Building America's Energy Security
Energy is the essential force powering our nation’s businesses, manufacturing, transportation network and households. Energy powers everything from the cars we drive, to the computers on our desks, to the iPods in our pockets.
The United States is a major producer and consumer of energy. The U.S. is the 3rd largest oil producing nation in the world, and the largest producer of natural gas. Over the last five years, domestic oil production has increased significantly, reaching its highest level since 2003. At the same time, the U.S. is by far the largest oil consuming country in the world. Even so, last year we spent hundreds of billions of dollars to import roughly 40% of the oil we used. Rising turmoil in the Middle East and rapidly growing demand for oil in developing countries like China and India is causing real economic pain for American consumers.
Some people think the way out is to hand over more taxpayer giveaways and lease deals to the oil companies, even as they continue to post massive profits. I believe Congress should repeal the billions of dollars of tax subsidies going to the big oil companies and re-invest these funds in alternative sources of energy and advanced technologies to help consumers.
Transportation accounts for over 70% of the total oil consumption in the United States, and transportation is the second highest expense of most U.S. household budgets. In 2011, the federal government set aggressive fuel economy standards for cars and trucks that will boost average vehicle fuel economy to 54.5 mpg by 2025, saving 1.4 billion barrels of oil and saving consumers thousands of dollars at the pump.
We also need to continue to invest in advanced vehicle technologies technologies to enable America to use less petroleum by improving vehicle efficiency. Federal support of research and development in this industry will jump start research and development of advanced vehicle technologies here in the United States.
Tomorrow’s energy will increasingly come from the sun, wind, biofuels, hybrid technology and other resources we are just beginning to harness. That’s why I support efforts to spur the deployment of clean energy, including a renewable energy standard to increase the nation’s use of renewable electricity to 25 percent, and energy tax credits to encourage advanced energy manufacturing. I also fought for an additional $2.4 billion in the Recovery Act to support advanced battery and electric vehicle manufacturing, the majority of which came to Michigan.
Investing in Clean Energy Future
The U.S. has about 3% of the world’s petroleum reserves, but we use roughly 20% of the world’s oil. As a result, every year we spend billions importing oil from foreign countries, and the oil we produce domestically increasingly comes from hard-to-reach places like the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
We can’t drill our way to energy independence, but we can use our nation’s edge in research and development to create and deploy clean energy technologies that reduce our reliance on oil.
In 2005, the National Academies of Sciences released a report that recommended the creation of a new organization called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E. The agency would be modeled on the successful Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which was established in 1958 in response to the launch of Sputnik. DARPA is credited with its work to develop the Internet, stealth technology, smart bombs, and robotics. The goal of ARPA-E is to sponsor transformational energy research to improve energy efficiency and reduce dependence on foreign energy imports.
Soon after the release of the National Academies report, I joined a small group of House lawmakers and cosponsored legislation to create ARPA-E. The program was first funded in 2009 and has invested in over 180 cutting-edge projects in areas ranging from carbon capture, to smart grid technology, to advanced biofuels, to improved solar technology, to more powerful advanced batteries.
Cracking Down on Price Gouging
Even as the U.S. economy continues to improve, many households still struggle to make ends meet. The last thing consumers need is for oil companies to unfairly raise gas prices through the roof.
The price of a gallon of gas in Michigan has gone up and down like a roller coaster. Over the first six months of 2013 alone, the average price of regular gas in Michigan surged by more than 55 cents a gallon. While prices have fallen off somewhat, consumers are still vulnerable to unfair price markups for gasoline and other energy products.
Congress must provide real tools to investigate and crack down on price gouging. I am a cosponsor of the Federal Price Gauging Prevention Act [H.R. 2070] that would empower the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to investigate and punish price gouging during periods proclaimed by the President as an international crisis affecting oil markets. The civil penalty for engaging in price gouging would be a fine of up to $100 million, with criminal penalties up to $500 million.
(Updated July 22, 2014)