, a high demand and low supply of electricity can lead to some tremendous problems.
I certainly feel corrective action must be taken, and taken soon, to provide all of us with affordable and reliable energy.  And, in a major policy announcement last week, President Bush demonstrated that he agrees and is ready to take action.
An energized plan
In a highly anticipated event, the president released his new comprehensive energy plan for the 21st century.  With the assistance of Vice President Cheney and a group of knowledgeable energy experts, this plan takes a hard look at the problems facing this country.  Even more importantly, it proposes ways to prevent this country from slipping into another 1970's-era energy crisis.
I for one am pleased at the tremendous effort being put forth by the administration, and feel this plan takes a major step toward finding the solutions this country needs.
Specific goals
The president's 170-page energy plan contains 105 specific recommendations on how to cope with our wildly fluctuating energy prices while at the same time providing a diversity of clean and affordable energy.
The problems in California n problems which, if we're not careful, could affect us in Alabama n are being addressed through an order to expedite the construction of new power facilities and by directing federal agencies there to conserve energy.  
Federal energy revenues will be earmarked to provide assistance to low-income families for high heating and cooling bills.  There will also be a comprehensive tax relief plan included which would put money back in the pockets of consumers who need help paying their gas and utility bills.  Based on the number of calls I took during the recent winter crunch, I know this will be especially beneficial to the residents of south Alabama.
Our increased dependence on oil provided by overseas nations is also a point of concern.  This energy proposal addresses this dependence and will work to guarantee increased domestic production and freedom from the burdens resulting from the importation of petroleum products.  Future decisions regarding energy security will be ours alone and will not be determined by foreign governments and producers.
Finally, this plan also contains numerous recommendations on how national conservation efforts can be increased and modernized in order to protect our communities and our environment.  It promotes research into alternative and renewable sources of energy, including wind, solar, biomass and geothermal energy.  There is also a plan which addresses the modernization of our antiquated energy infrastructure, and which sets forth a strategy to cut harmful emissions from electrical power plants and provide increased funding for clean coal research.
Looking ahead to tomorrow
It is important for us to recognize that the president's leadership on this issue comes at a crucial time in our nation's history.  We as a country are certainly hurting today, but tomorrow will be even tougher if Americans don't unite around a comprehensive energy policy.
And while considering the benefits of this plan, we must also keep one statistic in mind: over the next 20 years, oil consumption in this country will increase by 33 percent and the demand for electricity will rise by 45 percent.  Obviously, the time for action is now.
You can rest assured I am very aware of the problems each of us  face in the area of energy.  You can be certain I will do all I can to work with the administration and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see an effective policy that benefits all Americans is put into action.
Until next week, take care and God Bless.